The importance of visual communication in marketing

20th Jul 2014

Marketing professionals are very text focused.

This has become a problem, as many of us have lost sight of the most basic and obvious form of communication of all – the visual.

The good news is that, at last, visual-based marketing is making a welcome return. Why? Because the benefits are so obvious. You can easily communicate with the audience via engaging and appealing visual messages that improve customer response and interaction rates at any stage in the communication process – delivering a quick, light touch methodology that enables you and your customers to interact at a fast pace and in a way they find appealing.

Maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised; delivering personalised, localised, context-specific information is what defines effective text/SMS interactions in the first place. But by adding this new twist of visual push messaging, there is now a way of offering customers information– in one message, on one screen.

A new sort of Internet?

To date, electronic communications have been more basic than the ‘press 1/press 2/yes/no’ style of engagement, even on the more sophisticated of platforms. However, with the rise of sites like Pinterest, it seems we are becoming more visually interested. Pinterest is after all a way to capture visual images – shopping, fashion, art or home décor – and create a ‘style’. It’s a very visually-driven medium, and so very broad or universal in its draw. You can be any nationality, from any background and it doesn’t matter – when you are checking out how someone’s Pinterest works, you can instinctively appreciate and understand it.

There a lot of research and thinking to back all this up. For example, JP Rangaswami, chief scientist at and former chief scientist at BT, foresees a move from today’s text-heavy Internet to a much more visual one. For Rangaswami and his fellow futurists discussing the evolution of the Internet, visual is set to become the default digital communication method. Rangaswami sees this development as harking back to our interactions during the Middle Ages, when a similar visual ‘messaging’ was seen as completely natural.

Visual also offers some significant advantages in terms of usability – or ‘choice architecture’. Most menus systems offer 1-4 boxes, leaving you a ‘blind’ set of options; you can't see the next choice until you have made the one the computer requires first. The visual presentation we are discussing is much more sophisticated, so you can see what the actual choice is; so, for instance, for a customer appointment using a visual message with a screen slider, the customer moves the slider along to see all the time slots available. All they do is drag it and pull their finger off, and the appointment is made.

That’s what we mean by a ‘one touch’ decision – a key design principle behind visual push messaging. Take the customer survey carried out after something has been delivered or a service call answered. A lot of surveys via mobile tend to get exited quickly by bored or frustrated consumers. But add in visual and you have a very easy to use format of ‘yes, no, give me a score’: press a button, move the slider, and it’s done. In practical terms, that means you can send out an SMS message with a smart link in it. That landing page has got the widest possible distribution because it has been delivered by an SMS, it will open on any smartphone (and if you don't have a smartphone, it will still give you a legible message, asking you to call or respond by SMS).

As a result, the capture rate of customers’ feedback with visual push technology is very high – with survey response rates reported at well over 20%. Any marketer will tell you that’s impressive.

One Touch is all you need

The bottom line is that if you can reach out to customers or prospects at the right time and give them a quick one-touch decision, you are going to be a lot more effective in terms of managing that relationship and getting campaign results.

On one level, the move from text to visual as the dominant communication metaphor for working with the web seems such an obvious move to make – you wonder why it has taken so long. Working visually thanks to its ease of use and universality is a very compelling way of offering people choices and getting immediate responses.

So you may be great at sending out text/SMS messages to customers – but if you are not linking them to visuals, you are missing out on a form of engagement that offers huge universal appeal and delivers you real results.

After all, a picture is worth a thousand words – or should we say a thousand positive responses?

The author is Director of Innovation at VoiceSage (, a business services company providing market-defining interactive voice messaging (IVM) and SMS solutions

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