One day last week, I was starving and trying to find a place to eat. I stepped into a local diner I’d never been in before and looked over their laminated menu populated with blurred, unappetizing photos of their entrees, most likely shot by the owner on his iPhone. It felt lazy, uninspired, and careless.
Next door to the diner was a McDonald’s. In their restaurant window was a picture of a gorgeous, succulent Big Mac with its crisp lettuce, juicy pickles, and melted cheese poking out from under a toasted sesame-seed bun. The imagery was enticing. My stomach growled at the thought of what that burger would taste like.
Guess where I had lunch? No contest: I joined the ranks of billions of customers who’ve been served.
Now, the local restaurant may have had heartier and — certainly — healthier options. It could’ve been some of the best tasting food this side of the Mason Dixon, but the marketing photos didn’t communicate whether the food was good or healthy. They were poorly lit, shot from a bad angle, and weren’t even print quality. So I spent my money elsewhere.
Good Marketing Photos Are Good Marketing
Marketing is all about communicating your value to the customer. Unfortunately, many industrial businesses don’t understand the importance of good marketing photos and how the right styling and consistent imagery can help them not only convey quality, but also help them successfully tell their company story and create alignment across their brand.
We are a visual culture. Images capture the imagination and help us understand context without needing to read the fine print. In this age of high mobile-device engagement, having good marketing photos is more important than ever before. Just look at some of the recent statistics around imagery and audience engagement:
- Articles with relevant images average 94% more total views than articles without images.
- A press release with photos gets nearly 15% more online views than a text-only press release.
- 60% of consumers who use online search say they prefer to contact a business whose listing includes an image.
- Nearly 70% of e-commerce website shoppers say the product image is very important when making their purchase decision. (Source: MDG Advertising Infographic)
Get Your Customers’ Attention — and Keep It
Good marketing photos are far more likely to engage your audience than text alone, especially if the images are art directed to target a specific audience. You get one opportunity to engage a first-time viewer, so make sure your marketing material is well-designed and provides them with a clear understanding of your offering.
Furthermore, using images that compliment your existing will branding help establish a more unified design system: a consistent foundation for all visual communication across all collateral, whether it be one-sheets, brochures, digital materials, or trade show exhibits.
The best way to create this consistency in imagery is by hiring a creative marketing agency or an art director who understands your business and services and can then form creative storyboards or moodboards that tie back to your marketing strategy. Once those guidelines are established, the creative team can source a photographer whose style best matches the creative elements stipulated to create marketing photos that are in line with the overall vision.
Establish a Brand Identity
Photography can play an integral part in your brand communications: it can be casual and friendly, conservative and corporate, or sleek and polished. Working with a creative director who understands how you want your company personality to be perceived, you’ll be able to select the right photographer and create that mood for your customers with imagery.
Unfortunately, when B2B companies create or refresh their industrial brand, they often overlook the importance of photography. This is a huge mistake. If a budget is not allocated for marketing photos and a proper plan is not put in place, your target audience may overlook your campaign and the value of your investment will have been. Your overall brand equity could diminish as well.
Many stakeholders, unprepared for the costs of custom marketing photos, turn to stock. In the industrial sector, when services and products are so highly specialized and technical, stock photography is hardly a viable option. While there are some really good stock photo services out there, stock photography is inevitably general and will never be able to convey your specific brand or company narrative as well as a custom photo shoot. Organizations, both large and small, that avoid investing in professional marketing photos run the risk of seeming generic and thereby being overlooked by their customers.
Dare to Be Sexy
Most industrials might not know this, but industrial photography — meaning an industrial company’s products, facilities, infrastructure, ambiance, and its employees — especially those working on the shop floor — can make for some of the most engaging and incredible marketing photos.
For a layperson, viewing imagery of an industrial facility is like stepping into another world full of machinery and processes, tools and intensity. If I’m making it sound romantic, that’s because it is — or can be when shot with the right lighting, composition, and contrast. Just look at the beautiful photography that comes from major industrials such as GE, Caterpillar, and 3M.
Industrial photography can be compared to sports photography in its poetry and narrative value. It really has the power to engage and entice viewers to dive deeper and be curious.
A Few Pointers for Getting Your Photo Shoot Right
Assuming I’ve convinced you to go forward with a custom photo shoot for your next industrial website or marketing campaign, here are a few pointers to help you succeed.
Start building an inspiration folder or mood board
Begin looking at the different types of marketing photos out there and see what you are attracted to. Grab from everything, including magazines and lifestyle brands, rather than just limiting yourself to your competitors. Use your instincts, but weigh your picks against the views of stakeholders and how customers currently perceive your brand (or how you wish them to perceive you). Show some of the images to your customers and get their opinion on whether you fit that mold.
Create a style guide, not necessarily a shot list
Having a style guide or playbook to guide the creation of your marketing photos will help you and your team stay focused and consistent. While a shot list can sometimes be too structured, broad guidelines can provide parameters while allowing for flexibility and spontaneity. Help paint the right picture by engaging with questions such as:
- What kinds of content should be in the photos? Products? Lifestyle? Process? Customer relations?
- What kind of story should your photos tell?
- What mood should they convey? How should your audience feel?
- What types of applications will the photos be needed for? Are there multiple applications?
- Are there any brand mandatories that should be observed in the marketing photos?
Make sure the photographs tell a relevant story
Your photography should be more than just filler. It should tell your brand story and allow users to access the narrative associated with your product or service. Be diligent and aggressive in making sure all the images fit your brand story, otherwise they should end up on the cutting room floor.
That’s a Wrap, Folks . . .
When your marketing photos are professional, custom, and consistent, they will deepen customer engagement, create value in the eyes of your customers, and build a brand foundation that can be accessed across multiple channels and applications. While many industrial companies still have difficulty grasping marketing activities that can’t be directly monetized, great marketing photos are an investment that pays for itself tenfold when done with care and precision.