Advertising and identity
The advertising industry has endured an 'identity crisis' in the last frantic five years or so; so moots a comprehensive article in last week's FT Weekend Magazine. ('How the mad men lost the plot' by Francesco Ciccolella FT / Life and Arts Nov 7/8 2015) Big brands and the big agencies that look after them scrambled to exploit new digital marketing strategies; spewing pithy content through the slew of content delivery systems and devices. 'Target and engage' was the modus operandi. For a time they eschewed hoary old vanguards such as live television for the connectivity and nowness of the internet. However they discovered that 'now' disappears into the ether just as fast as we scroll and discard our social feeds. It turns out that television and the passive but persistent brand messaging that it delivers, is still the most expedient way to get a brand into our brains and keep it there; poised to prompt when we next make an associated purchase.
The emperor's new digital clothes
Transpires we don't engage with big brands as enthusiastically as they would like us to. Ads inspire '3 in 10,000 click-throughs' from engaged twitter fans. '87% of UK television viewers are still watching live content', and robots can account for an desultory 50% of online ad impressions that are reported as human engagement. In 2010 Pepsi passed over on the lucrative ad slot in the Superbowl and ploughed the budget into a social media campaign instead. Designed to engage users and generate ideas that would help society, (Pepsi Refresh Project) they promised to fund the ones that got the most votes. The net result was that whilst the campaign achieved what it was supposed to in terms of millions of social media thumbs up, ultimately they sold less Pepsi. In the course of the year the Pepsi brand family haemorrhaged about 5% of its market share.
There were many fascinating points in the article and it is worth a read, however what interested me most was what might topically be termed the 'John Lewis effect' or as Francesco Ciccolella sums up "An online banner ad, however smartly targeted, is unlikely to make anyone grin, gasp or weep". In summary, brands need to engage our emotions and senses, in a way that jostling for our attention amid the daily tsunami of disposable digital content that flows through our screens simply cannot.
The coca-cola ad with the anthemic "I'd like to teach the world to sing" was first aired in 1971 - heralding a golden age for emotive and highly successful advertising. The song didn't tell us anything about the drink, what it tasted like or why we should buy it - it simply aligned itself with a feel-good factor that eventually became an intrinsic part of the brand identity. It carries through to today with the 'share with a friend' message. The John Lewis television ads don't tell us anything about why we should shop at the store, they simply make us feel good about Christmas in a cosy aspirational middle-class way; reinforcing brand identity.
Emotive or 'lifestyle' photography
As a photographer who helps people sell their products and services I find this all very encouraging. Our brains interrogate and process images much faster than words. The images below (see more from the shoot here) were for a client who organises chocolate-making parties. The brand brief was 'fun, hen parties, a bit of sparkle and champagne, celebration, oozing chocolate, friends, togetherness.' No amount of clever copy could have conveyed all that as fast as a picture. The client gathered together a bunch of acquaintances, promised them a great afternoon and the dress-code was glam. We descended on an old mill house come quirky wedding venue and dressed the place with candles and a bit of whackery. We let the party unfold organically and just shot throughout, right in the thick of the fun. We could have shot trays of sumptuous chocolates; the brand is called Choco-Delicious after all. But they aren't selling chocolates, they're selling an experience. They're selling a good feeling, and the images tell that story more effectively than words could.
Use images as often as possible in your social media - it helps you stand out from the crowd. Think about the story you are trying to tell, think about how you can tell it in pictures.