Imagery is a powerful communication tool. The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text, meaning images grab a person’s attention before anything else. On top of that, people form an initial impression quickly—in the first 50 milliseconds, to be exact.
With an audience that attuned to imagery, visual content needs to be treated as the lead-in component in any communication, not just an afterthought meant to merely illustrate. How well your selected images work with your message is therefore paramount: powerful content drives return whereas any disconnect can cause missed views, clicks and conversions.
Make sure you’re armed for success by avoiding these five mistakes when choosing imagery for your marketing.
1. Not knowing what story you’re telling.
Your communication tells a story and the images you choose will either narrate or amplify it. Your story is your backbone, and when you know what needs to be said, you’ll have a better idea of how to say it. With the right imagery, viewers should almost infer your core message. Don’t waste time searching for the wrong content in the absence of a clear message.
Solution: Know the 5 W’s. Be sure to know the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of your story before you start your image search.
- Who is your audience? (i.e. consumers, clients, companies)
- What is being said? (i.e. message)
- When does the story take place (ex: past, present, future), and when will it be told? (i.e. launch date)
- Where does the story take place? (i.e. setting), and where will it be told? (i.e. market)
- Why do you need to tell this story? (ex: marketing goals)
2. Not thinking about your brand and audience.
The image you choose isn’t for you—it’s directed to your audience and must be representative of your brand with its own distinct voice and personality. Don’t pick a visual you think is clever, funny or bold without considering whether it aligns with the context of your audience and your brand.
Solution: Study your company’s brand guidelines and buyer personas. Both will give you a full picture of your company’s brand and target audience, and provide the basis for constructive brainstorming. If your company hasn’t defined them yet, try to describe your brand as if it were a person and research characteristics of your target audience to get started.
3. Not considering platforms and formats.
Marketing channels are not all created equal, and the way your message is displayed affects how people consume it. Consider this: will the image be a homepage hero or on a mobile app? Social media post or banner ad? File sizes will also affect load times and image quality, and ignoring resolutions can diminish the imagery’s overall affect.
Solution: Know the devices and channels involved in your plan, and check specs. The site, platform or vendor will provide image and video specifications—check them before you start a project. These will be your guidelines for images to use. You can also download free comp files to mock-up and test image placement or crops before committing.
4. Not leveraging search technology and industry knowledge.
Visual content providers, such as iStock by Getty Images, process data from millions of downloads, views and purchases to constantly improve search algorithms, content recommendations and results pages so you can quickly discover better imagery every time. With all the insights, resources and features available to you, you’re missing out on winning content by not taking full advantage of them.
Solution: Use the tools at your disposal. The world of search is sophisticated, and today’s easy-to-use features allow you to get granular and customize your search based on many different details. Here are a few basic tips for discovering better content:
- Search new concepts and ideas, and use different words to describe what you’re looking for.
- Check out the site’s “Related Searches” or suggested alternative search terms triggered by your original queries to help cast a wider net.
- Use the “Filter” and “Sort” features to eliminate unwanted noise and narrow down your results.
5. Not being caught up.
The world has never been more visual than it is today. From social media (anyone is a publisher) to “traditional” communication channels, visual content is created faster and in larger volumes than ever before in history. Pay attention to what is happening on a local and global level to stay relevant and understand the context surrounding these shifts, if only to cut through the clutter.
Solution: Maintain a robust information diet. The best way to stay up-to-date on the latest industry news and trends is to follow a healthy mix of media, industry blogs and social accounts so your news intake isn’t one-sided or too niche.
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