Branding Your Thumbnail
When considering your thumbnail branding, it’s best to have a couple of themes that perform reliably that you can fall back on. First of all, they should be recognizable as YOUR thumbnail from just a quick glance or when viewed from someone’s peripheral vision.
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Having a recognizable thumbnail is the difference between repeat viewership and nothing. Now, just because you have a thumbnail scheme that is recognizable, does not mean that it’s memorable. In order for your thumbnails to be MEMORABLE, you should be optimizing each one.
What is most important about a thumbnail is your font usage and placement. You could use multiple fonts in one thumbnail, you can use different sizings, or even bold certain words for dramatic effect. Having offset text or oversized letters in the right word could be the right trigger someone needs to take a chance on your channel. This is the first taste of what your brand is all about, and it absolutely should not be an after-thought. If you’ve been putting off redoing your thumbnails and you’re not entirely sure that your new thumbnails look good, don’t knee-jerk react to every opinion. If you change every thumbnail on your channel multiple times just because someone speaks up, you really only have yourself to blame for that lost time.
While you can’t control the feedback you get, your reaction to it is entirely within your control. If everyone tells you your thumbnails are terrible, they probably need some work. However, if they were truly bad, how many people would even speak up? Maybe the one person that told you your thumbnail stinks is the one that helps you the most? If your auto generated thumbnail looks more interesting than the one you replace it with, it’s probably better to leave it untouched until you figure things out. Maybe they don’t actually know what’s best for your channel anyway? Remember to own your decisions. Colors and outlines matter too.
Some channels will go the extra mile and find similar looking fonts related to the intellectual property they’re working with. There’s a good example of the font for GTA here. Covering spiderman next week? While we can’t guarantee the usage rights on fonts, much like everything else on youtube (or other commercial uses), we can tell you that picking the right font has a large impact on the reception of your thumbnails.
Should you use faces in your thumbnails?
Absolutely. The human brain is wired to recognize faces, and we often see faces, for this reason, in situations they clearly aren’t present. Using faces or animals in a thumbnail can also up the perceived value of your brand and they pique your interest better than a blank background with a few words on it. Be careful to avoid trademarks or using copyright materials without written permission. An email likely wouldn’t be enough proof in a court of law, for instance, but we’re not lawyers so take that with a grain of salt. These acknowledgements are made in good faith observations of what we commonly see around us and your experiences may vary.
Do you want something unique?
Not necessarily. A good thumbnail really has a few key factors. Does it make good use of the title? Does it draw your eye? Would this be distinguishable as your content from someone else’s if a subscriber were to see it on their recommended videos?
Whenever you’re at a crossroads or otherwise making a decision about your thumbnails, you should consider the 3 questions above again. If they aren’t all fulfilled, maybe you should take another shot at it or come back after an extended period of time.
Everyone’s time is valuable so make sure your thumbnail speaks to your target audience. If you create intentionally misleading thumbnails, you’ll do yourself a huge disservice as many of those views will generate low watch time. At the very least, having consistent templates to work from will elevate the perceived value of your brand and start you off with new viewers in a positive light.