As a marketing consultant, I am working with lots of different businesses in Australia to develop their strategy and executions. This includes things like what photos or videos do they use to promote themselves. I also like to observe what some of the worlds largest brands are doing given their resources and budgets, you can always learn from them.
One day on LinkedIn, Shell posted an article on their business page promoting their efforts with Ferrari to reduce their carbon footprint. What struck me was the photo they chose. I immediately thought ‘why did they choose an image of a Ferrari F1 car that had a blown engine and a sky that was full of smog‘
IS A PHOTO REALLY THAT IMPORTANT?
Well, you can see Shell’s original post in the photo above and then some examples of F1 car engine failures that I found online. When I saw Shell’s photo that is what I thought they were showing, an F1 car engine that had blown up.
Shell has been involved with Ferrari’s F1 program for many years & you would think their photo selection would be a little more considered. Anyone that has an interest in F1 will instantly think ‘engine blown’ & hence nothing to do with the post itself.
Ok, fair enough you are probably thinking what does it really matter? Although it is important to keep in mind that as humans ‘first impressions count so that means the photo or video you use in your marketing is very important in terms of getting someone’s attention and the engagement you want.
On closer inspection, it was the Ferrari F1 car on a race track with white and grey clouds that also had a wind turbine in the very distance. Although by that stage the first impression had already stuck and it surprised me Shell hadn’t chosen a better photo that was more relevant to the work they were doing to reduce carbon footprint (something with a clean blue sky even).
I had no inclination of clicking the link to find out more because not only did it feel like ‘clickbait’ to get visitors to their website but the photo and description used didn’t really inspire me to learn more.
DO VISUALS LIKE PHOTOS IMPACT BEHAVIOUR?
“Visual Search Wins Over Text as Consumers’ Most Trusted Information Source. Consumers are inclined to believe what they see, not what they read, according to new research from The Intent Lab, a research partnership between Performics and Northwestern University.”
In February 2019 there was a research partnership between Performics and Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications that was looking at how people use photos or videos when searching online.
- 36% of respondents have performed or used Visual Search to look through photos to find something
- 59% think visual information (like photos) is more important than text
It proves how important the right visuals are to engaging someone online whether it is for education, information, selling a service or trying to get someone to buy a product.
As part of marketing execution, using the right photos, videos & visual presentation can make a big difference between converting a visitor to a customer or not.
These elements help build trust and brand authority to improve conversion rates.
DOES PHOTO REALISM CHANGE CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR?
“Results indicate that the content and realism of picture presentations are important predictors of customers’ attitudes toward the Website. The attitudes appear to be a strong predictor of behavioral intentions on the Web.”
Miyoung Jeong from University of South Carolina looked into the behaviour of photo and video content in relation to the hotel industry in her ‘Effects of Picture Presentations on Customers’ Behavioral Intentions on the Web’ paper. She did an analysis on 203 existing hotel websites to examine the effects of website format, content and how that impacted customer behaviour intentions.
While hotels and oil companies like Shell are completely different things to be marketing, consumer behavior patterns are critical to observe and learn from. Her study showed that the realism of photos used is an important predictor for driving consumer behavior. It can apply to any business or service.
WHAT ARE CURRENT PHOTO USAGE TRENDS
“A trend we are implementing in our web projects is the combination of images and videos/GIFs within product pages…this allows users to see movement in a garment, and what it looks like from multiple angles. We have also used it for activewear where customers want to see things like if tights go see-through during a squat.”
Power Retail included photo usage as one of the top five e-commerce trends for 2021 for businesses selling products or services online. The changes the world has experienced in 2020-2021 from the pandemic has forced people to buy or sell things in different ways. For many, this means using digital marketing as their only way of reaching potential customers.
The only way that many can do this is from researching online so that is why it becomes even more important for business owners to consider the visual content they are using.
WHAT OTHER AREAS CAN A PHOTO IMPACT YOUR CREDIBILITY
For one client I advised them to hire a photographer to take photos of their staff on the worksite. They chose to ignore my advice and attempted to take their own photo using a smartphone which you can see here.
Unfortunately, it was blurry, low quality and the body language in the photo did not seem inviting at all. How do you think potential visitors to this site will perceive the business?
When thinking about the quality of the photos or videos you are using for your business it is important to think about all the locations they are being used, not just your products or services.
People are using the information on the ‘About’ page to get a feel for what the business stands for, its people and how they carry themselves. It’s the area that builds credibility and trust.
WHY PHOTO SELECTION IS SO IMPORTANT
So something as simple as selecting a photo is very important when it comes to social media, website content, eMail newsletters or other marketing communications. As the saying goes ‘a picture is worth one thousand words’ so apart from communicating clearly it can be a measure of authenticity & credibility that a customer will judge you by.
In my point of view, this example from Shell illustrates the poor use of a photo to convey a complex message, made worse by their association to a sport that fans will recognise as a sign of failure.