The pandemic has impacted every walk of life in the United States. After a tumultuous year, everything from remote work and virtual events to content marketing has changed drastically.
For brands trying to stand out, visual content has become more important now than ever. Using visuals across a variety of channels will help brands reach their audiences and improve their revenue.
To better understand how visual communication has changed, Venngage conducts an annual survey on visual content marketing statistics.
We spoke to 200 marketers around the world this year (with assistance from our friends at Typeform). We asked marketers about the impact of the pandemic, how they’ve used visual content in their marketing, and what they believe visual content marketing will look like in 2021.
We were also able to segment our statistical report according to the various countries where the marketing strategies were focused. In this article, we look at data from marketing experts in the United States.
You can access the general report and statistics from other countries via the links below:
Visual Content Marketing Statistics to Know for 2021 – United States Report
When we spoke to United States-based marketers, we asked them about how visual content played into the marketing campaigns. We also wanted to know the effect the pandemic had had on them since that event had a worldwide impact.
We showcased our results in the infographic below and we also got expert marketing insights on visual content that you can read.
Visual Content Marketing Statistics to Know for 2021
There is a reason why our focus has been on visual content marketing strategies. The digital arena is full of content vying for attention. To reach audiences now, marketers need to get creative. Using visuals is the best way to make your messages attractive and memorable.
We share the biggest insights for our survey of content marketers in the United States, as well as how they adapted their strategies for the pandemic, and their predictions for 2021 and beyond.
1. Did you pivot your visual content marketing strategy in 2020 based on the pandemic?
50% of the respondents felt they had had to make changes to their marketing campaigns while the other half didn’t have to adapt their strategies despite the pandemic.
2. On a scale of 1-10, how much did you change your visual marketing strategy due to the pandemic?
The even split in our opening question meant we got a clear divide for our follow-up about how much marketing strategies in the US had had to change.
As with our survey of other countries, the majority of respondents fell in the middle of the scale, between five and eight out of 10. The average for the scale of change was 6.4, indicating that content marketing strategies in 2020 had to adapt because of the pandemic.
3. What kind of visuals did you use most frequently?
Across the world, we have seen a rise in the use of visuals in content marketing. In 2020, the majority of the North American respondents (59%) said 91-100% of their content includes visuals.
15.4% of respondents said they had included visuals in 71-90% of their content. 10.3% include visuals in 61-70% of their content and just 5.1% add visuals in as little as 11-20% of their content marketing materials.
It is obvious that visuals are a huge part of content marketing in the United States. But what kind of visuals have marketers been using? In previous years, we regularly saw stock photos taking the lead in North America. But that has since changed.
The US marketers we surveyed said they primarily use original graphics such as infographics and illustrations. 32.1% said infographics were their visual of choice. This was followed by 23.1% who still employ stock photos.
Charts and data visualizations followed close behind with votes from 21.8% of marketers. Data visualization has been an important component in marketing and beyond in 2020, so this isn’t a surprise.
Interestingly, though videos and virtual presentations have ranked high in North America for this question, they fell to fourth place in 2020.
Only 10.3% of respondents said they use videos and presentations in their content marketing. This might be because of how difficult videos are to produce.
Across the board, both multi-page lead generation documents and GIFs/Memes have ranked lowest for this question. In the US, they each received 6.4% of votes.
4. Which type of visuals helped you reach your marketing goals in 2020?
When asked about the most effective type of visuals, it wasn’t surprising to see original graphics top the list. 40% of respondents were able to reach their goals by using infographics and illustrations.
Videos and presentations ranked low in the previous question, but they made for effective visuals. They were neck and neck with charts and data visualizations, earning 20.5% of votes each.
Stock photos are still widely used but were only effective for 9% of marketers. This was followed closely by multi-page documents at 7.7%. GIFs and memes only 2.6% of votes.
5. Which type of visuals did not help you meet your marketing goals?
On the flip side, we asked US marketers to share the visuals that were least effective for reaching goals. Stock photos took the ignominious top spot, earning a whopping 53.8% of votes.
GIFs and multi-page documents, which have ranked low in the previous questions were also found to be ineffective, earning 17.9% and 12.8% of votes, respectively.
Among the more impactful visuals in content marketing, charts and data visualizations were chosen by only 6.4% of respondents.
Original graphics topped the list for most effective visuals, so it wasn’t surprising to see them take the last spot here with just about 5% of votes.
