Is A Picture Worth A Thousand Words?
The marketing landscape has changed phenomenally in the last five years. “Content is King” has evolved from being the flash in the pan trend the industry thought it would be, to become the magic elixir for successful on-line businesses and digital marketing campaigns. And this laudable reputation is not without due cause. The benefits of strong, well-written messaging and regular, relevant content can’t be underestimated. The value of carefully crafted content to engage the desired audience, tell a brand or product story and increase search engine rankings for brands is immeasurable. As a result, the need for strong, reliable, digitally-minded copywriters is greater than ever. Content mills and bots churning out poor quality content have devalued the beauty of the written word and make it even more difficult for consumers, who are making split-second decisions about whether they want to commit to reading more, to engage with brands, and making digital marketers jobs increasingly difficult. In an internet awash with noise and sub-standard content, strong writing can make or break a campaign, but not on its own.
Story-tell through imagery
What is also just as fundamental is strong photography and imagery. It is arguably the key to a campaign’s success. For many digital marketers though, it’s unfortunately an afterthought, rather than a core element of the storytelling process. Complimentary, relevant imagery allows digital marketers to grab their audience’s attention and place the desired messages effectively before them, often before they’ve read a single word. To that end, it’s rather worrying that imagery is often secondary to the digital marketing plan rather than a key element of it.
Cutting through the digital noise for on-the-go consumers
Hours of planning can go into a digital marketing campaign. At the most basic level, the desired outcome is to grab the attention of your target market, yet how do you reach them when there’s so much noise in the internet of things. Purchasers want to be able to digest and understand what you’re saying to them quickly, often while they are on the move and using mobile phones or tablets. People are increasingly pushed for time and there needs to be low commitment required from a consumer to entice them to finding out more about a product or brand.
Many well thought out and costly digital marketing campaigns have fallen at the final hurdle due to poorly selected photography. Perhaps the selected imagery doesn’t fit the story. Perhaps there’s a series of photos pulled from different sites that don’t complement each other, so seem unauthentic to the consumer. All too often a marketers’ first stop shop, once they’ve drafted and perfected their copy, is to visit one of many royalty-free stock photography websites. There is a real place for sites like Shutterstock and Getty Images. However, for an authentic, believable campaign that tells the brand story perfectly, it’s worth considering bespoke photography, instead of trying to make what’s already out there fit a business’ needs. There is a real spike in businesses – large and small – hiring their own photographer, and creating their own unique photo library that fits their needs to a T.
Consumers , particularly Millennials – who’ve grown up reading on-the-go, and using image based social media sites like Pinterest, Instagram – are increasingly drawn to strong imagery rather than words on a screen. They receive their serious news and read daily current events in bite-sized chunks on Twitter. They decide from short, snappy headlines and the photographs alongside them whether they want to continue reading on legitimate news outlets like Sky News or BBC News. New functionality like GoPro and Twitter Periscope has begun to make further waves and is changing the digital landscape for brands adopting crowd or user sourced videography to as a digital marketing tool too (more on that another time.)
So with more people than ever reading and making their purchases on-the-go during their lunch-break or travelling, it’s never been more important for the photos used in the digital campaign to tell the brand story effectively. It is more often than not what draws the user to visit a website, read about a product or service and convert their interest into sales and increased profitability. It’s all too easy for a potential customer to scroll on by and savvy consumers can spot a cheesy stock photo that jars with your message a mile off.
Imagery for brand authenticity
A strong photo story, uniquely developed for a brand, with the desired target audience and campaign message in mind, can create authenticity and help consumers understand a company’s personality, far more than a stock photo ever could. It can humanise a brand, and has the benefit of differentiating them from competitors, positioning the business or product as market leader within a very noisy and crowded marketplace.
However, what it regularly comes down to is bottom line. Photographers don’t come cheap, right? The biggest argument against creating unique photography is cost first and foremost and effort second. Yet more often than not, bespoke photography is the least expensive option. Stock photography isn’t cheap and purchasing ten or fifteen images for the year can often run to tens of thousands of pounds.
Differentiating from the competition
As more and more brands are hiring their own photographers, booking models that look like their target demographic, art directing the shots to build on their brand persona, and creating a unique story, they’re really saying “look at us, we aren’t like everyone else.” The end result is a high quality library catalogue of individual imagery that can hook consumers and tell the brand story for the next few years. There is the added benefit of being able to use the shots across the forthcoming year, meaning costs can be spread and photography is consistent. Not to mention, you won’t risk having your photos being used by!
Building brand insights and quality
And something very special also happens when you start building a brief of how you want your images to look and what you want them to say. It’s very easy to get stuck in a rut and make assumptions about your business or individual campaign objectives. As such, it can be a very rewarding business exercise for a digital marketing department to strip things back to the very basics of who do we want this image to appeal to, who is our customer, what will they be wearing, what will they be doing, what should these photos say, where will they be seen, how can we achieve the campaign goals through imagery? It can often be a game-changer and lead a greater understanding of the campaign objectives and customer behaviours, and stronger KPI’s and campaign effectiveness.
Making imagery a fundamental component of a digital marketing campaign is essential to build a brand that is unique, human and warm. Using effective image-based digital marketing grabs the customer’s attention to begin with. When they don’t scroll on by, the engagement begins. Subsequently complementing the imagery with strong, well-written content and strong messaging that talks directly to an engaged consumer can increase sales and profitability, brand awareness, and differentiate you from the competition.
Your brand will benefit from superior quality photography that fits your needs perfectly. You have the added benefit of being able to use the shots across the forthcoming year, meaning costs can be spread out and photography is consistent.
A good photographer, strong brief, cohesive styling and the right representative for the company image can lead to photography that enhances a digital campaign in a way that stock imagery never could. Why not give it a try?