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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Michelle Connolly, Creative Copywriter at FRUKT, highlights the need for brands to harness the power of visual communication

Could the answer to increasing genuine brand engagement come down to the age-old adage that a picture tells a thousand words?

Twitter championed the art of condensed thinking, saying what you need to in 140 characters, but Instagram allowed users to tell a story through a single image. The kind of story that doesn’t need translating. Pictures are the only true cross-border form of communication. The idea of universal communication isn’t a new one, back in the 1870’s the concept of a worldwide language was already coming to fruition. However, as wonderfully idealistic as Esperanto was, it never really took off… Why?

The beauty of an image is that you don’t need any training or learning to understand it. You have the ability to connect on more than just a visual level. Emotion can be expressed through body language, facial expressions, colours used - they create parallels with certain feelings. Filters applied to evoke nostalgia, objects included that epitomise a generation… The possibilities are vast, and open up opportunities to engage a multitude of emotions all at once.

Coke took their happiness campaign to a borderless level with their emoji websites – choosing to put an emoticon in place of a word with a .ws ending – supposedly standing for ‘We smile’ – but in actuality a caveat around domains which wouldn’t accept an emoticon. The rationale? That emoticons meant the same to people the world over, there was no translation or explanation needed, and everyone understood the power of a smile. The rise of the emoticon has been relentless, but it’s fair to say that saturation point may have been reached with the emoticon-only messaging platform, Emojli. People communicate solely through emoji, even having to create usernames from these characters - no words at all can be exchanged.

Does that mean that brands should start putting emojis in their communications? Well, no, not at all. What they should take from this is the connection between imagery and consumer emotion.

When facial expressions and body language are 70% of human communication, how can that be properly used to create a dialogue with consumers, to forge a connection? Snapchat is popular with some, Instagram video for others, depending on their target consumer. Each offers a snapshot 15-second window to express themselves. Unlike traditional TV advertising, it’s effective because it’s short, instant, casual – seeming somehow less staged and not reliant on special effects – and most of all, it’s native to mobile. It feels like a more natural, honest interaction. The human element.

Seeing another person emote, on the screen that lives in my pocket, answers the needs I have for a brand. I can see someone, put a face to a (brand) name, feel like I understand them better and am being understood. This is the reason so many ‘behind the scenes’ videos do so well, we like to know a little bit more – nobody is perfect, and we don’t want companies to be high and mighty any more. We want them to be a little bit ‘flawed’ and a little more human.

So brands - show us what you’re up to, let us peek behind the curtains, tease and emote through photos or videos, and you’ll probably gain a little more than you’ve bargained for in brand loyalty.