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24 April 2013

The year ahead for images


In 2013 it’s believed the smartphone will become an everyday object worldwide*. It’s believed that sales will hit one billion over the next 12 months – an impressive milestone in the mobile world. It’s certainly a true testament to the ‘sharing age’ we now live in; people want to tap into information and divulge their experiences constantly, be it with their friends or brands.

This of course presents a plethora of opportunities for companies, but with these opportunities come challenges. Brands are already working hard to remain contemporary and front of mind in the current economical climate and the increase in customer touchpoints and information portals means they will need to do even more to make sure they stand out from the white noise.

One of the key ways companies can improve their prominence is via strong visuals, and this goes beyond a snazzy logo. Brands need to ask themselves whether the visual language they use represents their values and connects with their customers.  The imagery used by a pharmaceutical company, for example, will be different to that used by a fashion brand; much like copywriting each industry will have a different way of using visual language to speak to their audience.

Creating a constant visual brand across the different media channels and platforms is going to be one of the biggest challenges brands will face in 2013. While smartphones, tablets and social media have increased the opportunities for brands to reach their audience, it also means that consumers are becoming more scattered so the need to provide engaging visual content is more pressing than ever.

It is brands that are focused and try not to be all things to all people that will prosper when it comes to visual branding across multiple channels. One brand that will continue to succeed in 2013 is Apple. It has always had consistent and impressive communications, and customers recognise it immediately across all of its platforms; its reduced style stands out in comparison to its competitors.  Apple has successfully turned its visual language into a key decision-making factor for many people looking to buy an Apple product.

Apple’s success has a lot to do with staying ahead of the game and responding to shifts in customer expectations when it comes to its branding. Much like the constantly changing trends in fashion, the visual industry also sees shifts in ‘in vogue’ imagery. It’s important for brands to keep tabs on these changes as they often represent the changing mood of the nation and brands need to reflect that in their branding if they are going to make an emotional connection with their audience.

For example, we are currently witnessing a fascinating revolution in photography; namely how it is used and its social purpose and function, which directly impacts on the use of visuals in marketing and advertising communications.

Photography is now fast, mobile, social and more authentic; people want to see real images. We are now seeing some brands use consumer generated content in creative ways to engage with their audience. This year will see other brands adapting the visual language they use to reflect a feeling of authenticity and realism in their branding.

If brands address their visual branding and ensure it is consistent across all touchpoints and conveys their values, there is no reason why they won’t be able to connect with their consumers in ‘the year of the smartphone’.

(*According to a study by Deloitte) 

By Michaela Schwing, creative planning manager, Getty Images Europe 


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