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Visual Marketing for Travel Brands: Definition, Types And Best Practices

People are primarily visual animals. 

Half of our brains are devoted to visual processing. 

That’s why people have been able to identify images they’ve glimpsed for 13 milliseconds or less. This number is important because decisions on what to look at normally take in the range of 100 – 140 milliseconds. 

Visuals catch our attention well before anything else. 

In this post, we’ll cover the benefits of visual marketing, and how to use more visuals in your marketing campaigns to be more effective. 

What Is Visual Content Marketing?

Visual marketing is the art of curating images, video and other multimedia content tell your story online and offline. A visual content marketing strategy typically involves a mix of owned media, such as commissioned or stock photography, and earned media, such as user-generated content (UGC). Leading marketers in travel and tourism create visual influence around their products and services. This allows them to inspire more visitors and encourages them to stay at their destination longer.

Why Is Visual Marketing Important? 

Visual marketing is vital to any business strategy today. People are already making decisions based on the imagery and videos they see.

Think about it: when was the last time you made a purchase without seeing what you were going to buy? For marketers, visual marketing is an opportunity to captive and attract more tourists and customers, as well as be the go-to- authority of your brand story.

  • 60% of consumers are more likely to consider or contact a business that has an image show up in local search results (MDG Advertising)
  • 50% of travelers recall visual ads they’ve seen online when booking a trip (Phocuswright).
  • 55% of 18-65 year olds booked trips based on Instagram posts (The Telegraph).

While there is plenty of data on how visuals influence people, that’s just part of the story. As marketers, we need to know how to use this content to not attract, but convert audiences as well.

Marketers Are Increasing Investment In Visual Content

In a 2018 study, the Social Media Examiner asked marketers to select the most important form of content for conversions and they overwhelmingly chose “Visuals.” 

Marketers chose the most important form of content for conversions as visual and video content.

Venngage also surveyed marketers on their plans for 2019 and found that original visuals performed best and drove the most engagement—far more than stock photography. Their biggest challenge was finding a way to consistently create engaging images and videos.

To address this, more marketers are turning to UGC. Not only does UGC help fuel a stream it content, it can increase engagement, provide social proof and stretch your budget

UGC Converts Better Than Professional Content

Digital Doughnut’s research indicated that UGC visuals are 5X more likely to convert over internally produced images. With 87 percent of millennials posting on social media, you also don’t have to worry about not having enough content.

User-generated visuals are five times more likely to convert over professionally produced or stock imagery.

Owned vs. Earned vs. Paid Visuals

To see the maximum value from visual media, it’s important to structure your use of owned, earned & paid content. 

Owned visuals refers to non-text based media that your organization pays to have created for you, whether done internally, or commissioned by an agency, photographer, or videographer. Also includes images that you purchase the rights to like stock photography.

Travelers are “craving slow, deep, and immersive experiences." Carefully crafted visuals are the key to communicating with the target audience about how to fulfill those wishes at the destination.

Example: You commission a video of your destination or resort for the homepage header, using a mix of actors, staged shoots and drone shots. 

Earned visuals refers to anything that customers or the public have said about you. You’ve earned the referral by providing value or succeeded at communicating brand messages. This includes User Generated Content (UGC), but also mentions and online reviews.

Example: You tap into existing content on social media and curate a highlight reel video of guests at your destination or attraction. 

Paid visuals refers to content that you pay to have created for you to promote existing content and drive traffic to your website or social media channels. This includes everything from influencer marketing to co-marketing.

Example: You partner with a popular influencer to drive awareness and ticket sales within a particular audience segment. 

The pros and cons of owned, earned and paid visual content

How to Stand Out With Your Visual Marketing Strategy

Each marketer must find their own unique mix of visuals and channels, but there are a few best practices followed by travel and tourism marketers.

  1. Start with the story – Write out the story you want to tell with your images and evaluate images based on how well they communicate that story. Think of yourself as the curator of the brand’s reputation.
  2. Let the images stand – What if your audience watched a video with no sound or skimmed a blog without reading? Let the images tell the story rather than supporting the text or needing a verbal component to make sense of it all.
  3. Trust the numbers – Intuition and aesthetic is valuable, but customer-centricity takes first place. Track the popularity and engagement of your visuals and make simple A/B tests to refine their impact.
  4. Keep them in the moment – Don’t allow widgets or plugins to interrupt the viewer’s engagement by taking them to Instagram or a third party site for a gallery. Retain the viewers dwell time and the metrics for your own use in understanding what matters most to them.
  5. Learn from the masters – Instagram is one of the best places for travel and tourism marketers to engage with more than 500 million active users in a visually driven interface. Spend time on Instagram and see for yourself where the trends are going.
  6. Stay organized – Managing the volume and variety of images, and still having them easily accessible, is one of the biggest challenges facing travel and tourism marketers. Make sure your digital asset management software is optimized for you, your partners and potential travelers who are eagerly sharing UGC.

If you want to make repeatable waves with your company’s content, you can’t treat visual marketing as an afterthought. 

Download-Guide UGC-Travel and Tourism Brands

About the author

Julia Manoukian is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at CrowdRiff. A former journalist, she has helped several Toronto startups raise their thought leadership profiles and scale their content efforts to influence revenue. She's passionate about storytelling, traveling, and tech.

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