Four emerging trends to help boost your marketing strategy

By Dr Rebecca Swift, below, Senior Vice President of Creative, iStock 

In a rapidly evolving consumer landscape, it’s crucial for SMBs to stay ahead of the curve. Anticipation alone won’t cut it; a deep understanding of up-and-coming marketing trends is essential. Armed with actionable insights supported by iStock’s VisualGPS research, we will delve into four emerging trends to help refine your visual strategy, enabling seamless adaption to market changes and ensuring the sustained growth of your business both now and in the future.

Want to build consumer trust? Be genuine

Our research shows that 75% of people globally are excited about artificial intelligence (AI)’s potential, and it does bring a whole host of opportunities. However, with image manipulation and deep fakes on the rise, AI does not come without its challenges – 74% of UK respondents say they are finding it difficult to tell if an image is real. Think about the effect this has on consumer trust. When asked about what type of storytelling would enable them to trust brands, 97% of British consumers agree that ‘authentic’ visuals are pivotal.

So, how can you do this? Choose visuals that show more candid moments and connect with your target audience through humour. With the cost of living affecting the way we interact with brands, avoid overly luxurious or glamorous imagery (unless relevant to your sector) and instead emphasise how your business is accessible and relatable at this time.

Remember we all long for a human touch

Despite the obvious efficiencies of the technology at our fingertips, we found that 43% of British respondents prefer human interaction over technology. A lot of people are not only yearning for genuine human connection but also for the irreplaceable significance of personal engagement.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

When visualising how technology empowers your business, highlight the notion of human control over technology and AI tools.  Tap into the nostalgia of early Web 1.0 aesthetics, which portray the beginning of personalisation in tech, to evoke familiarity among consumers. Use bright colours like magenta, lime, and orange in your marketing to show how your business is progressing towards the future.

Press play on video content this year

There is still a long way to go for shopping on social media platforms. Although TikTok Shop and Shops on Instagram are growing in popularity, 70% of Brits do not trust in-app shopping features on social media platforms. Despite this, social media is still a vital medium to tap into for sales marketing.

Here is where video comes into play. Video formats such as short-form craft tutorials and longer explainer videos can be used to show off what your business is all about and to foster trust with your customers. With TikTok also shaking up how people are searching for content online, SEO is key, so remember to pack your videos with descriptions in your title, hashtags, and captions.

Unlock the potential of Generative AI

Many businesses are already harnessing the power of AI, with 42% of global respondents stating that they are interacting with AI-generated content and tools. With commercially safe AI tools, you can produce unique and innovative creative visuals in a way that is risk-free and ready to use in your marketing.

When using the AI generator, think about what instructions you will type in to create the images. These are called prompts and serve as a guide for the AI model to perform the task. To generate standout visuals, keep your AI prompts concise – no more than 50 words – and as descriptive as possible. Have a play around with the word order and try to place important elements, such as subject and location, at the start. If the prompt still isn’t giving you what you are after, think of a different way you can describe it, or even try and find the image you want in a pre-shot image library.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024