He split visual content into four key areas:
It might seem odd to be talking about text in a post dedicated to visual content, but even in text-based conversation imagery has become much more important, as evidenced by the Oxford Dictionaries 2015 word of the year.
“Emojis go back to something fundamental about the way people connect,” Cotterill says, making a comparison with the hieroglyphics of the ancient Egyptian world.
Rather than replacing text, Cotterill believes emojis are there to form part of the way we communicate, and therefore need to be designed and used in a way that fits naturally into a text-based conversation.
Messaging apps such as WhatsApp are increasingly important because they let people communicate in a visual way.
While Instagram began as a simple photo-sharing app, it has now evolved into a place where people go to create and discover content, often from people or brands they don’t know.
“You have a chance to paint a picture of your brand universe,” Cotterill says. “So you need to work out how to transport someone there in that split second as they’re scrolling through their feed.”
While it is important to tell an interesting story through imagery, that isn’t enough in itself, Cotterill argues. You have to provide a clear connection with your brand.
You can provide product or brand linkage in any number of ways, but always make sure it’s there or it’s a wasted opportunity.
Cotterill also discussed the importance of tying together number of different posts to create a series, whether using photos or video, as Gap did with its ‘Weirdest love story ever Instagrammed’ campaign.
We’re all well aware of the changes in the way people consume content on their phones. When someone is scrolling through their feed you have two or three seconds in which to grab their attention.
For this reason Cotterill believes in video content being ‘weighted up front’ to quickly draw people in.
“Once you’ve hooked them they’ll watch for minutes,” he says. “But you need to create intrigue, something visually arresting.
This is where I think you’ll see text coming back into play but through video. Most people won’t click a video to turn the sound on so you need to land your message silently.
I think we’ll see a reimagining of the silent movie.
Cotterill mentions the campaign Hotels.com ran earlier this year, which played upon the silent movie idea and used text to grab people’s attention as they scrolled through their feed.
Another important point Cotterill mentioned was the need to adapt your video content to the platform on which you’re publishing it.
“You need to design content for how people are consuming it,” he says. “You can’t just slap a 30-second ad on Instagram or Facebook and expect it to work.”
Instead, he argues, brands should try to focus on how people actually use the devices on which they’re watching videos.
One example he cited was from Burberry, where the brand created a portrait video because that’s how people hold their phone while scrolling through a feed.
Immersive content enables brands to tell stories in a more visually interesting way, using a mixture of text, images and video.
Virtual reality is an obvious platform for immersive content, but Cotterill stresses that brands shouldn’t do it only for the novelty value, but rather because it actually helps them say what they’re trying to say in an interesting way.
He also specifically mentions Oculus Rift, which Facebook bought last year, saying that within 12-18 months the opportunities for brands on the platform should become clear.
Conclusion: talk less, build more
To end his talk, Cotterill stressed the need to just go out there and experiment with different formats and ways of presenting visual content to various audiences.
“Talk less, build more,” he says. “Don’t just theorise. Get out there, test and play and get stuck in.”
And what about the future? Cotterill believes relevancy is going to be the biggest trend in the next year or two as brands increasingly manage to find meaning in all the data they’re now able to collect.