It’s been an interesting evolution from text to image in social media.  Less than five years ago Facebook was all about status updates.  Now, scrolling through news feed is pretty much scrolling through streams of images.  There are apps for creating your own photos, apps for seeking out new photos, apps for making your own cartoons.  There are so many apps, so many websites, and all are geared towards the same thing—the use of imagery as a means of personal expression.  In an earlier blog post How to Use Your Brand’s Personality to Create Visual Experiences for Your Audience we talked about how images have become a new form of communication and self-expression. How to utilize that culture of imagery in your catalogs can help you reach your audience more intensely. Now we’d like to take one step further and talk about how the billions of images being posted each day can actually help you in your printed catalog.

This past week The Dingley Press attended the 2014 Spring NEMOA conference.  At the conference Apu Gupta and Tori Tait participated in an opening keynote session titled “See It to Believe It—Marketing in a 2.5-Billion-Images-a-Week World” spoke about actively engaging your customer through imagery.  Well it’s one thing to succeed at this in the digital arena, but what about print?  How can we apply the same methods to a direct mail catalog?

In the article The Power of Visual Communication, author Mike Parkinson explains:

People think using pictures. John Berger, media theorist, writes in his book Ways of Seeing (Penguin Books, 1972), “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.” Dr. Lynell Burmark, Ph.D. Associate at the Thornburg Center for Professional Development and writer of several books and papers on visual literacy, said, “…unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about 7 bits of information…Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.” Therefore, it is not surprising that it is much easier to show a circle than describe it.

Much of the time marketers look too much at what other companies are doing and not enough at what their customers are saying.  This is easily accomplished by studying the images your customers are using as a means of self-expression.  Your brand is supposed to be a bridge between one’s interior self and exterior self.  Your ultimate goal is for your customer to look at your product and see themselves there.  That’s how you sell.  That’s how you create that emotional bond.  The internet is like a free study of your customers.  They tell you what they want, what they like, and how they think every day.  You just have to watch for it.  You just have to listen.

 In the same article mentioned prior, Parkinson states: “The very same visual elements that we are indelibly drawn to and so quickly absorb not only communicate data more efficiently and effectively but also affect us emotionally.“  The idea is that you are finding out what your customers have emotional connection to and then using the information to create visual experiences for them in your catalog.

But by today’s standards it’s so much more than an emotional response from your customers.  Consumers are like pampered children.  They are used to having everything they want right at their fingertips.  So, we have to reach out to our audiences in a way that they want to be reached.  It used to be advertising to your audience; now, it’s interacting with your audience.  If you study what your customers are posting, you are studying not only what it is that emotionally stimulates them, but how they most prefer to interact with your brand as well.

New Image from Old Image

So much could be said on the subject.  But here are just two ideas to get you started interacting with your customers through the use of imagery.

 Observe Consumer Behavior: What Images Are Your Customers Posting and or Liking?

Although, there are many ways to apply what you learn about your customers in your printed catalog, here is just one way to achieve your goal.  Over to the right is an image that exemplifies one way you can apply what you learn about your customers’ online while observing their visual communications.  The following is an image that I have seen several times from several different friends on Facebook. It is a poster advertisement for the Appalachian Trail.  I am going to guess that quite a few of my friends would have similar interests and brand preferences. Let’s say that you are a company that is looking to target customers in my age bracket.  Let’s too say that you are a gardening supply company.  You might incorporate something similar as to the second image provided.  Do you see the progression from one campaign to the next?  Notice too how the images provoke the same message to their audience.  Even the colors are similar and the emotion that the images provoke.  In short, to use what your customers like as inspiration in your printed catalog is a great technique for getting to know your customer as well as becoming inspired by what others are putting out there.  It’s a win-win for all.


2014 Garden Contest

Have a Two Page Spread Photo Contest

Because it’s spring and I’m excited about my own garden, let’s continue on with the gardening theme.  You are still a gardening supply company.  Why not run a photo contest via social media where customers can post photos of their gardens on your wall. The winner gets a full two page spread in the catalog.  You might find that you will recruit new followers this way.  Not only will you be marketing your catalog, but you are interacting with your customers and using this visual craze to your advantage.  People will be ordering your catalog just to see the winner, just to interact with your brand.  People love to post their own photos, so why not create an outlet for them to do so and be heard by more than just their own circle?  If nothing else, they’ll always remember you for it.