Marketers want compelling visuals because posts that include images are more frequently shared, liked, and tend to generate more buzz.
Many digital marketers have difficulty selecting good images, and some marketing managers think that paying for stock images, or hiring professional photographers isn't in the marketing budget.
In this post, I want to show how you can use images to compel and direct your reader's imagination - and the brilliance of this is in it's simplicity.
We're going to use only two envelopes in some sample images for this post. We used only a camera (and an average one at that, a Nikon D3200). No additional lighting or other equipment was used. These images could be much better, but that's the point.
You'll see how the context, and some subtle changes, alter the emotional response you feel. This post showcases imagination - the readers imagination. How do you inspire imagination? Often by providing fewer details. With less detail, your reader has no choice but to let their imagination will fill in the gaps. Their experiences, emotional state, and passions add meaning to the image. When done right, those emotions can touch passions and strike up anxieties that compel action.
Red Envelope on a Pillow
Let's start with a simple red envelope on a pillow.
How does it make you feel? Think about what you see. The pillow and the bed evokes intimacy. The envelope is a card envelope. Cards are usually good. The fact that the envelope is red may mean love. You're processing all of these things and wondering,what's up with that card. Curiosity is a huge emotion. That's the jackpot for content marketing, because if they're curious, they'll keep reading.
You can use an image like this to evoke an emotional response and then guide it. This might be used for an image post with the words, "Did you remember your anniversary?" You can also put a different spin on it, "Is this really the best way to say I love you?"
Red Envelope with a Heart
Now let's change it just a bit. Here's the same red envelope with a heart.
The image now goes much farther toward setting the emotional mood. The image is still intimate, but your audience may be a little less curious - they know the card is about love.
This can be a good thing because you have something else working for you now - a desire to take action. Whereas you might hesitate to open the blank card, this is a card you probably want to open. You want to get to the prize. If your audience likes romance, intimacy, and prizes, they'll be engaged. This image might be a good lead in to more information, another set of images, or a contest.
Lipstick on a Card
Gender plays a role in our consumption of content - have you ever noticed any similarities in beer commercials or commercials that play during football games? It often helps to speak a slightly different language to connect with men or women. Marketers should take gender, and everything else the understand about their audience into account when developing visual imagery. The stronger the connection between visuals and personality of the viewer, the easier it is to connect, engage, and compel action.
So, let's say we're targeting men. A heart on a card is good, but we can do better.
A lipstick sealed letter is one that many guys would rush to open, or in the case of digital marketing, scroll down or click on to open. This type of image might be used in a story with romantic suggestions for couples, "How to say thank you for all he does?"
Plain Envelope on a Pillow
Let's change it up again. This time, all we have is a plain envelope on the bed.
What's your emotional response to this? The intimacy is still there - it is, after all, a letter left on a pillow. But the positive emotions are gone. This isn't a card, it's a letter. It might be a good thing, but that's not the emotional response I have. This makes me nervous. How about you? Because there is so little emotional direction, curiosity is very intense with this image.
The words accompany this image will likely drive the emotional reaction. Look at the image and think of your response to the following titles:
- This is why they make greeting cards, dummy. This is creative and funny. It diffuses the tension almost immediately. If someone is clueless enough to leave a romantic note on a pillow using a plain envelope, they probably need a little help. This image might be a lead in for an article on better communication.
- Don't be the last to know. This keeps the anxiety and tension right where they are. It might be used in an article about signs that spouse or significant other is cheating.
What's in a Name?
Now let's add a simple, hand-written name to the envelope.
How does this make you feel? What do you think is about to happen? For me, it increases the anxiety. There's a message in that envelope, and there's no mistaking who it's for. The fact that it's a plain envelope compounds the anxiety. I'm not expecting anything good to come out of this for Tom.
Another slight change in the name makes a lot of difference.
How does this image make you feel? You probably feel a little differently because the gender has changed. The more closely people connect to something, the more strongly they feel. Men will likely connect more to the letter with Tom's name, because whatever is happening, is happening to a man. Likewise, women will likely connect more strongly to the letter with the Janet's name.
There are also a couple of subtle differences that affect the emotions elicited from the letter with the woman's name. First, the woman's full, formal name is used. Not Jan, or Jennie, but Janet. Formal, in many cases, is a little more ominous. Second, that image shows more of the empty bed. It evokes a lonelier feeling. Absent, gone, abandoned, left, are all words you might use to describe the feelings it evokes.
To Make Emotionally Evocative Visuals, Think Emotionally
It's difficult to come up with good imagery, and it's evn more difficult to come up with visuals that connect emotionally and evoke the feelings you want your audience to have. To connect on that emotional level, you have to think emotionally. The good thing is, there are lots of advertisers doing that all the time, and they publish their work online, on billboards, and on television.
The creative in this article isn't earth-shattering - odds are you've seen similar creative before. When you're creating content, consider that emotional dimension. The feelings you want your audience to have. Then you, and your team, should think about what images evoke those types feelings for you. Then look around. Consume the visuals published by other brands and advertisers. See what images compel you most strongly. Then think about subtle changes you can make to connect those images, and the feelings they evoke, with your story.