How using timeless visuals can boost your content marketing

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Research has shown that 92% of marketers now use content marketing. Without a doubt, strong visual content is key to their campaigns.  

Google’s introduction of the Hummingbird algorithm has changed how content marketers approach their SEO strategy. With Hummingbird’s increased focus on more in-depth and established ‘evergreen’ content, marketers are creating communications that have a greater lifespan online. To keep your content fresh and relevant for your audience, it’s important to include visuals that don't immediately date your content.  

At Getty Images, we’re constantly tracking shifts in visual trends. Imagery that looks futuristic one year may seem out-of-date the next, and in an ever-changing world, finding timeless imagery may be challenging for marketers interested in creating evergreen content. 

There are two key aspects to consider when selecting imagery to help extend the life of your content marketing - emotional connection and metaphor. 



1.  Emotional connection

Some images, like some people, have the power to stop us in our tracks. It could be the person’s expression, it could be their eyes, it could be that great unknown: “chemistry”. The virtue with these rare images is that they form a lasting, emotional bond with the viewer. 

When do you know if an image has this power? A good test is to ask a group of people to write down words that the picture evokes. If they just note down just one or two words, then it shows the emotional resonance of that photo is relatively minor. If, on the other hand, they note down several different words then it shows the photo is capable of telling many different stories. This means it has a strong emotional power and will resonate with your audience.  

This photograph of graduating students, for example, continues to be a customer favourite. The audience can easily connect with the strong feelings of joy, accomplishment and camaraderie that the image evokes. 

2.  Metaphor

Using metaphorical visuals can be an effective way of creating a lasting, meaningful connection with your content. These images are best used with topics that are more conceptual in nature. For example, the image below could speak to a number of different themes - sustainability, globalization, responsibility or travel. It was photographed over ten years ago, yet the versatility and timelessness of the image make it a popular choice for customers still today.



1.  Clothing, hairstyles and makeup

The key is to stay classic and neutral. There are certain combinations that will always look stylish. For a man, a well-fitting suit and good shoes look smart. Broader trends, too, are worth keeping in mind: as a general rule of thumb, men don’t wear ties as much as they used to. 

2.  Colours

Colours have a big impact on how we see both clothing fashions and interior decoration. When we think of the 1970s, for example, we might well think of yellows, tans and chocolatey browns. The first decade of the 21st century seemed to encourage cool blues and whites that reflected a minimalist, pared-down aesthetic. If you’re in doubt, go for subtle blues and greys – none of which will date.

3.  Technology

Technology changes so quickly this can seem something of a challenge. If possible, either keep devices to a minimum in your imagery, or ensure that the technology isn’t overly visible. Think creatively: instead of showing the smartphone, you could have someone speaking into in-ear headphones. Or show a group of teenagers in a café, heads down, giggling. We can tell they’re reading their phones – we don’t have to actually see the devices. 

4.  Skylines

Some skylines are iconic, but architecture, especially in the world’s great capitals, is constantly changing. London now has The Shard and the Walkie-Talkie; New York has the new Freedom Tower. A good way to circumvent this is to think less of what’s visible in the sky than on the ground. Why not showcase your own office or rethink what makes your native city so iconic? There’s plenty to see without looking skyward.  

5.  Lighting

Lighting can tell a viewer if a picture is current or outdated. As a general rule, if it’s overly stylised, it will tend to age quickly. If you want a long-lasting image, look for one with what photographers call a high key: bright images with a lack of contrast and few shadows. This kind of lighting tends to convey an easy, happy feel. Not coincidentally, it’s often used in TV sitcoms and comedies.

6.  The latest visual effect

Photography, like any art form, goes through fashions. A few years ago, tilt-shift images came back into fashion: their ability to make a street scene look like a finely-detailed miniature was hugely popular. However, like any trend, this will only last so long. Furthermore, the style can distract us from the content. Businesses change, and what you might think is quirky and cool today might seem hackneyed and outdated tomorrow. So think deeply about how your brand is evolving. 


Key Takeaways:

  • An emotional bond between the image and the viewer can work brilliantly in creating engagement with your brand. 
  • Using metaphorical visuals can be an effective way of creating a lasting, meaningful connection with your content.
  • The six aspects that can date an image most quickly are clothing, hairstyle and make-up, colours, technology, skylines, lighting and visual effects. Keep an eye out for these details when selecting timeless visuals for your content marketing pieces. 


Read more about content marketing strategy: 
Brands as publishers: Inside the content marketing trend


iStock   This article was authored by iStock. Visit for more great visual insights for SMBs.

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