Is your marketing creative? Depending on your point of view, the concept of “creative marketing” can vary a little in meaning. Obviously, any marketing that uses a little more imagination than usual is going to be pretty creative but, in the marketing world, creative marketing is generally accepted to be the crossover between the creative arts and marketing.
Creative arts? On a wider scale, it often refers to skills such as music, dance, and performance, but in the world of marketing, we usually take them to refer to photography, illustration, music, and words. They’re the magic dust that takes data, information, facts, and figures, and masterfully shapes them into a story.
And that story is the backbone of your marketing.
Why is graphic design important to marketing?
Graphics Have A Strong Link To Branding
…and branding has a strong link to marketing. The link between the two is something that causes a lot of confusion among businesses. They are related – you can’t have marketing without branding, and your marketing will reach very little of its potential if it’s not based on solid, relatable branding – but they are not the same thing. Seeing how they do relate is important – branding is a blueprint for how you want your brand to be seen, and marketing shows this blueprint to the rest of the world.
Great branding contains a strong visual element – if you look at brand guidelines for any major company, there are always pages and pages of advice about how to represent – and how not to represent – the visual identity of the brand. That’s because graphic designers have put enormous effort into designing these things – the logo, colors, and fonts – to make sure they are a consistent and accurate representation of the brand. It’s no wonder, then, that companies are pretty protective of these hard-won aspects of design.
“Simply put, graphic design feeds your brand, your brand feeds your business” – Chris Ames
This graphic representation of branding is a key aspect to making it accessible for marketing. Sure, branding needs buy-in from the top of the company to the bottom, but bringing it to life visually is what’s really going to help non-design employees use and respect your brand in the day-to-day. When people have a strong visual sign of what a brand looks like, they’re much more likely to use it, respect it and, above all, easily identify with it. This goes as much for your team as your customers, so nailing this aspect – and keeping it consistent – is likely to help across the board.
Graphic Design Makes Messaging More Effective
“Design is the conscious and intuitive effort to impose meaningful order.” – Victor Papanek
Hubspot defines marketing as “the process of getting people interested in your company’s product or service” and one of the primary ways we do this is by sending these people messages – or information – about both the company and the product or service it offers. These messages can be many and varied and much more nuanced than just an update about a new product or spiel about why product X is so much better than competing product Y.
Instead, subtle and effective messages tell us about what kind of company we are, what kind of person you are, and what kind of life you can aspire to once you buy our product or sign up for our service. Refining and polishing these messages until they are extremely subtle – to both audience and intent – and deadly accurate is of major concern to marketers, which is why the profession of marketing is usually thought of as being halfway between an art and a science.
One of the marketers’ most deadly weapons in this fight for targetting is their visual assets, which is where the graphic design comes in. Graphics actually have a much bigger impact in marketing, and we’ll look at it in more detail below, but the part that interests us here is how they can help a business hone the efficiency of their messaging.
A picture paints a thousand words – you’ve heard it a million times before and yes, it’s a cliche. Predictable as it may be, however, it’s also very true. Marketing messages must be, by definition, concise and to the point – essays aren’t very marketable – but you’ll skip a whole lot in terms of copywriting effort if your information is illustrated by some choice designs, graphics, or even color and font, which each add their own psychological shorthand to a burden otherwise borne entirely by words.
By adding graphics to the mix, you cut down on this work, add interest and variety, and max out your chances of your message hitting its desired target straight on. With benefits like these, it’s no wonder that when you have a message to broadcast, a graphic designer is often a marketer’s first stop.
The Role of Graphic Design In Content Marketing
Ask any marketer what they consider the most important part of marketing and there’s a good chance they’ll tell you it’s content marketing. With the advent of the internet (don’t forget that marketing existed long before it was documented in a Hubspot article!), the production of content designed to inform, entertain, and persuade has occupied a central place in the vast majority of businesses’ marketing strategies.
“Content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising”. – Hubspot
Content marketing and graphic design go together like pancakes and syrup, bringing data, information, and copywriting to life with graphics, images, charts, illustrations, and more. In fact, 45% of B2C marketers believe visual content is their most important type of content. It goes beyond just “visual interest”, however – there are a number of really significant ways in which graphics enhance and support the written word. Let’s take a look at some of the most relevant.
Creating Aesthetic Appeal
There’s always been a strong psychological element to the graphic parts of a story. They give a “feel” to an article or post: colors, font choice, and imagery all drive emotion and opinion. They indicate to the reader how they should be feeling, what the intentions of the words are, and how the publisher of that content is hoping to be received. A blog post without images, for example, is barely worth a second look and there are reams of data proving that social media updates without images are destined to fail – they see 2-3 times less engagement, to be precise.
Maintaining Visual Interest
This one goes out to anyone who has ever thought “oh, I should add an image to that post”. A word to the wise – this is the kind of thing that makes graphic designers itch with discomfort, but it’s a great illustration of the fact that even the graphically uneducated know that words with pictures are just that bit more interesting than words without. Sometimes, that just means adding a relevant image to an article but, especially where serious creative talent is employed, graphics can take words to another level entirely.
Don’t underestimate the ability of graphic design to clarify, lead, and guide either. Of particular use in denser, more complex text (think reports, ebooks, or case studies), clever graphical creativity can make the difference between a piece of content marketing that literally no one will ever read to something surprising that makes your customers actually want to share it with their friends.
Finally, your graphic designer can simply multiply your value for money by cramming more information in an easily digestible format to your content marketing collateral. Sometimes, you’ll need this extra information – in the form of graphics. Infographics, pictures, and illustrations – to work through a particularly tough subject, but other times it will simply add information in an alternative, interesting format, keeping audiences interested and entertained.
As you can see, there’s a lot of overlap when you take a look at graphic design’s role in content marketing but, any way you spin it, it’s either adding, maximizing, or supporting the role played first by data and then by copywriting. Including talented and imaginative graphic designers in your content marketing is what takes an average to amazing, and what can set two otherwise equally-matched adversaries apart.
If you continued to look, you’d surely find many more ways in which graphic design plays a hugely important role in creative, modern marketing. Even as it is today, we’ve seen three key ways in which companies would be less interesting, distinct, and effective if we were to deprive them of their graphical resources, a move which would not go down well if we were to suggest it in the majority of companies we know!
The only advice we can offer in the face of evidence so plain is to always invest as much as possible in graphic design, hiring the best, contracting the most imaginative, and encouraging the brightest creative talents in your team.
If you don’t nab them, your competitors will. All images featured in this blog were made using Design Wizard!
About The Author: Claire is a marketing executive at Design Wizard. When she’s not in the office you can find her keeping up with social media and walking her dog Storm.
Feature Image Credit: Background vector created by www.freepik.com