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Text vs. Visuals – The Advantages of Each in Content Marketing

Plenty of emphasis is placed on the benefits of visual enhancements, but text still has its strong place in effective content. 

The internet was once a text-only environment. Today, with high-definition imagery – both still and video – easily added to sites and ubiquitous throughout the web, content creators need to have a clear understanding of the comparative advantages of text versus visuals. Much of the answer depends upon the specific product, audience and viewer response goals.
A product that is tangible or visual by nature, or any item or service in which the aesthetic is of primary importance, can be effectively marketed through visual means. Products or services marketed to a younger demographic (18-34) can rely much more on visuals as the core marketing element. And products or services which do not require sophisticated technical understanding or pre-qualification before purchase or use also benefit from a visual-heavy marketing plan.
Visual imagery is absorbed by the brain in a primal, unconscious way and combining concepts with meaningful images ensures the storage of said information into long-term memory. Adding photos or infographics to content increases readers’ initial interest, emotional response and retention. When people hear information audibly, only 10 percent of said data is recalled three days later. Pair a pertinent image with the information, however, and 65 percent of it is retained after the same period. Similarly, when reading text, one’s visual brains converts the words into a representative image, either recalling a memory or through imagination.
It is not only retention after the fact that gets improved. Content with images gets 94 percent more views at the outset than content without images and two-thirds of consumers think that clear, detailed images hold more meaning than customer ratings or product information.
Images account for 90 percent of the information that is transmitted to the brain and they are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. First impressions are formed in just 50 milliseconds. All of this strongly points to the advantages of visuals in your content, especially when grabbing viewers’ attention early on and placing simple, easy to understand messages and product promises in their memories.
Despite the aforementioned research statistics reinforcing the power of visuals in one’s content marketing, the persuasive capabilities and other advantages of lengthy text can never be discounted.
Content that is complex or highly technical often requires dense paragraphs of clear, methodical explanation so that the reader can study the words, re-read as necessary and take the time to absorb all of the information. The same words spoken in a video may be retained by some, but many people are text-based learners and lose focus hearing too much detail spoken in a video or seeing it jammed into a busy infographic.
Legal rules or policies are best spelled out in text, as the format suits the meticulous, labyrinthine nature of the information and the words serve as documented legal notice.
Text is often preferred by the older, wealthier demographic, who are accustomed to reading words and find video or imagery a distraction. Text-based content has classic value in a manner different from visuals; it can be published in magazines and books, recited by speakers and quoted or excerpted by influencers in one’s field. Thirty-five percent of people are not visual learners and an overabundance of visuals at the expense of text risks losing them.
The advantages of text are also technical, as text may contain a large quantity of SEO-friendly terms, and also offers superior functionality with regard to page speed, mobile loading and web server issues.
And despite all of the persuasive stats favoring visuals, 54 percent of marketers say that photography is not critical to their marketing, while 41 percent of senior marketing executives would rather read text if given a choice between that and video. Sixty-two percent of viewers are likely to have a negative impression of a product or service if they watch an associated video they believe is of poor quality.
The bottom line is that while explosive hype exists in favor of visual enhancements, due to their effectiveness in drawing initial attention and imprinting primal messages into readers’ memories, the efficacy and necessity of lengthy, text-based content seems guaranteed for the foreseeable future.

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