5 Scary Visual Marketing Trends that Make Customers Scream (And Could Kill Your Brand)

We are exposed to a shocking amount of visual content. And much of it is scary.

Most of us are just consuming (or lurking) without creating, as it is suggested that only 1% of the Internet is creating.

So if you are creating unique content to build your brand, you are in the minority already. Ahead of the curve.

But beware! If you are creating frighteningly bad visual content, it could be bad for business.

In many cases, consumers are apt to remember the scary stuff. When you mess up. Do something wrong. Or forget…
Over time you will hear customers scream, send them scrambling… You could even kill your brand.

Here are 5 visual marketing trends and tips you should avoid if you want to keep customers engaged.


Creepy Colors

If you don’t have a creative eye for color, seek help from a designer to establish a set color scheme for your business.

If you insist on DIY-ing a pleasing palette for your brand, don’t reinvent the (color) wheel. Research (and dare I say copy) from established schemes that have been proven to work.

Find color scheme inspiration from some color experts. Start on Instagram with @designseeds and @coolors_co, for example.

Ghastly Gradients

Speaking of colors, don’t pick a bunch of random ones and make a gradient just because you can.

Gradients done right: Instagram Logo DesignSure Instagram itself pulled off a nice gradient in their 2016 logo and brand makeover.

That doesn’t mean you should do the same.

And it doesn’t mean any random color combo makes for a eye-catching gradient. Not all are pleasing. Some with make hair stand on its end.

When in doubt, skip the gradient.

Start with one color and go from there. Instagram aside, take notice of most social media sites and their simple brand color(s). Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter stick with blue. YouTube and Pinterest use red. Snapchat tries yellow…

Frightening Fonts

As with colors, there are numerous fonts at your fingerprints.

Avoid freaky fonts like Comic SansBut just because you can download 1001+ free fonts in the time you finish reading this blog article, doesn’t mean you should use them.

In most cases, less is best. Use no more than 3 fonts in your business branding.

Pick one font that is incredibly easy to read — a very legible font for most of your copy.

Add a complementary one for contrast.

Then, if you’re feeling daring, add a whimsical font for flair. Something to use on occasion.

In branding boldbrandfast.com, for example, Roboto is the default go-to. It’s a clear, easy-to-read sans serif.

Then, Lora is added, a serif for contrast.

Hello Lucky makes an appearance when we need a little something extra.

Like a vampire to garlic, avoid trendy and trite fonts at all costs. They will tire easily, and could suck the life from your branding.

Vanishing Visuals

The only thing worse than bad visual content is no visual content.

You know the need for visual content. You’ve heard the recent statistics and are reminded of the old adages (picture still worth a thousand words?) daily.

You don’t have to be creative to want visual content for your brand. Even if you’re not a designer, visual marketing shouldn’t scare you.

The important step is the first one. Start implanting visual marketing strategies now and tweak as you go. You will get better!

Ghost Posting

Post and Go? Oh, no!Do you post to your social media profiles then disappear like a ghost? Hopefully not!

Now, this rule goes beyond visual content marketing and applies across the board… A general rule of social media engagement.

Stick around and be friendly like Casper. Engage with folks that like and comment on your posts. Keep the conversation going.

Don’t expect your customers to show up if you aren’t around.

Skip the creepy colors, ghastly gradients, and frightening fonts and keep your visual content designs simple. Your message will be more clear and memorable.

If you don’t have an eye for design, visual marketing can be tricky.

But no worries. As a treat, here’s just the guide (free) you need to get started — no design skills or fancy software required.

Are these trends dead on or lacking? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

And if you know someone that could benefit from this post, please share it with them.

What other scary visual marketing trends should we all avoid?

Kickstart Your Visual Content Marketing Without Delay

No designer on staff. No funds to contract one, not even for a single project. And you think you have zero creative bones in your body. It’s no problem.

I’m going to share the fastest way to kickstart your visual marketing in the new year or to launch a new brand at any time FAST — no design skills required.

