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visual marketing: 8 Tips from Vogue

Published on Nov 06, 2015

8 Visual Marketing Tips From Vogue


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Visual Mkt tips 1 - 4

  • Be Specific & Use BIG NUMBERS To Help.
  • Branded - Use existing brands.
  • Welcoming - Portraits staring at camera.
  • Topical - ride existing "event" waves. 
These tips discuss Vogue's pictorial mastery. How to create arresting visuals.

Big Numbers

Be Specific & Use BIG NUMBERS.
Big Numbers move numbers from what they are to a graphical element on par with the rest of the visual candy Vogue shares.

BUT numbers also retain their "instant meaning" since they are a universal language. You don't have to speak English to recognize numbers.
Photo by .scribe

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Here is a triptych of recent Vogue covers illustrating the BIG NUMBERS idea.

Big Numbers have the advantage of creating an instant hierarchy - our eyes can't help but go to them - and they are specific.

The reason BIG NUMBERS work is math is a universal language. And BIG turns the numbers into a graphical element on par with the rest of the cover.

Note how the numbers aren't associated with the celebrity. No need to increase awareness of the celebrity, but 618 Spring Surprises sounds BIG and COOL.

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Here is REI borrowing Vogue's Big Numbers idea.


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This is my LinkedIn Profile where I'm using Vogue's Big Numbers Idea to reinforce key achievements.



Use existing brands.
Brands create DEEP MEANING in seconds because they've created "legends" shared across cultures and between fans, brand advocates and supporters.

These "memes" are the shorthand we use to navigate life's paradox of choices:

Starbucks = good coffee and great place to get out of a "home office" or have a meeting a "home away from home".

Nike = healthy, active lifestyle.

Vogue knows a lesson all marketers must learn - the LESS "cargo" they have to carry the faster their message hits home. Cargo, in this context, is meaning. The less Vogue explains because their readers already know what they are talking about the faster their message creates the loyalty and readership needed.
Photo by Vonography

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One of the best "create and sell the brand" examples comes from Design Within Reach. Their "lounge chairs" are never simply chairs. DWR's chairs are branded such as their "Eames Lounge Chair".

Knockoffs abound, but DWR.com tells stories, stories about hero designers and the brands they created.

Red Bull is another example of brand as publisher and brand creator as I shared on Curatti.com recently:



Stare directly at camera = welcoming.
The portrait is a powerful image online. Website visitors look at whatever the people on your website are looking at.

When a person looks at you a sense of welcome and recognition is created. After extensive testing during my tenure as Director of Ecommerce we liked two homepage poses:

* Staring right at visitors.
* Staring at a Call To Action.

90% of the time our homepage featured a model or models staring in portrait at the camera. During 4Q we would have images looking at major Call-to-Actions such as our SALE button.

Vogue's celebrity model covers ALWAYS are portrait photographs.


Ride existing "event" waves.
Not hard to find how major retailers use Vogue's BE TOPICAL Tip. Online retail has defined seasons:

Winter - New Years Resolutions To Valentine's Day.

Spring - Easter to Memorial Day.

Summer - Graduation, 4th of July to back to school.

Fall - Back To School, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas

Online retailers know to tie their sales and merchandising to the calendar because:

* Creates legitimacy for their sales.
* Means they sell more because they explain less (lol).
* Like migration the calendar is in our shopping genes.
Photo by Mukumbura

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Here is Williams Sonoma's Easter Hero. Williams Sonoma is one of the best "match the hatch" online retailers. Their 2013 holiday creative was rated some of the best by our Ecommies review:



Being topical means your marketing can ride waves your customers already expect and understand like Easter, the 4th of July and Christmas.

Visual Mkt Tips 5 - 8

  • Use alliteration and rhythm in headlines. 
  • Juxtapose - "street chic" "fashion force". 
  • Use Action Verbs - grab, take hold, be bold.
  • Simple Colors - Red, Black, White. 
These tips come from Vogue's use of visual LANGUAGE. Vogue isn't JUST a treat for the eyes, their content must hold the attention of perhaps the mos time sensitive customer on the planet - American women.

