When you think about the fact that there are over 300 million images uploaded on to FaceBook each day, it’s easy to see the importance of imagery in today’s marketplace (for more statistics click here). This age of information is a visual age of information. With the growth of technology, the ability to create images is at the fingertips of any consumer. From the spiffy iphone camera, photo manipulation applications, digital SLRs, and computer generation software (the list could go on literally forever), it is no wonder that the use of imagery has become a platform for self-expression for…well…just about everybody and everything. The question that catalogers should be asking is:
How are we best able to compete with the bombarding amounts of visuals consuming the people in order to reach our audience as a result of the usage of images in print?
Here’s a statement to consider while selecting images for your catalog: Think big, think personal, create an experience. Customers need to do more than like a brand, they need to be captured by the essence of it, to have the experience of what your brand represents and feel like they are a part of it and in turn can use the inspiration for their own self-expression.
Your catalog should do more than create brand awareness; it should create brand experience. Consumers love to express themselves with imagery and likewise communicate with it. Think about
those little FaceBook images everyone loves to share—those tidbits of truth and expressions of how we are feeling at any given time. People love the opportunity that these images deliver to allow our friends to know how we feel and to share those feelings through the image. You know the ones…
Just like the someecards, your brand has a personality. That personality affects people in different ways. You must decide what you want to stand for, with whom you want to convey the message to, and how you can best communicate that message to them. Here’s a good exercise often used by writers, but works great for photography, imaging, branding, or anything in the creative realm really.
Write down the ten words that best describes the personality of your brand. Now out of those ten pick three. Now focus on those three words, they will become your message later on. Of which audience do you believe would be most affected by these words? Who do you want to target? How could your message be communicated to your target audience through imagery? How can that image be associated with your brand? How does your brand create an experience direct from you to consumer?
Let’s look at the Maine Invites You tour guide. The personality conveyed from the image is beauty, adventure, and nature. The general audience for this guide is tourists visiting Maine. The message is come to Maine because it’s beautiful and exciting! Their words could have been adventure, nature, and beauty, all things of which they stand for. Their job then was to create an imagined experience for the customer shopping for a place to take his family on vacation. The targeted audience based upon the words would be outdoorsmen, hikers, fishers, athletes, etc. The communication comes through the experience generated by the image of beauty and excitement.
Eddie Bauer is a master at this and another great example. As is the job of most catalogs, Eddie Bauer must find a way to incorporate all of their products in their space while still relay the story. Their culture and target audience is concise because they’re not just selling you their line of outdoors clothing; they’re giving you the entire experience through imagery as well. Almost every product in their catalog has a full page image or multitude of images to go along with it. The scene tells the story, the story sells the product. Take a look at the following images from Eddie Bauer’s 2013 Guide to New Arrivals:
There is something special about opening a piece of print and being completely set back by an image. National Geographic always comes to mind here. There is a difference between throwing up a nice photo on your website for eyes to fall on and including a photo on an entire spread in your catalog. There is a certain resonance in the psyche of the viewer when this happens, a direct eye to print relationship that cannot be duplicated in the cyber arena. Check out again this great spread from the Maine Invites You travel guide advertising autumn in Maine. Notice how the photograph captivates and pulls you in as if you are there. The same photo on the website may be nice, but not nearly as effective as it is in print. Once again the message of excitement and beauty of the Maine woods is clear. The image does a great job generating an imagined experience that will surely make any active individual want to come to Maine.
I have heard more than once from people in the industry how catalogs create an experience that the internet cannot duplicate. This I believe to be true. The images that can be incorporated into your catalog to create these experiences with your targeted audience tell a story and it is that story that echoes beyond the pages and becomes a part of your shopper’s daily life. Now that is true brand awareness.