Now if you have your social media marketing plan in place and are chugging along, creating great content and graphics, then you can skip this post.

But if you’re like me, you don’t have your whole act together. You’re ready for a fresh start with a simplified action plan. But all the new goals, resolutions, suggestions, and to-do lists quickly pile up once again. Overwhelm hits once again.

You know visual marketing is an important part of your business, but you’re back to square one. Where to begin?

Well, it’s time to move forward. No marketing plan to set up. No strategy session first. You don’t need a logo — or even a “complete” website — to start marketing your business.

In a perfect world with lots of time and money, I would tell you to hire a designer to set up a style guide. Create a logo if you don’t have one. But only after you’ve researched your target market to get a feel for their favorite movies and restaurants. And you are following your competitors and constantly on top of everything that’s happening in your industry, right?

The list of things you could do goes on. And you should do these things at some point. But for now, I quote my man, Mark Twain. He said “the secret of getting ahead is getting started.” (Hint: That’s the when. Just jump on in. NOW!)

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. —Mark TwainClick To Tweet

I heard 2014 was the year of video. 2015 the year of live streaming. And 2016 seems to be the year of membership communities. It doesn’t matter what’s next… Whatever you’re doing or selling, you need more eyeballs. Marketing is here to stay. And visual marketing will get you there faster.

Why visuals? Check out these 16 eye-popping visual content statistics by Larry Kim over at Inc. magazine. His bottom line? Visuals are effective because they help people process, understand, and retain more information more quickly.

Okay, so now you might be wondering how? How do I jump into any kind of visual marketing without design skills or a designer on staff?

I’m not suggesting you jump in completely blind with zero plan, of course. But a general idea is all you need. You don’t have to have everything lined out. Nothing will ever be 100% and you will never launch. It’s best to start, and then adjust along the way.

The easiest way to do this, is to pick one social media platform and one color to brand yourself.

I’ve mentioned both of these ideas before, suggesting Instagram is the first place to turn regarding social media. And I’ve outlined some thoughts on the best color for your business, too.

If you’re not a fan of Instagram — or know already that your target market is more prevalent elsewhere – then all means go with what works. The method is simply to simplify. Start small and focus on one.

And if you don’t believe in the power of color, just head over to your local Target store wearing a solid red shirt. Let me know how long it takes before you’re questioned by a customer. All the employees wear read so everyone around will think you work there, too.

Yes, typography and photography and layout and “feel” and so much more can contribute to solid visual content and make your graphics stand out. All of these elements come together and help shape a memorable brand, but nothing works as fast as color. I feel so strongly about this in branding/business, I’ve started to dive into the psychology of color.

And while a multi-color scheme can work, I suggest one color — once again as part of a quick and simple process. It’s easier and quicker to select one color and run with it. It’s also easier to add additional colors or pick a completely new color scheme in the future, should you find your initial choice isn’t working.

Practicing what I preach, I use orange in my own @boldbrandfast branding and green in my apparel startup, Avocado Shirt Co.

Have you chosen ONE social media network and ONE color to represent you, your brand or your business?

Orange Spine and Purple Cow: Stand Out with Color

My wife is writing her first book. But as she’s working toward that title of author, she’s filling the roles of teacher, maid, dishwasher, and chef (and every other job title that comes with being a stay-at-home mom of a homeschool family).

In addition, she loves science and everything about the outdoors. So much so that when she was working outside of our home, she preferred working, well, outside. She couldn’t sit still behind a desk all day.

Thankfully, she’s found a dream job or three working “in the field.” And while she was always aware and appreciative of her surroundings and the environment, it was while working at her first job in marine biology that the entire world seemed to “go green” and become eco-friendly. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

Orange Spine, Purple Cow.But suddenly I noticed the orange spine.

See, while studying design and color theory, myself, I took an interest in my wife’s work and began brushing up on environmental matters, too. One day I was browsing the science section at our local bookstore and this one orange spine jumped out at me among all the green.

