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.

7 Best Visual Marketing Posts of 2016

What a year 2016 was! We survived(?) a crazy election in the United States, watched the world compete in another Olympics, lost iconic musicians including David Bowie and Prince… And witnessed some crazy Mother Nature weather events.

And, ahem, some of us became somewhat obsessed with Pokémon Go.

Those of us in the online marketing space — or anyone learning about social media and anything we can do to grow our businesses — heard much about live streaming. Periscope and Snapchat grew in popularity, we said goodbye to Blab, and were introduced to Instagram Stories.

And through it all, visual content continued to dominate. While, we can’t downplay the importance of words, graphics will continue to play a huge role in all that we do.

Much of the above has been long forgotten, of course, as (at the time of this writing) we are in February 2017.

I know, I know… We were bombarded with “Best Of” and “Resolutions” posts a month or more ago. Am I late to the game?

Actually, we’re at the point when most of us have broken — or even forgotten — our New Years’ resolutions and have fallen back into old habits.

Not going to the gym, not updating our blog (guilty!), not finding time to update social media like the experts we follow… And so on.

So I think this is the perfect time to realize we haven’t blown it. One month is down but we have 11 left to make 2017 the best year yet.

First things first, one final look at what worked in the past. What can we improve on? What can we avoid?

Without further ado, take a look at this collection of visual content marketing posts that rocked our world in 2016.

7 Best Visual Marketing Posts of 2016

1. How to Make Visual Content That Doesn’t Suck: 3 Easy Principles
by Dustin W. Stout

In this post, Dustin does an outstanding job of explaining three fundamental design concepts — balance, framing, and contrast — you can use to create stunning visual content. No design background, no problem. Dustin explains each design principle in easy-to-digest bites, and includes plenty of clear examples.

2. 50 Shortcuts to Create Visual Content for Social Media
by Donna Mortiz

Referred in some circles as the Visual Marketing Queen, Donna dishes up a ton visual content creating tips. I like this round up of 50 — yes, 50! — time-saving tips because everyone that has attempted to create visual content day after day (professional designers included) knows it doesn’t happen instantly.

3. Planning Your Next Instagram Photoshoot: 3 Key Images You Need
by Sue B. Zimmerman

I love how niche Sue B. dives into Instagram, which is to be expected by the Instagram Expert herself. So it makes since she suggests we plan an Instagram Photoshoot. While many of us scramble to schedule a standard shoot to get a professional headshot, Sue B. reminds us we need to capture much more. And as competition to stand out online continues to heat up, posting the best visual content — catered to the constraints of a specific network — will get you noticed fast.

Increase engagement with funny social media posts.4. 7 Visual Content Ideas that Get Shared Like Crazy
by Kim Garst

Kim is quick to jump on the latest social media trend, figure out what works, and then teach the rest of us the best practices. But I love this post, because she reminds us that even as much of some networks change (I’m looking at you, Facebook), many things remain the same. Timeless visual content ideas such as industry stats, tips, quotes, and humor continue to increase engagement.

5. DIY Design: How to Design Compelling Visual Content for your Blog
by Peg Fitzpatrick

In this post, Peg provides some great pointers for DIY design, reminding us all that’s a great skill to brush up on as online entrepreneurs and small business owners. There’s not a day that goes by that you couldn’t use a little visual content, and you won’t always have the time or budget to work with a professional designer.

(Oh, if you are looking for a pro designer, you could hire me.)

6. Creating Viral Images with Rebekah Radice
by Jeff Sieh

Jeff has mastered repurposing! His blog posts are generally show notes from his show with embeds — all produced so you can take your pick in how you want to consume: watch it, listen to it and/or read it. Be sure to check out this post in which Jeff chats with Rebekah Radice on how you can create images that go viral. As we’ve discussed, visual content is here to stay. But as more marketers get on board, you will have to rise above the competition and make your images stand out among the clutter.

7. Kickstart Your Visual Content Marketing Without Delay
by Rob Russo

Last but not least, I had to include myself. Well, I didn’t have to (trying to remain humble) but this is my blog. Actually, I think of it as your blog, as I try to bring the best in visual marketing trends, tips and techniques. Still a young blogger, I wanted to share one of my most popular posts of 2016 nonetheless. In this post, I spill my secret to launching online and the quickest way you can begin to brand yourself.

So that’s it. They say don’t look back because you aren’t going that way… But one more quick glance couldn’t hurt, right? Now, time to spring ahead in what will be the best year ever!

By the way, is anyone still chasing Pokémon? (I’m asking for a friend.)

Did you have a favorite visual marketing post of last year? What did I miss? I’d love to learn. Let me know in the comments below.

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.