Vogue's content isn't random. They WRITE like they design - visually, FAST and exciting.
Photo by sillypucci


Use alliteration & Rhythm.
I have a couple of rules I've adopted for writing headlines. One rule came from billboards.

Billboards communicate in 7 words or less. I try to create headlines with 10 or fewer words. The more words the less powerful the headline.

Learned an important lesson the hard way - you can't write your way to a great headline. You must REDUCE your way to great headlines. Less is MORE here.

Alliteration, the sense of words "singing" together, can make a headline work.

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This Vogue Cover shows great example of Alliteration and Rhythm in headlines:

Shape Issue
Fashion for Every Figure
Size etc

Note the alliteration by using so many words that start with F (Fashion, Figure, From).

The rhythm is also SHARP and FAST (Shape Issue) and then more mellow and smooth (Fashion for Every Figure). Followed by specifics (size matrix).

Note the same idea below:
Longer Legs,
Leaner Lines

Here Vogue uses L words to create alliteration mellowing out the sharp WORK IT! headline.


Use disparate juxtapositions.
I love creative juxtapositions since they create surprise. Think of the old Groucho Marx joke:

"I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I have no idea."

Marx's first juxtaposition is himself and the elephant something its easy to imagine. He then flips the easy to imagine juxtaposition to create the surprise and the punchline.

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Vogue loves visual juxtapositions:

Spring Fashion
The Must-Have Looks
Punk to Polish
Romantic to Rebel

Note the alliteration and juxtapositions:

Punk to Polish
Romantic to Rebel

Juxtapositions need FEWER words because the mind is comparing concepts IN CONTRAST. Contrast is a POWERFUL way to engage the mind because when we contrast ideas each contrasting idea helps fill in missing elements of whatever is being contrasted.

SO even if you don't know what PUNK is you can imagine the opposite of POLISH. This is why contrasts and juxtapositions are so POWERFUL online. We can speak a broader language than our audience may know IF we provide the right clues and let them fill in the blanks.

ENGAGEMENT is the prize of creating great juxtapositions. Vogue knows they don't have to explain everything. They are the masters of the TEASE.

Online the equivalent is not OVERSELLING the click. Tease the click because the click = engagement and engagement = relationship. We can't influence or communicate with people we don't have a relationship with.

Use action verbs

Grab, Be Bold, Take on
In my headlines I like PRESENT TENSE verbs. Present tense makes the headline sound like it is happening now. I rewrote a headline this morning from:

Applying 8 Visual Marketing Tips from Vogue to Personal Branding


Apply 8 Visual Marketing Tips To Your Personal Brand

because the edit feels more urgent and directive. Vogue is the master of present tense verb use creating urgency.
Photo by jhf

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Seven Minutes To A Better Body?

Great headline with a sense of urgency created by the use of time. The headline also teases with the question mark.

Girl on Fire
is another example of a great, urgent headline. Fire is word we will pay attention to always since it hits the "flight or fight" area of the brain hard.

The juxtaposition of girl and fire creates a powerful sub-head. Note how small it is. When using powerful present tense words like FIRE less is more.


Simple: black, white, red
Colors can reinforce headlines and communication or muddy up communication. Vogue keeps their cover colors simple especially their font colors.

Their photographs always bring a variety of colors so they keep their headline colors constrained and simple.

Color operates on so many parts of the brain simultaneously use of color should be carefully considered. Look at 100 Vogue covers and you will see a very simple and repeated color set of basic primary colors with a preponderance of white, black and red.
Photo by mag3737

Martin Smith

@Scenttrail, www.Scenttrail.com
I'm easy to find despite having a last name that means I'm unlikely to win top Google listings (lol):