2017 Visual Content Marketing Trends

Time to go out on a limb and predict the trends we will see ripple throughout the mass of visual content marketing to be consumed in 2017.

Let’s dig right in.

1. Signatures

This trend in visual content has been on the rise for a bit, and will continue to grown in 2017.

I realized this would be a trend when I first saw Gary Vaynerchuk “sign” his Instagram posts, followed by (almost) every one of his Instagram Stories. Now the infamous signature is everywhere. Even on tee shirts.

Then, I saw Chris ‘Kubby’ Kubbernus add his digital penmanship to his content. And, more recently, I noticed Lewis Howes following suit.
Digital Signatures - Visual Content Marketing Design Trend

I’m not suggesting GaryVee invented this look, but I don’t know who started this first. I dig it, and wish I would have thought of it. Paired with a great headshot, your signature commands attention. It sorta says, “Look at me! I’m an expert.”

Of course, credit for bold signature use would probably go to John Hancock when he signed the Declaration of Independence.

Who’s going to use it next?

Instagram Expert Sue B. Zimmerman embraces Instagram gradient logo2. Radient Gradients

When Instagram revealed a redesigned logo, decked out in a radiant gradient, many Gram fans and designers roared. There was whining and complaining as with any change. But then many embraced it, including The Instagram Expert herself, Sue B. Zimmerman. Sue B. showcases the Instagram logo (and her dog, Cody) via signs, cookies, and pillows.

Often trends catch on slowly, beginning with an unwanted change. Then we become accustomed to the new look. Most of us forget the old ways and want a shiny new look, too. Now that Instagram is all-on gradient, get ready for a slew of copycats.

3. Simple Color

Just when the gradient trend is in full swing, many will tire of the multi-color madness and opt for simple color. Like one color.

Similar to the flat design trend of recent years, one-color (or very limited color) palettes will make a big splash.

I’ve been preaching how effective one-color design can be, especially when you’re just getting started in building a new brand. Examples I use over and over include Target (red), Tiffany & Co. (blue), as well as the majority of social networks — except Instagram, of course. See Trend #2 above.

Brian Fanzo has been around and making a scene for awhile. And while his love of yellow has been ever-present, his use of this bright color has grown along with his personal brand.

Greenery, Pantone Color of the Year 20174. Fresh Color

Inspired by Greenery, the 2017  Pantone Color of the Year, it’s time for refreshing, cool colors to resurface. Move over bright red and energizing yellow. Natural and earthy greens (and maybe some browns and purples) will take center stage.

Established brands will keep their color, of course. You know my orange isn’t going anywhere! But if you’re starting up and looking for a simple color scheme (see trend #3), then you can’t go wrong with green.

5. Sophisticated Stories

As live streaming and quick-clip videos become more popular, online entrepreneurs and brands will have to do more to stand out from the clutter.

A trend gaining popularity in Instagram Stories, for example, is to have a theme or overall look. Introduce your stories with a title card or “cover,” like a book. With an engaging, eye-catching cover you can draw folks in… Entice them to keep watching. Then you get into the content.

Think animated text, enhanced audio… How will you up your video game?

6. Animated GIFs

Animated GIFs have been around awhile, but we will see more in 2017. Where will they pop up? They’ve been on Twitter for awhile, but I think they will be embedded in blog posts more often.
Say YES to animated gifs!
I’m taking a cue from Dustin W. Stout, who says every post should include an animated gif.

So that’s it. Six trends to look for, and even try to incorporate if you’re up for it. A word of caution, though: Don’t jump on a trend just because it’s, well, trendy. Stay true to your brand, your voice. Utilize a trend if it fits in with your strategy and makes you relevant.

Do you agree with these? Do you have a better idea of visual content trends you think will surface — or ones that are gaining traction already? Let me know in the comments.

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.

1 Color Rules All: The Best Color for Your Visual Content

When selecting the perfect color to represent your business and brand, you need to choose the best color before you create your next (or first) piece of visual content.

It’s best to limit your choices. If you’ve narrowed it down to two or three colors, that’s a good start. But I challenge you to narrow it down more.

If you can select just one color, you’ll be doing your brand — and yourself — a favor.

Just one color? Yes.

Twitter founder Biz Stone has said, “creativity comes from constraint.”

If this is a new concept to you, I know it’s hard to imagine. Just one color… Seems so boring when there’s a whole rainbow to work with, right?

But a complex color scheme can be overwhelming and — if not used correctly — will look chaotic, or amateur at best.

Choose ONE color for your business to stand out.

Complex color schemes can be overwhelming and — if not used correctly — look chaotic + amateur.Click To Tweet

Color Scheme Case Studies

Business Brand ColorsHave a look at some big brands for inspiration. Here are several examples of big business branding that packs a punch with just one color.

  • Target aims at red.
  • Home Depot is built on orange.
  • National Geographic explores yellow.
  • Starbucks perks up with green.
  • Facebook likes blue.
  • Yahoo searches purple.

This doesn’t mean you have to choose and only use one color, but the best brands that master this simplified concept excel.

Have you seen the infamous Tiffany & Co. blue box? Its’ iconic, very recognizable and never any color but their Tiffany Blue. I have not purchased anything from the company personally, but that blue is forever branded in my mind as something special. Something unique, very luxurious, and easy to spot a mile away.

I challenge you to set constraints. See what you can do with just one color. I think you’ll be surprised!

Social Media Networks Stand Out Among Millions of Colors Online

I’ve mentioned Facebook above already, but take a look at any of the top social media networks.

They’ve each chosen one color to represent their brand. Along with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn went with blue. Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube chose red. Snapchat and Meerkat hit the scene with a youthful yellow.

Why Choose One Color to Create Visual Content?

There are several reasons you should embrace constraint. We will explore all the benefits of representing your brand with one color in the future, but for now know this: You get more bang for your buck.

In other words, you save time but people will notice and are more likely to remember you.

avocadoshirtco-intagram-imagesWith less choices to be made, decisions can be made easier and quicker. Design time is slashed. The next time you open up your favorite design app or program, you can focus on creating the best content instead of first choosing what color to use.

Take a look at some graphics I made for my startup, Avocado Shirt Co., that were posted to our Instagram account. These images got noticed by Instagram expert Sue B. Zimmerman and she has since featured our Instagram account on her CreativeLive courses.

One of things Sue mentioned was our use of color to convey a consistent look and feel. Since avocados are green, choosing the best color for Avocado Shirt Co. was easy. Not only is it fun to think about guacamole while creating these quirky graphics, it’s that much easier when the color is chosen already.

Have you chosen one color to represent you, your brand or your business?