Marketers have known this for a while: a well-suited image makes for a successful campaign. But how do images really work their magic on us? And how can you exploit the potential of visuals in a digital space already cluttered with countless images?
They are easy to identify
The truth is quite simple: as humans, we love looking at images. Our brains are designed to perceive the world visually, and we crave constant visual input. Images are so attractive to us because we devote more of our brain's processing power to vision than to any other sense or ability—seeing takes up a surprising 50% of our brain’s resources.
Eyesight is so intuitive that we'd rather look at images than text. When you're navigating through endless search results, content paired with images consistently pulls in more clicks.
The lack of visuals in the content you put online often means it is doomed to be ignored. In fact, consumers are 60 times more likely to make contact with a brand that shows up with an image in search results compared to one that doesn't.
We understand them intuitively
As humans, we are not just happy to look at images, we are also intuitively good at understanding them. The speed at which we analyze an image is astounding and, in fact, we are able to feel the sense of a visual scene in an astonishing 1/10 of a second; way faster than getting the gist out of any text we read.
When promoting your brand online, always pair your content with visuals which will help viewers get a feel for what you are promoting. According to Skyword, content that is presented with a picture gets up to 94% more views than content that is presented without images.
Search engines favor content with pictures and they show results that contain heavy image files first. Choosing your image wisely will reward you, as the quality of a picture positively influences viewers and a well-received picture can make up for mediocre content and improve their overall judgment towards the product at hand.
They evoke emotions
More than any other type of content, images can evoke emotions in us. These emotions are more visceral than those triggered by reading a story and people make strong associations between these emotions and the content that evoked them.
When choosing what image to pair with your online content, make sure the images you select invoke some sense of emotion. A dramatic landscape can be eye-catching, but a dramatic landscape with a loving family in it can be emotional. It is important that the image reflects the message you are trying to get across, but it should also blend well with the overall aesthetics of your website; your viewers won't receive a picture well that looks out of place.
Pairing your online content with awe-inspiring pictures that manage to express feelings of love, connection, or freedom will allow your viewers to instinctively connect to your brand.
They are memorable
Easy to understand and able to evoke emotions, images stay in our heads. The benefit of pairing images to your online content is so powerful that, as this report points out, people's ability to remember information after three days goes up from 10% in the case of text alone to 65% when the content is paired with an image.
Using an appealing, well-paired picture doesn't just make your content more memorable, attention-grabbing and easy to identify, but also another advantage that is perhaps more surprising: as pictures remain memorable over time, users will use their memory of the picture to find the same content again in the future when navigating through search results.
They create engagement
Apart from grabbing our attention, triggering emotions and being memorable, pictures have one more superpower. As any marketer knows, images increase engagement. People don't just want to look at pictures, they want to share them and then they want to see more of them, and in fact, content with images receives up to 40% more shares than content without pictures.
Since, as humans, we rely so much on our vision to perceive the world, we also make decisions based on what we see. We now know that part of the decision-making process happens in the visual cortex of the brain, meaning that the moment consumers lay eyes on your content, they are already thinking about what their next step is going to be, be it a social media share or answering a Call to Action.
As the all-encompassing power of images becomes more evident to marketers and researchers alike, everyone wants a piece of this cake and even tech companies are trying to harness this potential. Over the last few years, we have seen the rise of visual search engines offered by platforms such as Google, as well as social media companies like Pinterest.
While this technology only accounts for a tiny fraction of all searches at the moment, the sheer rise of visual searches on Pinterest alone—going from 250 million in 2017 to 600 million in 2018—shows the magnitude of the change to be expected in the years ahead.
So what goes into a successful picture?
Pairing your content with the right picture is easier said than done, but fortunately, there are some guidelines to help you choose the right one and boost those clicks.
Bear in mind that consumers today have a lot of experience in judging pictures. Their online experience mostly revolves around this, and they have become skilled in evaluating the quality of pictures and telling apart stock images as opposed to original branded assets.
A high-quality, positive, and emotion-provoking picture that pairs well with the content it highlights is a good start, but what's in the picture is just as important as the quality of the picture itself.
While the image should represent your brand, its mission statement, and its values, it is important to keep in mind that people are drawn to other people: pictures with humans attract more views than pictures without.
Having a person in a picture means that not only will it attract more views and clicks, but that your brand will be perceived more positively by consumers, especially if the picture focuses on the face, increasing perceived trustworthiness even more.
How are brands already exploiting the power of images?
Brands are aware of the power of images and they have been using them successfully in their marketing campaigns. Nike is one of the all-time winners in this battle where companies fight to the last pixel for that extra engagement.
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“When we started to play we were in elementary school, we must’ve been around 12 years old. And well, we’re still together.” - Adela Meet Hoops Abuelas, a crew of 16 women proving the only number that really matters is the one on your jersey. Hailing from Orizaba, Mexico, the team has been playing since 1952, and credits their skills, values, and sisterhood for keeping them strong for the past 67 years. #JustDoIt ⠀ Watch “In Good Company: Hoops Abuelas” on @nikewomen’s IGTV. ⠀ 🎥: @changeme2012 📸: @asdavidelliott
Each of their images is an intense experience and it tells a story of people challenging conventions, unleashing their inner strength, and finding togetherness through the brand, defiantly and unapologetically.
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“When I’m swimming, I’m living in the moment. I’m so mindful, I just connect with nature.” - @redseacitizen, Scuba Diving Instructor One dive and Nouf Alosaimi was hooked. Now she’s an instructor, teaching women how to scuba dive and showing the world how to protect our oceans. #justdoit
Find out how to tell a compelling brand story with our guide on 'The Art of Brand Storytelling'
Coca-Cola plays on the similar concept of positive togetherness made possible by the brand itself, with a mix of families coming together around the kitchen table and friends who renew their bond every time they open a can or a bottle.
Coca-Cola manages to bring to life messages too long to be told and too intense not to be felt; through well-developed visual content that needs almost no words to express its meaning.
Curious to learn more about Brand Guidelines?
Visuals are vital to represent your brand and make sure it stands out authentically against its competitors. In order to be successful, the images you develop or select need to be consistent with the message you send across all your channels. To achieve this, it is important to develop and follow brand guidelines.