Branding experts know full well the importance of a strong visual identity. Today we're going to get into how social media can be instrumental in achieving that, and how computer vision can help brands nail trending content.
Easy to guess which brand this pic belongs to out of the 3 featured in this article.
You cannot go about waltzing around this life without establishing your personal brand identity — how other people view you based on how you've presented yourself to them, and continue to do so on a regular basis.
The same principle applies to every company, albeit in a completely deliberate way. The moment a business is born, so is its brand by default. It's up to those in charge to ensure they build it properly, determine the place it occupies in the market, how it derives from the bigger corporate strategy, and what tactics will be used to strengthen it.
While building a brand is quite an intangible concept when you're planning out growth, a big part of a business' image comes courtesy of visuals, which happens to be quite a concrete thing. And nowadays, social media is the most effective, logical, and multi-layered way to establish your brand's visual identity. It provides a constant stream for dispensing representative photos and videos, it's a conduit with direct access to consumers, but above all, it's buildable and gives businesses carte blanche for elements of design and company branding.
Social provides an incredible platform for telling the world what your brand is all about with photos, videos, and a strong narrative. Without a visual identity, no one would ever remember your business, people wouldn't recognize what it does, you wouldn't acquire loyalty, nor build emotional connections, and your bottom line would suffer gravely.
Can you guess who this image belongs to without looking at the name?
Traditional media is becoming increasingly obsolete for brand-building, whereas social channels are offering businesses a new platform to spread their message and reach their Millennial consumers. This is the cord-cutting, mobile first generation that doesn't buy into the old-fashioned advertising that worked on their elders. And that's actually a great thing, because social is way more conducive to creating an experience and to connecting.
Marketing on social media is very strategic. And it requires being both analytical and conceptual, two things that are often mutually exclusive in brain-wiring. So while developing a super strong brand marketing strategy is paramount, being able to execute the vision is where it gets tricky: balancing data and creativity is what makes social endeavors successful.
These two diverging concepts go hand in hand in this marketing day and age to achieve high performing visual consistency. To take things a step further, computer vision can catapult your brand marketing efforts to even more stratospheric proportions. We're talking about trend-surfacing, visual-dissecting, success-predicting tools to enable an even deeper journey through your brand's photos and videos.
In order to understand precisely why exhibiting a strong aesthetic identity is vital to any company that's consumer-facing, no matter the nature of its operations, we're going to compare how three brands under one mothership differentiate themselves on the market with vastly different visual approaches.
Below, we'll examine how Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic's social content reveals who they are instantly, as well as how they can capitalize on their own content trends.
Engagement Rate: 0.52%
Follower Count: 1M
It's clear that the Old Navy audience responds to bright colors, cheeky imagery, and an amusing spirit, as their Instagram grid is chock full of it. Particularly when it comes to dynamic flat lays, casual daytime looks, and emphasis on family. As the lower priced brand of the Gap portfolio, their strong, fun-loving aesthetic reveals that spending less on clothing doesn't have to mean your whole flock has to compromise on style.
This is evident when observing the top performing visuals on Old Navy's Instagram account in 2017 so far:
Using these successful content trends, Old Navy could dig through all of their UGC or other brand collateral to predict which specific visuals within a certain category would be a top performer. That is precisely how visual intelligence and computer vision can be of assistance.
For example, Old Navy's flat lays are top notch and their fans seem to be enamored with them (refer back to the above image illustrating their account's most successful content from 2017). Why not ensure that their flat lays crush it every single time?
Engagement Rate: 0.32%
Follower Count: 1.7M
The Gap identity is all about classic Americana cool. One gander at their visuals and it becomes clear that their strategy for anchoring that image in their audience's collective psyche is achieved through produced branded content. They post very little to no UGC. Their recent Instagram imagery suggests that Gap is exclusively pushing their own campaigns on the platform in an effort to solidify their authoritative status as the unified, all-American company.
These are their most successful posts of 2017:
The brunt of their content this year has been focused on highlighting specific pieces, their story, and elevating the status of what it means to be a classic by "coolifying" it. While these studio shoots yield beautiful imagery, it's interesting to note that Gap actually has the lowest engagement rate out of all of its three brands.
This could very likely be a symptom of a discordant line of communication between what they say and what their public wants to hear. We've witnessed time and again the proven concept of organic-feeling content on social, which has been reiterated by experts more than a few times.
The fact that Gap only pushes studio-produced visuals might constitute their branding strategy at large, but this could prove to be detrimental to their social media activities, as there is a clear disconnect with their audience.
Their images that focus on details and classics, rather than overproduced and over-posed posts are what their followers have been responding the most positively to since the new year. This is their top performer of 2017:
There is, however, an interesting observation to be made as it relates to their content trends. It would help Gap out a lot if they included more landscape and lifestyle imagery in their content mix, instead of only pushing what looks like a version of an ad for each post.
The types of visuals below are all predicted to perform really well for the brand, and they can still be made to have that aesthetic stamp they're known for:
Engagement Rate: 0.63%
Follower Count: 919K
There's no doubt about it: the Banana Republic audience loves chic with a twist. Polished feminine looks take the cake, but always with a little je ne sais quoi sprinkled throughout. The popular color schemes are a mix of muted and eye-catching hues. Shoes and closeups seem to be particularly compelling their followers, as well as full looks worn by smiling women.
These are their highest performing posts of 2017:
Their social media audience appears to be particularly enamored with footwear, as posts with fun shoes consistently outperform their average. That is one very interesting aspect of their content mix that could be very beneficial to explore further.
For example, they could find some of the most beautiful images in which they've been tagged to assess their potential to be regrammed. Like the post below by @kelli_murray: according to Banana Republic's content trends, the way the shoes are displayed, the color scheme of the photo, and its overall feel would make for a top performer if they repurposed it.
When observing each of these three brands, it's impossible not to notice their clear and distinct aesthetic points of view. It's vital for businesses to be able to hone in on a visual style that derives from their brand strategy, and remain true to it. It's what makes customers fall in love, it helps people form a point of reference, it's directional for tactical undertakings, and it's also what will enable a brand to become iconic.
While the above three companies are all under one mothership, they each subscribe to their own unique aesthetic approach that encompasses their DNA. That visual identity needs to be adapted for social media content, which we've established is the ideal vehicle for brand marketing.
There's no better way to do that than by identifying your own content trends and building on them to optimize your overall performance.
Want to learn more about how Dash Hudson can assist you with visual intelligence? Get in touch today (right after you sign up for our weekly newsletter 👇).