Stock Vs. Real: How to Use Images Effectively to Tell Your Brand’s Story

Master Your Brand’s Story and Build a Relationship With Your Customers

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Photo of a hand holding a picture, and several other pictures lay on a table.

When it comes to a brand’s story and a well-planned marketing campaign, imagery plays a critical role. 

Brand imagery provides those all-important visual cues to customers, both existing and potential, to help them align with your business and understand how your brand could fit into their lives. Imagery has the potential to evoke specific emotions in people and that can be a powerful way to build a relationship with customers and convey your brand’s story. With this in mind, how does a business use visual language to its full effect?

A visual generation

Generation Z, or ‘Zoomers’, have had a huge impact on digital marketing. This group, born in the 2000s and having grown up with internet-connected devices, form almost half of all internet users on a global scale. And when it comes to marketing, they have a lot of power. Gen Zers have had a huge influence on how brands market themselves and consequently how digital audiences connect with information. Now, with virtually everyone having at least one digital device, we rely on visuals to convey and understand information, as we’re able to comprehend that information far quicker and more effectively. 

With state-of-the-art cameras in the pockets of virtually everyone now, it’s never been easier to take exceptional photos and upload them instantly to various platforms. And for brands to connect with audiences, they need to do the same. From Instagram and Pinterest to Tumblr and Facebook, image-heavy platforms with millions of followers are now a part of our everyday lives and it’s one of the primary ways we connect with one another. 

Two hands holding a smartphone to take the photo of a mountain and a lake. (brand's story)

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Why imagery is so effective for brands

Visual images are a more effective form of communication. We are faced with so many distractions in today’s busy world, from notifications and emails to in person distractions, that means images are a clear and concise way to provide a message quickly. Images get your brand’s point across quickly and conserve time and money, while helping to increase conversions and provide a richer experience for customers. 

What’s more, visuals are essential for conveying a story, which makes content more engaging. Customers can build a connection between themselves and the imagery they’re faced with – they can empathize more effectively and associate with the story being told. On social media, visuals boost engagement up to 2.3 times more than posts without visuals on Facebook and 1.5 ime more for Twitter. 

Visuals provide numerous benefits for businesses, not only increasing engagement but also showing the products or services you’re selling. Encouraging customers to convert can be tough if you can’t show what you’re selling and the impact it will have on someone’s life or business. From clothes and food to technology and a host of industries in between, when users can see the benefits of something, they’re more likely to invest in it. 

Organic imagery can be viewed as more authentic and genuine than stock photos, and it can be a great way of showcasing what sets your brand apart from competitors. It helps give a more positive first impression and makes your business come across as more trustworthy. In fact, when consumers are faced with images they believe to be stock photos, they are more likely to ignore them and detach emotionally

Images are a vital part of any business’ marketing collateral now, and they should be considered a crucial business asset. Not only do great images help you to win over more customers but it also serves as a bargaining tool when you’re working with other brands and businesses on collaborative projects. Say you’re contacting social media influencers or bloggers – you can use images as an exchange for a link back to your site to boost your search rankings. Investing in the creation of high quality images ensures that you can use them across a wide range of platforms across your strategic marketing campaign, from your own website and social media channels, to email marketing, PR and print materials. When you have attention-grabbing images, you can build a more effective marketing strategy that really works in drawing customers in. 

A person standing in front of a camera taking photos of products.

6 ways to tell your brand’s story through images

We’ve explored why visuals matter, the benefits they can provide to brands and why choosing your images carefully is vital for the best results. But how does a brand create a narrative through their visuals?

1. Know your audience

Catering to your audience is essential, especially when you’re using images in marketing campaigns or on social media. Consider who your audience is and what they’re seeking. When you understand what is motivating your audience, it’s easier to create content that caters to those motivations. Images can make or break that connection you have with your audience, so in order to engage with them fully, you need to understand them completely. Virtually all platforms provide analytics that enable you to drill down into the details of who is viewing your content and engaging with it, helping you to flesh out more in-depth personas to work with. 

2. Craft your message

You’ve created personas that truly reflect who your audience is, so now you can start crafting the message you want to convey. What is it you want to say about your brand, your services or your ethos? How can images be used to spread that message and which platforms will you be publishing these images on? Select images that match up with those messages and think carefully about how they’ll be perceived by your audience. Are they visuals that your customers will resonate with? Will they understand clearly the message you’re trying to get across?

3. Put emotions first

Branding is less about selling goods and more about selling emotions, and storytelling is exactly the same. What emotions are your audience feeling when looking for your products or services, and how can you convey those emotions through visuals? Do you want them to be pleased or happy? Relaxed? Are you trying to promote social issues that require you to educate users on difficult issues that may make them angry or upset to invoke a reaction? 

4. Develop a recognizable style

Internet users are faced with numerous images every day, so your brand needs to differentiate itself through a clear style. When you have determined what your style is, whether that’s bold and colorful, dark and moody, monochromatic or something else entirely, it’s easier for your audience to recognize your branding and associate with the images you’re publishing, so you can tell your brand’s story with greater effectiveness. Your images should have a cohesive vibe that resonates with your brand voice. 

5. Use a narrative structure

When you watch a movie or read a book, you’re faced with a clear story structure. A beginning, middle and end is how we understand stories, and images are no exception. You can convey stories and messages clearly in photos using this narrative structure that follows a chronological order. Maybe you can show your customers’ experiences with products from start to finish, or take snapshots of your team throughout a day at work to give a flavor of how your business operates? 

6. Drive your brand’s story with composition

When you’re taking a view on a journey through a story, composition is everything. You need to provide them with the knowledge and guidance to know what’s being said without words, and styling images can be an effective way to do just that. Composition combined with visual symbols and cues can help to send the right message and put your brand’s story front and center. 

We’re faced with images and visual content every day, and with good reason – it’s one of the most effective ways to get a message across and promote your brand. But just publishing images isn’t enough. In order to build engagement and increase conversions, brands need to tell a story and evoke emotion through their visuals. Brands need to know who their users are, what emotions they’re trying to connect with and develop a style that audiences can resonate with for the best results. 

Tell your brand’s story with a social media hub

Once you’ve decided what type of imagery to use to convey your brand’s story, you can start sharing them on social media and your website. You can achieve both of these in one fell swoop by embedding a social hub on your website.

Showcase the amazing content that customers post about your brand on social media. Combine it with news about your latest products, items on sale, and dynamic content from events. A social wall will complement the imagery you choose to tell your brand’s story.

For example, Ferrari is not only creating awesome cars but also producing content for their Instagram and Twitter profiles, which they reuse on a live social media hub embedded on various pages on the Ferrari website.

Screenshot of the live social feed as it is embedded on the Formula 1 landing page of the Ferrari website. (ferrari brand's story)
Ferrari’s branded social hub embedded on their official website.

Check out 10 social media feed examples and create your own.

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