The way you tell a story matters. Those big gray blocks of text simply don’t connect with the audience; more and more, the focus is on creating a great user experience – that’s what makes a story connect. And that means paying attention to the visuals.

That’s the focus of branding guru and author Laura Ries’ new book Branding With A Visual Hammer.

Given the intense popularity of visual communications platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, and the ease of getting your company message across with infographics and video, Ries’ theory about the visual hammer makes plenty of sense.

Consider the Marlboro Man or the Coca-Cola bottle. These images have been around for years. What’s going on now is a natural expansion of time tested advertising methods.

There is a neurological explanation for the power of the image. The right side of the brain processes images, and it’s also where emotions are processed. Do it right, and you will associate powerful and long lasting positive feelings with pictures.

Ries advocates for the distillation of your product message. Come up with one thought, whether that’s expressed verbally or visually, and stick with it. Hence the notion of the hammer. Keep banging it into the brains of your demographic. Think of the Target logo. Ries describes the big box store’s verbal nail as cheap chic. Couple that with the ubiquitous red and white concentric circles, and you’ve got a message that’s effective enough to make Target the leader in its vertical. The chain has been more profitable than Walmart for the past ten years.

Buyers want lots of things. It’s incumbent upon a brand to choose one attribute and maintain focus, says Ries.

How does this translate to the content marketing process? It’s all in the initial strategy. When you begin a content marketing campaign, put all the ideas out on the table. Consider all the things that your business offers. But then pick one. From there, you can build in complexity and explore all the benefits of your products and services. But never lose sight of that primary idea. It should inform everything you communicate. You don’t need to confuse consumers with countless messages. “When you own one attribute, a prospect is inclined to give you many others,” says Ries.

Once you have your basic message, consider what visuals will be an effective accompaniment to your core concept. Pick one and keep it top of mind. Apple may have a dozen products offering countless benefits. But you can always count on the white Apple logo to communicate the overall brand messaging. What’s your hammer?