If your brand has been around for a while, it might be time for a visual refresh. Follow these easy tips to inject life into tired or outdated images.

Cover image via Daxiao Productions

There are some industries that regularly push the boundaries of visual content. And there are some industries that just don’t. These industries follow a tried and true visual branding approach, relying on instantly recognizable motifs that have, over time, become a bit cliché.

A few traditional pairings come to mind: financial services and handshakes, manufacturing and hard hats, healthcare and lab coats, legal and courtrooms.

The worst saying that creative marketers can live by is, “This is the way we’ve always done things.” When this traditional imagery loses its appeal, it’s a perfect opportunity to revamp the visual identity with more creative, modern charm.

Recreating your brand’s visual identity  doesn’t require vast amounts of planning or resources, but it can make a quick impact. Take a look through these five easy tips to help you modernize the look and feel of your business.

1. Perform a Visual Content Audit

5 Tips to Help You Refresh Outdated Visual Content – Perform a Content Audit

Image via dotshock

Resist the temptation to dive head first into redeveloping all your visuals. Instead, start with a quick visual content audit. Look at the visuals throughout your major marketing distribution channels and identify the ones that have the biggest impact on the bottom line to help you prioritize which need the most attention. In the end, this will help you quickly assess wins as a result of visual content redevelopment.

Audit these key channels:

  • Core website 
  • Blog pages and articles
  • Campaign landing pages
  • Email
  • Paid and organic social media
  • Event collateral
  • Sales enablement material

 Come up with a simple recording method to analyze the content on these channels. Include useful information that will help when you return to this asset for redevelopment, like:

  • Name
  • Description
  • Asset type (photo, illustration, chart/graph, etc.)
  • Yes or No for replacement
  • Any extra details that will help you figure out what needs to change for a given piece

Another worthwhile exercise while auditing is to analyze your competitors’ best visual content. This can be as easy as a short meeting with peers to walk through a competitor’s website and social media channels.

2. Use Real People in Visuals

5 Tips to Help You Refresh Outdated Visual Content – Use Real People in Visuals
Image produced by Shutterstock Custom for Toyota Canada. 
All trademarks depicted are the property of their respective owners. No affiliation with or endorsement of Shutterstock is hereby implied.

In recent research we found that 57% of U.S. marketers are now featuring non-professional models in their advertising visuals and for good reason, too. Audiences identify with a brand when they can see themselves using the product or services. Non-professional models communicate a more authentic message. Getting the “real people” look in your visuals is easier than you think.

Stock imagery is a great place to start. There are lots of search tools on Shutterstock to help you quickly find authentic and brand-appropriate visuals, like curated collections and search filters for people, categories, colors, and even localized artists. You can also try services like Shutterstock Custom, which offers businesses the ability to create custom visual content with real world people as models.

Another way to get real people for your visuals is to simply ask them for it. Making a call to your audience for user-generated content is a fun and engaging way to connect with your customers, and get some real-life visuals of your products or services in use. Use this outreach content for organic social media, or as a means of connecting with influencers. 

3. Present Relatable Scenarios and Experiences

5 Tips to Help You Refresh Outdated Visual Content – Use Real Scenarios
Image produced by Shutterstock Custom for Bed Bath & Beyond. 
All trademarks depicted are the property of their respective owners. No affiliation with or endorsement of Shutterstock is hereby implied.

Similar to using real people in your visuals, showing real people in relatable scenarios helps audiences self identify with a brand, building deeper connections.

Take the example of a local law firm. The standard website or blog for a law firm may be full of traditional legal industry visuals, such as justice scales, gavels, crammed book shelves, or overly staged scenes of people signing papers. This is far from the reality people experience with legal services. After all, what kind of modern day lawyer actually has the scales of justice sitting on their desk?

Instead, the local law firm could use visuals more specific to the reasons their clients need legal help. For example, visuals that encapsulate experiences of buying and selling a home could work for real estate law. Content for healthcare legal might need visuals related to personal injury law. Childcare content works for family law, and visuals of grandparents are useful for will, estate, and retirement law.

The idea is to paint a picture of real life that focuses on your customers’ experience with your product or service.

4. Naturally Integrate Your Branding

5 Tips to Help You Refresh Outdated Visual Content – Integrate Branding Naturally
Image produced by Shutterstock Custom for Nestle Mackintosh Toffee. 
All trademarks depicted are the property of their respective owners. No affiliation with or endorsement of Shutterstock is hereby implied.

Visuals featuring products, logos, or any kind of branding always runs the risk of being too in-your-face. When it comes to integrating your brand into visuals, a subtle approach is always best. This extends to product shots and lifestyle shots.

Consider the intended channel for a visual to figure out how much focus should be on the product or logo. For example, visuals used for ecommerce pages must show product details like labeling information, angles, and size comparisons – these elements matter more when people are close to a purchase.

On a campaign landing page, where the intention is to capture attention and convert users from forms, visuals that focus on how the product is used work better. Not only does the visual fit the channel better, but also “in use” visuals are typically more appropriate for earlier stages of the buying journey when awareness and discovery have greater importance.

You should also consider whether the product or logo needs to be featured at all. Take the example of a bank selling a small business credit card. All credit cards work in the same way, and they look similar – consumers are far more interested in the financial benefits of a specific credit card. The card could be shown with a visual of a small business owner picking up an order for their company, which is far more relatable than the plastic card itself.

5. Add Consistent Elements to Visuals

5 Tips to Help You Refresh Outdated Visual Content – Add Consistent Elements to Visuals
Images produced by Shutterstock Custom for Chipotle Mexican Grill. 
All trademarks depicted are the property of their respective owners. No affiliation with or endorsement of Shutterstock is hereby implied.

Adding consistent elements to your visuals is another simple way to update a your brand’s visual identity.

Color is an easy place to start. Every business has a primary color used in the logo and marketing materials. Ensure that small splashes of that color are included in every visual to build  consistency across marketing channels.

You can also achieve consistency through visual composition choices. Make basic decisions, like using only photos, or illustrations, or vector art, or a combination of these on a given channel. This can remove some of the visual randomness that older marketing channels might have. Similarly, make universal decisions on image composition. Decide when and how to show people (full body, faces, demographics), or key composition elements to repeat, like the amount of negative space or photo angles.

See Results from Visual Branding

Want more tips on visual marketing? We wrote about how to establish your brand identity with visual guidelines. If you’re just starting out, or revamping your brand identity, this is a perfect place to begin.