Want Your Visual Content to Fly? Downplay Your Brand

Let me say up front, I am a big fan of branding with logos and watermarks on most images.  Most images.

But there is a time and a place for removing all branding from visual content – the exact opposite of what I usually recommend.

In this post I discuss when you might consider removing branding from visual content, why you would do this, and some examples of brands and businesses choosing to do so with great results.

Remove Want Your Visual Content to Fly?
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Remove Want Your Visual Content to Fly?
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Duck by Shutterstock


Adding Branding to Your Visual Content

For the most part, adding some subtle branding to your original visual content is a smart move.

I always recommend to keep it somewhat subtle – a small logo or url watermark is all you need to retain the ownership of an image. This is especially important when there is a chance it may be removed from the original source on a site like Pinterest.

I also recommend this to increase your brand exposure, protect from copyright infringement and to give context to the image.


There is a time and a place for removing the branding, logo and URL from your image.


When should I remove branding from my original Visual Content?

Here's the thing. Every day, marketers, business owners, brands and entrepreneurs wake up the world over looking for content to share.

This might be their own original content or the curation of content (sharing content created by others).

As a result of this, many businesses on social media have a “Hit List” – either written down somewhere or in their subconscious – of Facebook Pages, Twitter profiles, websites, Pinterest accounts (etc) that they routinely share from.

This “go to” list gives them content they can tap into to, curate or share, and where they know the content will always be valuable to their own audience.

I want YOU to be on that “Hit List” for your target market.

Because here is an important figure for you to remember.  On Pinterest 80% of content is shared content.  So, how can you be in the 20% of content being shared by 80% of users?

The answer?  Create Original Content and post it consistently.  

Pssst just quietly, I believe the ratio is similar on Facebook!

But here is the kicker.  If you post original content on a day that is widely recognised or celebrated… such as an event or celebration, your content is more likely to be shared by others who are looking for content to share about that particular “day” or event.

Let's take Facebook as an example.  It is my theory that if you remove your branding from an image, people are more likely to share it because they embrace it as their own when the message is not overpowered by a logo or website.

Here are some examples:

I have posted before about how one of my clients, Know Your Midwife (a private midwifery group). They posted this image for International Midwives day, it got shared widely (and went a little viral with 1443 shares) on page with 1k fans at the time (now over 2k).

Know Your Midwife - Image
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Know Your Midwife - Image
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An Original Image for a Celebration will often get shared, especially an unbranded one

The image was picked up early in Australia as parents and midwives woke to celebrate (and post about) International Midwives Day.  As the day progressed, the image crossed into the UK and the United States and was shared heavily again as each community embraced it as a great image to share to celebrate the day.

Note that the image was not branded with Know Your Midwife's logo or URL – it was kept brand-free.

A similar message went out the next year but with branding included – it still got a high number of shares but nowhere near as high as the first image.

Of course the diffference in shares could come down to a number of factors from colour to image to copy – so this is just an observation. But regardless of the “branding”, it does show that sharing an image on the day of an event or celebration is a powerful way to get additional shares and engagement on your page.

International Midwives Day Know Your Midwife
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International Midwives Day Know Your Midwife
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Repeating the same process – again resulted in a high number of shares!


Marketing Consultant Casey Lightbody used a similar approach with this image for International Women's Day.

The image attracted a high number of shares for her Facebook page which was relatively new at the time:

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A bright, attention-grabbing image released early on a day of celebration can attract shares!

She repeated the same process with International Day of Happiness, again snaring a lot of shares for a growing page:

Casey Lightbody International Women's Day
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Casey Lightbody International Women's Day
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Note that neither of these two images has branding – the only link is the standard Facebook link to Casey's page.

It has been my belief for a while now that if you remove branding on some occasions – like widely celebrated events – you may get more shares, especially on Facebook. This is because you are sharing great content, and not being “perceived” as just promoting your business.

And also because people get to “share” the content almost as if it was their own.

We like to be the first one to “discover” a new image or a great video or quote or meme.

Think of a new piece of original visual content like a piece of hot gossip. It gets shared like wildfire.

And if shared correctly and the link to the original Facebook Page (hopefully yours!) is left intact, you all get the benefit of Facebook Engagement Juice!

Just for fun, here is another image that I had designed for presentations but released it on Facebook to build up some engagement before an event.

Again, I could have branded it and I did also release a branded version on to Pinterest, but for the purposes of sharing, this version did quite well!



Oh, and feel free to share it on your page :o)

What about Video?

Just as for images, there are many situations where adding your website and logo to video (and even your intro and outro footage) is a great idea.

However, while speaking at the Social Media Tourism Symposium recently, I was reminded that sometimes, removing or downplaying your brand can have a positive effect on video too.

Phil Sandford from the South Australian Tourism Commission presented on their recent YouTube “Through Local Eyes” marketing program, which was established to show an honest authentic view of (my home state), South Australia.  The Campaign involved capturing South Australia on film through the eyes of our most talented, creative locals.

Here is one of the films, beautifully shot on the Yorke Peninsula. The location of the film and the filmmaker are featured in the closing credits, but no mention of South Australian Tourism:

Phil highlighted how their team felt about the branding on the film:

We felt like putting our logo at the end of the film would actually detract from the authenticity of the content.   The idea of the project was about embracing real peoples perspectives, in such a way that we didn't dictate what experiences, products or places they featured – it was completely in their hands.  

So the idea of our logo sitting at the end of someone else's viewpoint (even though we funded it) seemed to jar with the essence of the project. – Phil Sandford

Phil also said “Through having a thorough briefing process in the early stages, we knew that our brand values were going to be captured so strongly in the narrative and content of the films, in such a way that a logo at the end seemed unnecessary”.   

He was right.

The campaign has been a huge success and if you feel a little hungry right now, then maybe stay away from this film, this film and this film until you have eaten something…because these short vignettes are tantalisingly good!

They all showcase the local region through the story, not the branding.

Storytelling and sharing of that story sometimes works more effectively when you hand over the visual content to your fans and community.

By making it about the story or the image or the film (and not the brand) it can absolutely skyrocket engagement… as fans take ownership of the visual content and share it.

What about you? Have you shared content where you have downplayed the branding?  Or are you more likely to share visual content that is not heavily branded? Content that you can share as if it was your own? Leave a comment below! 



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Donna Moritz

Visual Social Media Strategist at Socially Sorted
Donna is a Visual Content Strategist and founder of Socially Sorted, listed by Forbes as a "Top 5 Social Media Blog You Need to Know About". Donna helps brands leverage the power of visual storytelling and content strategy in their business. Her content has been featured in publications such as Forbes, Inc. & Entrepreneur and she is a speaker and trainer on visual content for the marketing and tourism industries internationally.
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