There, in the chords and melodies, is everything I want to say. The words just jolly it along. – David Bowie
The next time you sit down to write words to get an idea across, consider this: Over 1.8 billion photos are uploaded and shared on social media every day. Facebook users upload 350 million new photos every day. Over 400 million images are sent on Snapchat per day, and 5 percent of all selfies on social media are shared on Snapchat. On Instagram, 20 billion photos have been uploaded, with 60 million photos averaged per day. 100 hours of video are uploaded per minute to YouTube, and over 700 YouTube videos are shared on Twitter each minute.
The age of the Visual Web is here.
A visual conversation is taking place online and smart brands and publishers are looking for ways to participate by producing original visual assets to power their campaigns and initiatives. Content creators must now think in GIFs, snaps, vines, pins, Instagram videos, Twitter cards, any piece of multimedia content that provides a more immersive digital experience while adding value to the viewer.
Lifestyle brands, in particular, have excelled at this concept (perhaps because their products and aesthetics are easier to market to a younger, social-active demographic than other service-based verticals.)
Here are six lifestyle brands that have mastered the Visual Web:
1. Michael Kors
Michael Kors is best-in-breed at visually capturing brand experience in luxury lifestyle. Rather than hawking products themselves, Michael Kors promotes a yacht party fantasy world where gilded timepieces are merely part of the bronzed landscape. MK’s branded Tumblr is an impeccably-styled grid of gorgeous jewelry, accessories, and tanned, beautiful people looking effortless wind-swept and adventurous. It’s the sort of aspirational strategy for the Ibiza set that deftly sells the sizzle instead of the steak. (And it’s working: in less than 24 hours running their first sponsored post, the brand had netted almost 34,000 new followers and averaged 330 percent more Likes.)
The 158 year-old brand’s visual content is distinctly British, globalist, and fashion-forward. Burberry’s Instagram feed and Vine account is stocked with artistic London street scenes, vintage clips, runway looks, and sizzling shots of high-profile models like Cara Delevingne and Suki Waterhouse. And the Burberry "Art of The Trench Coat" Tumblr features photography of outerwear street style from Istanbul to Shanghai to Moscow, and invites followers to upload shots of their own trench coat couture.
If Michael Kors and Burberry represent a gold standard of the elite, Converse is the anti-establishment brand, the rock n’ roll rebel. The Nike-owned sneaker brand uses their Tumblr channel as a community-driven hub for indie music, local artists, and celebrating youth culture. Product marketing is strongly visual, but minimal: UGC-style photos are lightly sprinkled between concert posters, album art, band GIFs, free downloads, weekly playlists – Chucks are just part of the uniform.
Levi’s does a masterful job at maintaining an air of gritty “authenticity” (no easy task in brand marketing) in their visual content. Partnering with professional photographers, the heritage jeans brand uses an evocative documentary style that captures candid slice-of-life moments (lived, of course, in Levi’s.) Rather than hitting up followers with purchase links or a direct sales strategy, Levi’s positions itself away from price points in favor of a mythical Americana that champions everyman accessibility.
5. Free People
Very few brands are able to produce unbranded imagery that looks more like art than advertisement. The social feeds of Urban Outfitters-owned Free People perfectly embodies the wild-hearted aesthetic their name evokes; the brand’s clothes and jewelry seem like well-worn costumes in an indie love story, set to a Valencia-filtered backdrop of travel, music, youth, and good vibes. (Sister brand Anthropologie, a favorite among female millennials, has a similar high-quality content strategy, but focused on more vintage looks and elegant aesthetics.)
6. West Elm
The Brooklyn-based decor and furniture brand’s Pinterest channel touts “clean, simple products for modern living”. With board titles like “Modern Macrame”, “Dream House of the Day”, and “The Everygirl's Chicago City Safari”, West Elm taps into upwardly-mobile urban dwellers and their aspirational DIY dreams to cook, entertain, create, explore, inspire, and live better, handcrafted with Etsy-like detail and care. West Elm’s careful messaging and visual curation transforms the brand into more than just a collection of color patterns or chic interiors, but a way of life, a statement of cultivated personal taste.