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Visual stimulation has long been a primary concern for marketers. If the eyes are bored and unstimulated, then the brain will tug the viewer's attention to something else. In the digital age, where consumers are exposed to several different brands and messages all at once, that "something else" is likely going to be a competing brand's content. In other words, if your visuals don't provide high levels of stimulation, then your online leads will be more likely to defect to a competitor.

Related: 4 ways to increase conversions with visual content

Getting past the first impression

We often say not to judge a book by its cover, but our brains are hardwired to do just that. It's the reason why we ‘eat with our eyes'—we like when things look nice. The visuals that accompany your content are what viewers will see first, whether that content is an advertisement, the packaging of your products, your business card, a social media post or anything in between. Thus, these visuals are the first impression potential customers will get of your brand, and they'll use them to decide whether your brand appeals to them or not.

Infographic by Kissmetrics - Visual content versus other senses
Source: Kissmetrics

The first trait that visuals can showcase to a viewer is quality. We like things that look nice because we associate superior looks with quality. If you knew absolutely nothing about cars, you'd still choose a Ferrari over a Toyota Camry because it looks better. The same is true with brands, products and content. In a world where consumers are connected to an always increasing number of brands and messages, you must strive towards being the Ferrari.

This is particularly true for social media channels. As that lead is scrolling through their social media feed, you'll only get a few moments to send a message to their brain that tells their finger to stop scrolling. The fastest avenue to this reaction is visual.

Beyond first impressions, the importance of visual stimulation doesn't diminish. Once the eyes aren't engaged anymore, the brain knows it's time to move on. Digital marketers pay close attention to engagement metrics because they show how many consumers were driven to react or interact with the content. Of all the possible customers that were reached, those that engaged with the content were the ones that stayed from beginning to end. Visually stimulating content helps engagement because it compels users to continue watching, reading or experiencing the content.

Additionally, visually exciting content is much more memorable. When someone is stimulated with pleasing, compelling visuals, the brain has a much easier time paying attention and remembering the information it processes. You may encounter an online lead who doesn't need your product or service yet, but in the future, they will. By visually stimulating them during their interactions with your brand, they'll be more likely to recall you when the information is relevant. This also makes visually pleasing content more shareable, because the longer someone can recall it, the higher the likelihood of finding it relevant to a friend or family member.

How to make visually stimulating content

All these reasons make a compelling argument for the relationship between visual stimulation and client retention, which might've started the wheels turning about how you can produce more visually stimulating content. Before those wheels drive you in the wrong direction, it's important to look at how you should improve your visual content.

  • Quality is paramount: As already mentioned, quality is a huge indicator for your brand. In your quest for more visually exciting content, pay close attention to the images and other visuals you use. Visuals are great, but bad or low-resolution visuals are not.

Image by Contemporary Communications - High resolution vs low resolution
Source: Contemporary Communications

  • Relevance follows quality: Like avoiding bad or low-quality images, you want to avoid visuals that aren't relevant to the information being provided. In other words, don't include visuals for the sake of adding visuals. (See: cats.) They should make sense and pertain to the content in question.

  • Cover is crucial: We already know that people judge a book by its cover. Your initial visual should be the most compelling because users only spend a few seconds on a webpage before making the decision to stay or go.

  • Over-stimulation is real: If there's too much going on with too many visuals, the brain won't be able to accurately process it all. Think of it like an action movie: while there are scenes with explosions, lasers and car chases, there are also slow scenes to develop the plot and its characters. Why? Because if the whole movie were action, we'd be overloaded and our brains would mentally withdraw us from the experience.

  • Visuals carry the eye: Researchers have been studying the way the eye moves across a page for decades. By understanding eye tracking, marketers can ensure that the viewer's eyes move logically across the page to pick up all the vital information. Images are one way to influence how someone's eyes scan a page. We're naturally drawn to images, so by placing them strategically, you can control where the eyes travel.

Key takeaways

Visual stimulation is a powerful tool for improving client retention rates. It immediately demonstrates the quality of your brand and empowers you to stand out among competitors. It engages users for longer and keeps them on the page, which makes your marketing more memorable, even days or weeks after the content was viewed. Producing visually stimulating content takes a skilled blend of relevancy, quality and placement to see the best results.

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Author Bio

Ryan Stewart is a digital marketing consultant with over 8 years of experience working to help Fortune 500 brands grow their online presence. He currently resides in Miami, where he leads an amazing team at his digital marketing agency WEBRIS. You can find Ryan on Twitter and LinkedIn