Humans process visuals 60,000 times faster than text,1 which makes image selection one of the most powerful branding tools at a marketer’s disposal.
Before a snappy headline or offer has a chance to make an impression, odds are your audience is already forming an opinion about your brand based solely on the images they see.
Without clear-cut guidelines for image selection, marketers end up relying on their gut to make these crucial decisions. To help ease this process, consider asking these four questions next time you’re deciding if a picture truly speaks for your brand.
1: Is it relevant to the brand and the audience?
Based on the number of cat photos in people’s social newsfeeds, we can safely assume many people love cats online. However, that’s not to say it’s the best move for your brand. Far too often, brands try to piggyback on mainstream cultural icons to promote themselves when these images have no real connection to their brand at all.
While this approach may be good for generating a few likes on Facebook, random, irrelevant images can distract customers from the message your brand is trying to communicate.
Instead of jumping from one mainstream icon to another, use photos and graphics that reflect your company’s core philosophy and the interests or tastes of your customers. Be original and carve out a unique identity through imagery rather than riding on the success of popular trends.
2: Is it Unique?
In today’s world, we’re bombarded with images just about everywhere we go. As a result, it has become harder to grab someone’s attention and stand out amongst the noise.
When deciding if an image is right for your marketing project – whether print or digital, ask yourself if it's actually going to make someone stop and take in your message.
Ditch the boring stock photos and make an effort to include original, compelling visual content to give your brand a unique identity rather than something your customers have seen before.
3: Does it fit your brand’s message or story?
Increasingly, marketers are using brand storytelling to connect with customers on a deeper, more meaningful level.
Whether you’re using your marketing pieces to tell your brand’s story or simply want to communicate a message or offer to customers, the pictures you include should be the hook that draws the reader in.
This can be as simple as using color and design to set the right tone. Or it could be more complex, using photos and imagery to bring parts of your story to life.
TIP: If your marketing team doesn’t yet have a style guide, consider creating one. A style guide includes such things as your company’s logo usage, typography, brand colors, and editorial stylebook. It can also include guidelines for images and their appropriate usage. For example, consider the answers to these questions:
- What types of content should always have a photo?
- When is it okay to use stock photos?
- Do you include people in your photos? If so, should they be looking at the camera or away?
- Are images more metaphoric or literal in relation to the content it is presented with?
- If using graphics or icons, are they flat or are they dimensional?
Discussing these types of questions as a team and documenting the findings can help when trying to determine the right photos to use in future projects.
4: Is it authentic?
In reality, there are times when a stock photo will need to be used, and those cases, one or two here or there is fine. However, relying on them too heavily can make your brand seem artificial.
In general, most people can tell when you’re using stock photos, and in an age where customers are hungry for authenticity from brands, nothing numbs the excitement of an innovative mailer or social post like a stock photo they’ve seen five other places.
While it’s not as fast as simply buying images from places like Shuttershock, invest in creating your own photos and graphics to give your marketing pieces a unique visual identity that provides something fresh for customers.
The bottom line here is simple: Images, when used correctly, make it easy for customers to immediately recognize and connect with a brand due to our own innate ability to quickly process visuals. Using a simple set of criteria questions, marketers can ensure their ideas and photos enforce a positive image for their brand.
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