Your images matter: five reasons why

January 29, 2019

Got your attention with the picture above? Great! I’m sure you’ll love the rest of this article. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you that we live in the age of visual culture. Ten percent of all photos ever taken by humankind took place in the last 12 months.

With more than 2.5 billion camera phones in use (that’s the combined weight of 51.155 killer whales), everyone can now take photographs and share them with the world. Now, how can you, as a marketer, select the most visually enthralling pictures?

Knowing that 90% of all data transmitted to the brain is visual, choosing the right pictures that make your customers’ amygdala (that’s the emotional brain) go yippee ki-yay definitely seems the way to go. Have a look at these top 5 reasons, backed by research, below.

Immediate emotional impact

Selecting the right image, tailored to your customers, creates a fast emotional response. And by fast, we mean REALLY fast. Your brain is hardwired to process images  60,000 times faster than text, costing as little as 13ms to process an entire image.  

Images used in marketing campaigns  grab our attention before anything else and can increase the chance a text is read by 80%. In an online store, customers think that the quality of a products image is more important than product-specific information (63%).

Not quite the subliminal messaging, as used by Coca Cola in movie theatres in the 50s, but Prof. Dr. Winkielman from the University of California proved he could change emotional states of people with simple pictures. With a couple of experiments in 2018, he reported that showing brief images of happy faces to thirsty people led them to drink more of a beverage immediately afterwards, whereas images of scowling faces led them to drink less.

Remarkably, the participants were not aware of any changes in their emotional states. Now, how’s that for influencing behaviour with images, Pavlovian-style?

Images increase engagement

Trying to up your game on social media platforms? It’s probably no secret to you that adding a good image sends your likes through the roof. If you add images to your tweets (yes, even to those complaints against your favourite internet provider) you’ll get 150% more retweets than if you used no image at all.

Now, what if I were to add multiple images to my social media posts, you’re asking? Way ahead of you: it’s been shown that if you add multiple photo posts on Facebook, you’ll get 12.9 times more clicks than a post with just one great image.

Our own internal research, at the DataSine lab, shows that if you use images that correspond to the tone-of-voice of your text, viewers’ engagement increases by 80%. For example, if you consistently pair text that’s appealing to extraverts (written in an extraverted way) with extraverted images, you get a much better engagement rate.

Although this sounds very intuitive, it’s far less done in practice. Actually, less than 10% of the companies in the world tailor their images to the personality of their customers. From a purely psychological perspective, it’s all about priming your customer in the best possible way and creating a coherent, enriching and tailored consumer journey.

Certain types of images improve conversion rates

Still reading this article? Guess that using the initial picture (with the cute squirrel) converted you into spending an extra minute of your time reading this article. Glad you’re still around.

Visual information appears to dramatically affect the decision-making process. People tend to be more convinced by a verbal presentation that is accompanied by visual aids, as opposed to a verbal presentation alone. In fact, there is a 134% increase in people being persuaded by individuals who include images in their presentations.

Not every image, however, generates the same positive effects on conversion rates as our cute squirrel. A recent study revealed that the following features resulted in increased product favourability, and greater number of likes: larger key objects, lower key entropy, warmer colours, higher contrast, greater depth-of-field, and more social presence.

Bit unsure on how to decrease the entropy of your images? Don’t worry, it’s shown that just by making sure that there’s humans in your pictures, your odds of getting more likes increases by up to 32%.

Using the right image can help customers remember your core marketing message

Want to make sure that people not only remember your pictures (yes, that squirrel will haunt your dreams), but also remember what you’re talking about? In psychological science, there’s this neat effect that’s called “picture superiority effect”. This posits that people have a more accurate memory of pictures than corresponding text. You can bypass this effect by pairing a relevant image with the same  information, resulting in 65% greater retention of the text  after three days. That’s a whole lot more if you know that people tend to only remember 10% of the information they see during the day.

Marketing’s true power comes from all of the opportunities to present information to your customers in the most memorable way. As shown by the research above, successful pairing of your content increases engagement and brand retention. Ultimately, it’s all about making sure you position yourself clearly in the eyes of your customers and create a more memorable brand.

Selecting the right images is becoming easier with AI

For those who argue that the power of AI is increasing at humanity’s expense, or that we’re all slaves to the machine, robot apocalypse rapidly approaching…take another look at our photo above. The squirrel took center stage, and left our backpackers happier and more carefree as a result. The same can be said for AI’s effect on marketers, in that it’s lightening the stress of the job.

With generic marketing imagery, we know it can be hard to figure out why some pictures are better than others. Google’s Neural Image Assessment (NIMA) can scan and rank order a set of photos based on their quality and aesthetic appeal.  Not sure about the edit? Google’s program also finds “aesthetically near-optimal” settings for brightness, highlights and shadows with individual images. This program does, however, pose an issue of accessibility.

If you want to easily implement AI-powered marketing programs right now, turn to Facebook or DataSine. Facebook’s option of dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) selects the best content elements, including images, to put into an ad based on audience segments and real-time feedback prior to the ad’s delivery. DataSine’s marketing technology, Pomegranate, allows companies to see how appealing their marketing images would be and observe the best performing content ahead of campaigns, providing reasoning for the suggestions as well.

So, it’s time to stop stressing and enjoy the view. No longer do marketers have to ruminate over which content designs to include in their outreach, as tech companies have developed automated tools to take over this task. This leaves marketers to focus their energy elsewhere, and see better results in the end.