Show more — the story within the image

A tale about Unconscious Processing

A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind. — Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

As with quotations, an image devoid of context will probably lose some (or most) of its meaning. It might be pretty, or even beautiful, and it might make you stop and think for a bit, but that’s it. You’ll move along and not think twice about it once you’re done.

This means that in order to market successfully, each image you show must be telling its own story within itself, without accompanying text. This way, if it is seen alone, or outside of your original marketing blurb, the story you want it to sell is still there.

Of course the easiest way to achieve this would be to apply text to your image. This ensures it would never be seen without text:

Well, that solves the problem — but it also doesn't tell a story within the image. It’s just a shortcut: effective if you’re in a hurry, but you don’t get to appreciate the scenic route.

Here’s the thing with images: they insert themselves directly to the viewers unconscious processing. Which is why advertising that tells a story works better, quicker and straight to the viewers mind.

Here’s an example: how many times have you gone past billboards that you see, but not read, on the way to work? Perhaps you’ll read them if you happen to stop at a red light and your eyes are wondering around, but if you’re just driving past? It won’t happen.

An image to tell a story.

So the image above is slightly better: it shows a scene that you are trying to get your viewers to engage with — drinks at sunset. You can see that there is a table, two chairs and cocktails awaiting for people to come and sip them. You don’t need any text to tell you this could be an advert for a bar with a panoramic view.

Sure, your eyes now have to search around the image a little to find the information. On some platforms this is a good thing: making the viewer search for the information that’s not immediately obvious will translate in better viewer engagement. They’ll spend more of their time on that image, and find out more about your brand. For a magazine, these images can work well.

Complete story telling at its best.

Now look at this final image: this one is immediately engaging and tells a complete story : it shows you someone who looks glamorous (everybody wants to be / look cool), enjoying a relaxing drink in the sunset, in a panoramic balcony with a commanding view over the city (a sign of success and power). This immediately provokes the reaction of “I want to be (with) that person!”

… or, in a less politically correct way of putting it: “Monkey see, Monkey do!”.

It doesn't sound very flattering, but it is still one of the strongest foundations that image marketing is built upon — storytelling and the human desire to be the star of the show or the main character in the fairy tale.

Take a look through your own branding images today and see if each one tells a complete story — and if they do: is it the story you want to tell about your brand?

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