Every day we are exposed to more and more images. Our digital culture provides a steady stream of advertisements, selfies, gifs, memes and so much more. Each image is vying for our attention, but few actually break through the clutter. Brands that can differentiate themselves through photography, therefore, have some real advantages.
This became apparent to me when I started looking for a rug online. I checked out numerous online retailers, including Amazon, Overstock, Wayfair, West Elm, One Kings Lane and more. It didn’t take long before I was utterly confused. After a while, everything looked the same. It was hard to tell one product from the next, or to discern its quality and why I should choose it over some other, nearly identical version. And worse yet, I couldn’t remember which rug I’d seen on which site.
I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. Had something happened to my faculties for discernment? When I was a child I loved to play games like “Memory” and “Concentration,” but now I was wondering if I should make an appointment with a neurologist. Hadn’t I just lost my car keys the other day?
Turns out, there was nothing wrong with me. I was completely normal.
Like me, a lot of today’s buyers are overwhelmed by all the digital choices, image saturation and lack of differentiation. Traditional channels, like print advertising, are equally repetitive and confusing. Browse any commercial publication and you’ll see the same thing: products within the same category looking the same. For the buyer, this monotony makes it hard to know which wall covering, countertop, lighting fixture, office chair or flooring choice is best.
The goal of photography isn’t just to provide a realistic image of your product. It is to inspire your buyers to choose you; to help buyers identify with your brand and connect on a deeper level. Simply put, it’s about more than commerce. It’s about using art to make an impression that inspires, lasts and orientates people to your product.
Photography is one of the first encounters your audience will have with a new product. It shapes perception and experience. Brand images, including photography, help you establish the look and feel of your products and what makes them special. If you’re serious about increasing market share, you have to first increase mindshare, and photography can help.
When your photography fails to convey a distinctive look and feel, four problems arise:
- Buyers can’t distinguish any real product advantage, so they base their decisions on price.
- When you can’t show, you have to tell. This is how product ads get littered with copy. Advertisers desperately try to sway their audiences with long lists of boring features, benefits and technical specs, which lessens the emotional connection with the viewer.
- The images are uninteresting, predictable and largely overlooked, which means they are a waste of money.
- The product experience is shallow; the buyer feels very little connection to the product or to the entity that’s selling it to them. Nothing piques their interests or emotions.
Many marketers view changes to their photography as a risky prospect—but in reality, there is greater risk in doing it exactly the way everyone else does it. When you shift how you photograph your brand, and carefully curate the images associated with your company, you gain a competitive advantage.
5 Ways to Gain a Competitive Advantage Using Photography
- Determine the primary characteristic or quality you want to associate with your brand. Once you’ve defined that characteristic, let it lead your photography. Is that word performance, luxury, innovation, sustainability, convenience or flexibility? Whatever it is, it should be the guiding theme of your product photography.
- Commit to both brand and product photography, and make sure your product photography incorporates the feeling of the established brand photography. Take a close look at some of the great iconic brands—the ones with a cult following, such as Patagonia. Their most powerful ads create a feeling for the overall brand, they don’t focus too closely on the product.
- Spend some time on the detail shots. Buyers can’t touch, feel, taste or smell the product from a flat image, so you have to help stimulate those senses with detailed shots that evoke a broader range of sensory experience.
- Make sure that the props, scenery and lighting tell a story; that they engage the viewer in a broader experience.
- Hire a photography and production partner that can help push your brand and differentiate it. You don’t want a vendor or a freelancer who executes your command—you want a team that can come up with new ideas and execute them flawlessly. Look for someone who believes photography is key to the customer experience and essential to brand differentiation.
In spite of the fact that visual content is faster and easier to process, most brands are still playing it safe when it comes to photography, doing exactly what their competitors do in the most predictable way possible. It’s time to change that.
Success begins by shifting your relationship to photography and understanding its power as visual content. For help creating a photographic presence that impacts market share and drives revenues, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (404) 464-8007.