6. How much time did you spend each week producing visual content?
With so much visual content being generated, we wanted to know how much time US marketers spend on producing visual content.
50% of respondents in 2020 said they spend less than five hours a week creating visual marketing content. 19.2% spent 5-10 hours creating visual content, while 16.7% spent between 10 hours to over 20 hours creating visuals.
It appears that the majority of marketers are using their time wisely when creating visual content and the next question might explain why.
7. What tools did you typically use to create the visual content?
As with most respondents from the other countries we surveyed, 39.7% of US marketers said they use online solutions, like Venngage.
16.7% generally use advanced design software. In-house designers are still an option with 25.6% of the marketers surveyed opting for them. 17.9% employed freelance designers to create visual content in 2020.
It looks like most marketers in North American are taking a self-sufficient approach to visual content creation by relying on online solutions.
8. What was your biggest struggle when it came to producing engaging visual content?
As a natural follow-up to our previous question, we asked marketers what their biggest roadblocks were when creating visual content.
In 2019, 43% of marketers said their biggest hurdle was creating visuals consistently, but that number had dropped to 35.9% in 2020. Easier access to online solutions like the Venngage infographic maker could explain this drop.
Finding the right layout to show data and statistics earned 25.6% of the votes from respondents. Designing good infographics was the biggest challenge for 20.5% of US marketers, followed by sourcing data and statistics with 17.9%.
9. What percent of your budget was spent on visual content in 2020? And how will that change in 2021?
Not only is more visual content being created, but we are also seeing more brands allocate budgets specifically for visual content creation. We asked US-based marketers how much of their budget could be used for visuals.
26.9% of those surveyed said that less than 10% of their marketing budget is allocated for visual marketing, while 25.6% said 21-30% of the budget can be used for visuals.
24.4% of respondents are spending between 11-20% of the budget on visual content marketing. Only 6.4% of marketers had access to over 50% of marketing budgets for visuals in 2020.
We also wanted to know if marketers believed that marketing spend would change in 2021 and beyond, especially for visual content creation.
26.9% believe their budgets would reach the 31-40% category, followed closely by 26.5% who predicted an increase in spending to 21-30%,
19.2% said that their visual content creation budget would be less than 10% in 2021, while 10.3% predicted an increase in budget allocation to over 50% for visual content.
10. What do you spend the most on for visual content?
Marketing budgets are being used for visual content creation so we wanted to know what exactly marketers were spending on.
35.9% of marketers said that budgets are allocated specifically for designing visual content, while 30.8% use their budget on tools and software. 21.8% of US marketers spend on video production. Stock photos and animation and interactivity ranked lowest with 6.4% and 5.1%, respectively.
11. If you could automate one part of creating visual content, what would that be?
As a precursor to this question, we asked marketers to rank the level of difficulty for producing branded visuals consistently. On a scale of 1-10, the average for US marketers was 5.5.
Since automation has become an important factor in content marketing, we wanted to know what part of visual content creation marketers would like to automate.
39% of US marketers surveyed chose auto-generating multiple types of design, with 24.4% of respondents saying they would like to automate auto-resize options for social media.
14.1% said team collaboration automation was their choice and 9% wanted automation to make it easier to apply branding across visuals. Another 9% didn’t think any part of visual content creation needed automation.
Venngage for Business makes automation easy for marketers. Access a variety of features including live team collaboration, auto-branding, and automatic resizing, along with priority support.
12. How essential is visual content to their marketing strategy?
Since marketing budgets and time are being spent on visual content marketing, we wanted to know how essential visuals were to marketing strategies.
55.3% of the marketers we surveyed said that visuals were either essential or very important. 43.6% said that visuals were either quite important or somewhat important for their marketing. Only 1.3% didn’t think their content marketing needed visuals.
13. Which platforms do they create visual content for primarily?
This question has had varied responses across countries. While we saw a distinct shift towards social media visuals overall, in the US, visual content is being created mainly for websites.
57.7% of US marketers surveyed said they primarily design visuals for blog posts and landing pages. 35.9% create visuals for social media, including Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Only 6.4% of marketers designed visuals for print or branding materials.
14. How frequently do they publish content that contains visuals each week?
We followed up our previous question by asking how often marketers in the US publish visual content in a given week.
The majority, 44.9%, said they share visuals between two to five times a week. 28.2% published visual posts more regularly, between five and 10 times a week.
14.1% of US marketers created even more, publishing visual content more than 10 times a week. 12.8% published posts with visuals less than twice a week.
