10 Visual Content Marketing Trends for 2021

Marketing today is not the same as it was five years ago — or even just one year ago.

The pandemic turned the world on its head but the truth is, we’ve been trending in this direction for a while.

COVID simply hit the fast-forward button.

In a curious state of affairs, the quarantining and social distancing measures for public health safety have impacted our mental health as a whole and the way we view, interact with, and shop from brands.

To put it simply, society is:

  • Craving more engaging interactions with brands than before.
  • Looking at brand trust and ethics on a new level.
  • Focusing more on small businesses and sustainability.

This is a very different consumer base than we saw in the past. The question is, how are these trends affecting visual content marketing?

Visual Content Is Forging More Intimate, Authentic Connections Between Brands & Consumers

The Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that 70% say trusting a brand is more important today than it was in the past.

Video content in particular gives brands a unique opportunity to connect in an (almost) face-to-face way with their audience.

It’s filling a void in an age of social distancing, which is a big reason why 91% of marketers believe video is more important for brands in light of the pandemic.

Here are some of the video and other visual content trends to watch especially closely:

1. Authentic Content & Stories Drive Audience Engagement

Consumers want to see the people behind the brand.

That could come in the form of:

  • The CEO discussing the company’s roots.
  • A behind-the-scenes look at the CX team so people can put a face to the representative they’ve been talking to on the phone.
  • Or blog posts that show the people making the products, not just the products by themselves.

Use Instagram Stories, Reels, and even video shorts to feature this side of your brand. Get consistent at doing it, and you’ll get noticed (in a good way).

Audiences today are less concerned with the fancy “fluff” of styled photoshoots and perfectly arranged models and product photos. They want to see the real person.

Instead of using gimmicks and sales pitches to shine a spotlight on your brand, talk directly to the consumers who want to see a genuine attempt to connect on a more personal, human level.

Be open, vulnerable, and unafraid to share your perspective.

2. Convert Your Lists Into Visual Graphics

Converting your lists into graphics adds the benefit of creating visual interest while breaking the most relevant information out of a text block that’s much more likely to be skimmed over without sinking in.

Our brains are wired for visual processing; in fact, visuals are processed by the human brain 60,000 times faster than text.

Nail your engagement and increase visitor time on site with more content types that include visual graphics repurposed from your written content.

3. Optimize Your Custom Branded Visuals for Google Images

Creating your own data, graphs, and visual concepts not only solidifies your brand as an authority within your niche but also opens the door for links and citations.

If you properly optimize every image you upload with an alt tag, all those graphics can then be indexed by Google in Search and Images. They can also be found by publishers who could pick them up and link to you.

You can even optimize the images and graphics you create for your brand assets, so all your content formats – not just some, but all – show up in Google images.

Google is like a Dewey Decimal system. Feed it the right information on every little bit of visual content you upload, and you’ll rank everywhere.

For example, let’s say you have a podcast. If you optimize each podcast episode with correlating website content that includes graphics and visuals, your podcast can show up in Google Images.

Check out how succeeds at this.

Because there are properly optimized Google alt tags for every graphic, even the SEJ podcast in iTunes is showing up in Google Images:

4. Livestream Video Content

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again because it’s so important — audiences are turning away from polished, heavily edited content that doesn’t feel authentic.

This is the same case with live video streams compared to prerecorded videos.

Livestreaming has a sense of immediacy that makes the audience feel more of a connection since the events are happening in real-time, especially with the rise of virtual events.

Users are often able to post comments and interact directly with the host(s), further increasing engagement.

With those advantages in mind, it’s no surprise that live videos typically earn double the engagement of prerecorded videos.

5. Gamified Interactive Visual Content

This type of highly engaging content is especially prevalent in social media stories, but it doesn’t have to be limited to Instagram and Facebook.

The essential function of this visual content is to challenge your audience to directly interact, whether that’s ranking a favorite outfit, taking an online quiz, playing “this or that,” engaging in a bingo game, partaking in a “choose your own adventure” style post, or a variety of other options.

You are, in essence, inviting your audience to share their opinion or play some type of “game” with you.

6. Bite-Sized TikTok-Style Videos

With standard TikTok video lengths at a maximum of one minute, the content must be quick and to the point while still being entertaining.

Consumer appetite for that style of content isn’t going anywhere for a while!

In January 2021, TikTok was the second most installed non-gaming app with almost 62 million downloads that month alone. Other social medium platforms (looking at you, Instagram Reels) are jumping on board the popular trend.

What makes this type of visual content so exciting?

Most of these videos are fun, quirky, and don’t take themselves too seriously. They engage with audiences and get their point across quickly.

7. Shoppable Visual Content

Buying products directly from social media was once a novel concept, but it’s quickly becoming the norm. In 2020, 18.3% of Facebook users made a purchase directly on the platform.

Social media channels have been leaning into the trend by offering business tools like shopping stickers and product tags.

But shoppable visual content isn’t constrained to social media.

Companies are getting creative and adding shop links directly into their digital catalogs and lookbooks, blog posts, and just about anywhere else a link can go.

8. Ephemeral Content

Ephemeral content is temporarily accessible, typically within a 24-hour window, before it disappears. If you’re familiar with Snapchat and Instagram/Facebook stories, you’re already familiar with ephemeral content.

Because this content is so short-lived, it creates a sense of urgency that prompts people to watch. It’s particularly great at featuring user-generated content (UGC) that doesn’t have to worry about matching the brand aesthetic since it won’t be sticking around on permanent display.

Instagram has reported that 58% of people became more interested in a brand or product after seeing it featured in stories, so there’s something to be said about the power of ephemeral content, especially when it’s shoppable.

9. Animations and Gifs

This type of visual content has been popular for a while and is likely to continue trending.

Gifs and animations can be used in a variety of ways, such as showing a step in an instructional post, spicing up an image, or adding an amusing or engaging twist to your content.

There’s a gif or animation out there for just about anything you can think of.

10. 360° Visuals

Audiences delight in the ability to “visit” a place and have control over what they see by changing the view with a slide of the finger or a drag of the mouse, instantly making otherwise flat content much more engaging by evoking curiosity.

From an ecommerce standpoint, products can be shown from every angle to give a consumer a better idea of what they’re buying and elevate the online shopping experience as a whole.

There are tons of opportunities for this type of content.

There’s No Getting Around It: Visual Content Is Changing the Way Consumers Interact With Brands




This is what the modern-day consumer is looking for. Visual content across all platforms and channels is evolving to meet those needs and change the way audiences perceive and interact with brands.

The businesses that rise to meet these expectations are the ones that will not only survive the post-COVID market but thrive in it.

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, May 2021