As you may know, the color green is often associated with nature, earth and the environment. So all the How To Be Eco-Friendly in 3 Recycled, Repurposed, Organic Steps books were green, of course. Except one.

In that row of green books, there was one with an orange spine that stood out. And I bought it. It stood out on the shelf — and in my mind all these years later — like the purple cow in Seth Godin’s popular book of the same name.

Standing Out as an Industry Expert

So as an industry expert you have two things to think about as you build your brand.

First, of course, you have to “fit in.” Maybe you are in the environmental space and you do, in fact, use a lot of green. And to fit in, you have to believe in what you teach. You’ll have to “go green,” recycle or eat foods with minimal packaging. You must choose to embrace it! Whatever your industry, your niche, you need to be one with your target market. Talk their language. Hang out on their favorite social channels… Whatever you need to do to fit in.

Just don’t blend in.

Fitting in doesn't mean blending in.Click To Tweet

Second, you have to stand out. Besides fitting in, you have to rise above the clutter and let it be known you’re the expert. Fit in among your peers but stand out as an industry leader.

Differentiate yourself to stand out. You could offer the premium course when everyone is discounting. Focus on one topic (and be the best at it) instead of trying to be a jack of all trades. Be the orange spine that rises above the competition; the purple cow that stands out from the masses.

Can you think of some place, like the bookshelf example above, where color can help you stand out? What else can you do to stand out while fitting in?

Blending in among your peers online? Grab a free download to start standing out on Instagram today: Stand Out on Instagram and Attract More Customers.

Stand Out With Stock Photos: How to Use the Same Free Photos Everyone Else Uses in Clever, Unique Ways

If you’ve seen one list of free stock photography sites shared by one blogger, then you’ve seen them all.

To top it off, I’ve read many designers and photographers insist you should never use stock photography. (Job security, maybe?)

It’s true, uploading stock photos on your business blog — as is — right after downloading them, is NOT the way to do it. You run the risk of cheapening your brand, or blending in at the very least. Especially when many bloggers are using the exact same photos.

Never fear! I’m here to help you stand out and shine online and ease any concerns of using the same old stock.

It’s as simple as tweaking the photos in some way — any way — to make them your own.

Here are 4 Ways You Can Stand Out While Using The Same Free Stock Photos as Everyone Else.

1. Rotate and/or Crop Photos

Flip or rotate photos so we see it in a different way. And cropping in is a great way to emphasize a specific point, or focus on the part of the photo that best applies to your message.

The original photo I used in this Instagram post wasn’t as tight. And I believe there were more colored pencils in various colors. I cropped in to focus attention right where I needed it — and left only an orange pencil to match my brand color.

2. Add Color

And of course I mean your brand color. (You have chosen 1 color to represent your brand, right?) This could mean an accent stripe of color, a color border or a complete color overlay.

I think Rebekah Radice loves orange as much as me. See how she uses an orange background to make her quote images stand out?

3. Add Text

Overlaying a text headline on a stock photo is one way to set yourself apart — and a great way to start your blog post, as I’ve done with each of my blog posts. That way, when someone shares your blog post using that image, it has your headline attached.

Michael Hyatt and team does a great job of adding encouraging text quotes on top of stock photos. Notice the addition of Hyatt’s URL, too.

A photo posted by Michael Hyatt (@michaelhyatt) on

4. Add Your Logo or Watermark

Adding your logo is a sure way to add brand recognition. But you could just add a URL or a specific hashtag… Whatever best suits your marketing message at the moment. Just remember the specifics and best practices of each social channel. (Pinterest doesn’t utilize hashtags, for example.)

Peg Fitzpatrick adds her iconic pink circle with her name to stock photos to set them apart. Bonus points when you’re stock photo uses your brand color(s), too!

5. Skip the Stock Photo!

This is a bonus tip, but doesn’t apply to stock photos at all… I’m suggesting to skip the photo! Try an illustration, an infographic or a text-only graphic that tells your story. Do this right and you’ll get higher engagement — no photo needed.

