Posted: December 6, 2012 at 2:15 P.M.
by Kristin Nelson
Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat — why are we so fascinated by photographs?
Social networking sites have recently seen a trend toward more image-based content. Posts that contain images are more prone to be liked, commented on and shared. Many people even check their Instagram, a primarily-picture app, before they check their news-based Twitter feed.
This emphasis on images, while perhaps unexplainable, can be valuable for public relations and marketing professionals. If we can learn to harness the power of a picture, we can provide brilliant work for our clients and greatly increase engagement.
Take, for example, a field that can clearly benefit from the use of pictures: the food industry.
Gigi’s Cupcakes was founded by Gina “Gigi” Butler in 2008 in Nashville, Tenn. As a young entrepreneur, she knew the power of visuals.
“I really wanted to make my cupcakes beautiful; I wanted them to stand out,” Butler said.
Soon after, her cupcake business became a huge success and was franchised throughout the Southeast. Now, she even has a car and a motor home covered with images, or as she said, “wrapped in cupcakes.”
“Every time I drive down the street, people follow me to the store. People love it! Visualizing [a cupcake] is so important. Once they see it, then they start salivating and they want one,” Butler said.
LisaMarie Luccioni, image consultant and professor at the University of Cincinnati, also stressed the importance of images and the value that a photograph can contain.
“We see an image, we’re intrigued, and we form an impression,” Luccioni said. “Images communicate messages. What is your intention? You must consider whether the pictures which represent you convey a message that represents you and your brand well.”
Similarly, Gigi Butler had to find the right message to communicate through her product imagery at Gigi’s Cupcakes. It took her six months to design a Gigi’s box the way she really wanted it.
“It’s really important to know your vision and how you want to present yourself,” Butler said. “If you do it in a way that’s classy and timeless, people remember it.”
Not only do images last longer, but they communicate faster than words. Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. With their growing frequency and importance, photographs and visual cues have nearly become requirements for all communications endeavors.
“Images become increasingly powerful through visual proliferation,” said Luccioni. “In the past, we didn’t have television or newspapers or photography . . . now, you can tweet or blog a picture in real time. We’re flooded with images, which would not have been possible in the past without the technology to do so.”
However, Gigi Butler’s past was primarily image-based. She began baking by looking at cookbooks with pictures.
“When I was a little girl, I could read a cookbook, but I wouldn’t always get it, because I have to see something. But when I saw a picture, it would excite me and I would want to make that item. I don’t get it unless I see the picture, and then I can create the recipe. To this day, I always buy cookbooks that have pictures in them because you can just get it better,” Butler said.
But are pictures always best? Luccioni warned that photographs can have negative side effects. Once you post a photograph online, for yourself or your business, that picture is immediately out of your control. Oftentimes, people are able to save it to their own computers and use it however they wish. Be aware and try to take control of the images that you do use.
Gigi Butler has had no negative effects from her image-heavy campaigns. She explained that the more people see her product, the more people want to taste it.
Luccioni also noted that she always strives for image consistency, using the same preferred professional headshot when she presents to companies or is quoted in media. She advised the same for a company, so that the image becomes familiar to possible clients.Consistency is key.
The bottom line is, as LisaMarie Luccioni said: “Images can be static, but so can printed words.”
While images can be powerful, words also carry a great deal of weight. So be careful what you see and say, because both are vital to the success of your campaign.