These days, consumers understand and communicate with brands so much through technology and multimedia that it could almost seem that they are post-literate. That for modern consumers, words don’t matter all that much and that literacy – the ability to read and write – is not strictly necessary anymore.

Clearly, that’s not quite the case, but what would a visitor from outer space make of us from our media consumption if they landed on earth?

The first thing they’d see would be image after image and – comparatively speaking – it wasn’t that many years ago criminals would be publicised on a Wanted poster consisting of text containing the phrase ‘Dead or Alive’ and a hand drawn sketch.

Nowadays we’re overrun by images. There are more than 500 million active users on TikTok, watching clips up to a maximum of 15 seconds long, 17 billion times a month (which is nearly 2.5 times the number of people on the planet).

Twitter and Facebook almost seem wordy when compared with Snap which has 300 million users.

Instagram is saturated with videos and photos and its content is more likely to be shared than content on Facebook, and YouTube, with over 2 billion users per month, is the second most visited website globally after Google.

And it’s not just about the amount of imagery, it’s what we view it on too, with TV screens increasing by around 8” in the last 5 years. Streaming services are binge-watched, and they have an annual spend upwards of $35 billion on new video content. TikTok dance challenges are an even more prevalent cultural phenomenon.

Of course, the reality is that consumers can and do read.

Those over 40 grew up with cinema, TV, and reading, but now, our communication pathways include several more visual mediums. What we are becoming is a largely oral, visually dominated, society in which over 70% of consumers say they prefer marketing to be delivered to them through video.

But this doesn’t make us illiterate, it makes us multi-literate. We’ve simply added several visual mediums to our reservoir of communication pathways.

So how do brands and business capitalise on this?

  1. Keep it simple, then simplify again and again as far as you can.
  2. Use the right medium for the right market
  3. Be as visual as possible
  4. Where possible, use video
  5. Have as strong a visual identity as you possibly can
  6. Be persistent
  7. Be consistent across all channels and media
  8. Simplify your visual cues
  9. Use simple language with few words (where appropriate)

If you think about it, it can’t be a coincidence that McDonald’s golden arches are recognised throughout the world, or that the Bat-Signal first appeared in 1942 and is still instantly recognisable today, 80 years later.

Some of the most successful products and services develop and evolve but their visual identity generally remains consistent.