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Sneak Peek: Visual Content Benchmark Report Highlights

Next week, we’ll be publishing our first ever benchmark report on visual content. In anticipation of the report, we wanted to preview some of the highlights and key findings that we uncovered when we looked back at how Shutterstock Custom was used in 2017.

About the benchmark report

First, let’s look at what the benchmark report is and why the data in it gives marketers a unique perspective on the visual content preferences of brands.

The initial idea for this report came from something our business was doing anyways. We collect data on how our customers use our platform to create visual content as this helps us continuously improve our products and services.

We quickly realized that, beyond helping us internally, this data had a lot of use for other marketers. Insights into how other brand marketers are actually producing visual content are hard to come by. There are plenty of survey reports and speculative trends from industry voices available online – such as the CMI B2C Content Marketing Benchmark Report. But none directly show how brands really spent their creative resources over the course of a year.

When our customers use our platform to create custom visual content, part of the process involves defining elements of their visual branding guidelines to tell us specifics for individual creative briefs. We collect data throughout the process, such as what channel the content is intended for; whether they need video, the creative concept reflected within the content, photo/video specifications like tone or depth of field, and details on how to display people in visuals.

Example of brand guideline details in Shutterstock Custom

Example of brand guideline details in Shutterstock Custom

Highlights: content volumes

Although data volumes are presented in the report as a means for setting the parameters to our findings, there are a few interesting trends we found just from comparing some of this data to last year.

For example, we found that when it came to video content, brands were requesting substantially more than they were the year before. This represented a 184% year over year increase in briefs for video content. This finding supports the established trend that the popularity of video content for brands continues to rise, especially for short video content and alternate video formats such as animated GIFs and cinemagraphs.

We also looked at the high-level data on how much visual content was produced for key verticals. We saw both expected and unexpected trends.

The most common types of brands creating visual content were in consumer-focused verticals of Food and Beverage at 19% of briefs, and Alcohol and Spirits at 18% of briefs. However, in a somewhat unexpected third was the Financial Services vertical representing 11% of briefs. This was a substantial increase in briefs year over year for the vertical. For Financial Services brands, this could be attributed to a growing priority for visual content as their traditional audiences change to younger and more digitally active demographics.

Highlights: channel use

When it came to intended channel use for the content we produced for brands, the results were notably different than the reported trend across content marketing this past year. Instagram came in the top spot with 28% of briefs intended for the channel, while Facebook was a few points behind coming in at 26% of briefs. Compared to recent annual CMI survey results for both B2C and B2B marketers, how brands are producing content does not show as strong of a preference for Facebook over Instagram content. Not surprisingly, Twitter continues to lag in intended channel use for content, representing only 14% of briefs and coming in behind other channels such as websites.

Highlights: people representations

People specifications were one of the most interesting groups of variables that saw changes this year and changes that were potentially reflective of world attitudes impacting marketing decisions. In a year that saw renewed cultural diversity, the most popular people specification was ethnicity representing 29% of briefs. This supports recent Shutterstock survey results that indicate marketers are placing an increasing importance on representing modern day society in their choice of images.

Beyond ethnicity variables, age was the second most selected variable under people specifications representing 28% of briefs, followed by wardrobe at 23%, and finally body type at 18% of all briefs.

Stay tuned for the full report

The above is just a snippet of some of the findings in our Visual Content 2018 Benchmark Report with the full report coming out next week. Keep an eye on the Shutterstock Custom social channels next week where we’ll be posting the full version of the report for you to reference for your visual content strategy this year.  We also encourage you to check out the main Shutterstock social handles in the coming weeks where they’ll be posting their 2018 edition of the popular Creative Trends Report.