15. In 2021 and 2022, what percentage of businesses do you think will rely heavily on visual content as part of their marketing strategy?
Finally, we asked US marketers to predict what percentage of businesses would turn to visuals as part of their content marketing strategy in the next few years.
A whopping 60.2% believe that over 60% of businesses will use visuals. 24.3% of respondents think between 31-60% of businesses will be incorporating visual content in their strategy in 2021 and 2021. Only 1.3% felt that less than 10% of businesses will be using visual content in their marketing campaigns.
16. In the last decade, what were some of the biggest wins for content marketing in general?
We asked the US marketers we surveyed to share their biggest content marketing wins over the last 10 years. This what some of them said:
“Google de-prioritizing backlinks as the main ranking factor and instead of looking at the quality of the content more, thus leading content marketers to create more and better long-form content, which is better for user experience.”
“Over the past decade, businesses and creators produced a lot of content. This resulted in a lot of competition, but at the same time, it has lead to a “survival of the fittest” atmosphere where the best content attracts the most readers and conversions. As a result, businesses and creators are spending more time creating better and more trustworthy content. We have a lot of good content now than we did a decade ago, and it’s getting better all the time. If I want something good to read, I know which sources to go to. I look forward to reading some amazing content over the next decade.”
“Consistency and thoughtfulness. Simply knowing your audience well, and making sure you build up a community that benefits from your content.”
“The content was nothing years ago but as said content is king now! A brand should create a better content strategy because with content you are sharing valuable information with people. That not only drive leads but also boost your sales.”
“The last decade is a long time! I would have to say that more businesses started to realize the importance of infographics and visualizing complex data. This helped small businesses, like mine, quote this data which in turn helped improve authentic organic rankings/link building, but also allowed writers to create more comprehensive pieces. This makes online content better all around!”
“Search engine updates have pushed content creators to focus on quality: Quality writing, quality information, quality experiences. When consumers have easy access to quality materials, it’s a win for content creators who put sincerity and effort into their craft.”
“Businesses finally understanding that good content focuses on delivering what the readers and the audience want, not what we’re trying to promote and sell as marketers. Things like content UX, emphasis on video content, digestible formats, comprehensive guides over short content…these are all things that originated from user needs and their standards. It’s our job to stay on top of those wider audience standards and match our content to those needs.”
17. What do you think some of the biggest wins for design and visual content were specifically in the last decade?
And finally, we asked marketers to tell us what their biggest wins in design and visual content over the last decade were. Here’s what they had to share:
“Not everyone is a designer, not all marketers are created equal. Creative design and visual content can be time-consuming to make and, until recently, required a bona fide creative skillset. One of the biggest wins is the entrance of creative platforms that enable teams, big and small, to quickly create incredible visuals to complement their campaigns.”
“Design tools are getting more accessible every single day.”
“There are so many opportunities now to repurpose your content to get more eyeballs on it. More than this, using various designs or media can help engage different audiences in the places they hang out and with the types of content they want to consume.”
“Infographics and data visualisations came to the fore – and lived up to ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’.”
“The explosion of tools available to non-designers. It has made it possible to elevate virtually any copy with visuals.”
“The rise of social media has allowed more individuals to create their personal presence online, ‘personal branding’ has never been so important, and individual visual representation are no longer just the privilege of big brands.”
“By using more visual content in blogs, we were able to reduce the bounce rates by 22% and improve our rankings by 2.7 places (on an average) in 3 months for pieces that ranked on the first page already.”
“The availability of excellent online services and software like Venngage makes content design as easy and efficient as possible. These services help brands to create stunning content easily with intuitive controls and features. Having tons of templates ready to use within the software is a significant time-saving factor as it allows people to quickly jump into a ready-made design and start editing.”
Visual content marketing has become an essential tool for brands to reach customers and boost their growth strategy. We have seen a steady increase in the use of visuals in marketing campaigns and the ROI that is generated as a result.
From the various marketing strategies that have come to the fore because of the pandemic, the use of visual content is one that is going to stay for a while. North American marketers are already successfully adapting to this strategy and that is set to continue through this year and into 2022.
Do you have any other North American marketing insights to share about visual content? Have success stories about using visuals in your marketing strategy? We’d love to hear all about it. Leave us a comment and share your visual content story with us.
You can access the general report and statistics from other countries via the links below:
Not a designer? No problem. With Venngage, you can start visualizing your ideas without any design experience.