I love how Ben Requena adds his logo (and URL) in the upper left-hand corner of this graphic. He added a unique illustration for these “quick tips” he shares. placed some striking text — with all the above using his brand colors — and there’s no stock photo needed.

Any other tricks to make unique use of stock photos?

Share with me in the comments below. (I read every one.) Then, if you think others could benefit from this post, I encourage you to share it on your favorite social channel.

The 3 P’s of the Timely Instagram Image (And How to Create One on the Fly)

My boldbrandfast Instagram account continues to grow as I strive to create timely images and post consistently. I try and post engaging graphics with purpose about two times per day, every single day.

Now, most of us have a smartphone in hand 99% of the day. Of course it’s easy to snap a quick selfie or a behind-the-scenes shot and upload it fast. It’s one of the beautiful aspects about Instagram.

But today I’m going to show you the 3 P’s of timely Instagram images that look great — and are consistent with your brand, even on the fly.

1. Plan Out Your Instagram Content

Before you post another picture, plan  out your content. You need to have a big-picture idea of what your whole account looks like, who your target market is, and what valuable content you plan to share with them every day.

Sure, you want to be flexible to share the occasional selfie or pic of your lunch, but don’t be tempted to fill your stream with duck faces. It’s best to have a theme (read: strategy) and stay focused on what you post, as it relates to your brand. Instagram is great for sharing team activities, behind-the-scenes shots, and previews of upcoming products or coming-soon promotions.

Jeff Sieh, creator and host of The Manly Pinterest Tips podcast and show, wouldn’t use high-heel shoes to talk to his audience.

A photo posted by Jeff Sieh (@jeffsieh) on

  On the other hand, Jilleysue has targeted women, embraced pink and called herself the GIRLBOSS MOTIVATOR. High heels work for her brand!

In other words, the following steps (or anything else you post on Instagram) won’t matter if you don’t first plan and finalize your Instagram marketing goals.


3ps-instagram-graphics-bold-brand-fast-rob-russo2. Prepare Starter Graphics & Text

How do I have eight custom-designed, ready-to-go image templates saved on my iPhone, ready to be used at a moment’s noticed?

It’s easy when you prepare them ahead of time and (#ProTip) create them in batches.

Here’s an example of four images I’ve created and now keep on my phone to have at my fingertips. I like to call them backgrounds or Instagram image starters.

Three of these images, when posted in a certain order, tile together to create a bold orange stripe. The only extra effort required is to note the order of upload and plan out three posts that will fit together. (This is the little extra effort that really gets noticed.)

I have several others that are perfect stand-alone posts.

All use my brand color and logo. Sometimes I add a hashtag, such as #thinkvisualnow and/or my Instagram handle @boldbrandfast.

Besides these graphic templates, I have several notes saved on my phone (I use the Notes app on my iPhone) with saved hashtags and my choice of CTA (call-to-action) text. When writing the image description, I cut and paste as needed.

3. Pounce! Create Instagram Images with Ease

Now that you are armed with a plan and prepared with your custom-designed image templates and text, all accessible at your fingertips, you’re ready to pounce as soon as inspiration strikes.

I try to post organically at least once a day to my Instagram account. While I often plan out what am going to say with the image in mind, you never know when a timely update would be perfect for your brand.

Whenever I come across a quote that resonates or think of a tip I want to share, I can create it fast (usually in WordSwag or Typorama) by adding simple text over my pre-made backgrounds.

Here’s one example of a graphic I created:

So if you’re not on Instagram, what are you waiting for?

And if you agree that Instagram is a must and have an account setup already, be sure to check out my profile and follow me for more visual content tips and secrets.

Stand Out On Instagram - Visual Content Marketing Strategies to Get Noticed as an Industry ExpertStand Out on Instagram

Learn how to get noticed as an industry expert with proven visual strategies — no design skills necessary.