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AMiable Solution #373: As Advertised

Think buying stock photos for your marketing will do the trick?
Think buying stock photos for your marketing will do the trick?

If you drive through a small neighbor off of Route 27 in Damascus, you’re very likely to notice, attached to stop signs and telephone poles, a “LOST CAT” sign. Across the middle of the sign is an image of a black cat, and at the bottom is a phone number.

But if you look more closely at the sign, you’ll also notice this: “SKINNY, EARTIPPED, AND INJURED. THIS PHOTO IS ONLY A LIKENESS. DO NOT CHASE.”

Only a likeness?

What you see should be what you get in life—when you’re looking for someone or something dear to you— and in marketing, when you’re trying to engage and retain customers.

If you’re marketing unique features for a product (like that poor “eartipped” cat), your photos should reflect them. Likewise, if you’re using a photo of a product that has features your promoted item doesn’t, well, you’re asking for trouble.

Skin care brand Olay found this out in 2009 when British advertising regulator Advertising Standards Authority banned an Olay ad for eye-cream. The culprit? A picture of a flawless, wrinkle-less, 60-year old model, Twiggy. More than 700 people issued complaints about the ad, claiming that the unrealistic photo of the model—which the responsible ad agency admitted to altering—gave a "misleading impression of the effect the product could achieve."

Consumers just weren’t buying what the company was trying to sell.

Visuals are important in marketing. Not only do they grab your readers’ attention, but they lend validity to your content. When you do it right.

In January 2018, Digital Marketing Magazine reported that visuals increase user engagement by as much as 94%. A whopping 62% of consumers surveyed said they wouldn’t buy from a brand if they couldn’t see the product “in its entirety,” and 69% said it looks bad if an irrelevant image is used by a brand.

The lesson? If you want someone to find your cat, give them clear guidance. Share an actual image of your cat. And if you want to sell your cause, your product, or your service, make sure the photos tell the true story. Show only actual or feasible “action” or “results” shots. Be transparent. Be honest.

Images are a powerful, important part of your marketing. Use them carefully.

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