Human’s Pull to Photography: Successful Marketing


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A picture is worth a thousand words — we have all heard it before. But it’s true isn’t it? A picture represents all the words we can’t always say. We have feelings towards photos; they elicit emotions and sometimes we don’t even know why. As human beings we are captivated by photography, and in the modern world, we even have platforms dedicated to sharing these feelings such as Flickr, Instagram and Facebook, just to name a few. Understanding why photography is appealing to us helps marketers understand why it is such an important and effective tool.

From the time we are born, visuals play an important role in our lives. It is essentially our first connection to the world around us. Before we can understand words and differentiate sounds, we identify shapes and visuals. Fast forward in life when we are critically thinking, strategically planning and full-fledged adults, visuals are even more important.

According to a blog post by Gonzalo Sanchez, “visuals are much more powerful and easier to understand than mere text. People recall 20% of what they read, 10% of what they hear, but 80% of what they see and do. In fact, it takes 13 milliseconds to process an image and 100 milliseconds to attach meaning to it.” As marketers, this crucial information informs us that to see a higher ROI, adding in a visual aspect may be a game changer.

According to Google trends, if we explore the rise of infographics we can see there is a sharp increase in use. Why? Because not only do people process information faster with a visual, but also a study at Wharton School of Business found that 67% of participants were persuaded by a presentation accompanied by visuals rather than just a purely verbal presentation.

To take it step further, Sanchez explained “60% of consumers are more likely to click on a business whose images appear in search results, and 67% of consumers consider clear, detailed images to carry more weight than product information or customer ratings.” There is something about seeing a product, feeling a certain way about it and finding it more trustworthy than just text alone. In this way, visuals are not only easier to process mentally, but they also evoke a range of emotions.

As marketers, we want to play on people’s emotions in order to persuade them to go to our gym, or try out a new class or activity. With over a billion users, why does the photo-sharing app Instagram work? According to Sanchez, it’s because “photos generate initial interest even before information is actually processed.”

And it makes sense doesn’t it? What makes you stop scrolling on Instagram in the first place? Possibly a photo catches your eye, making you feel one way or the other before you even read the caption.

While the connection between photography and psychology is deep, Ming Thein does an excellent job breaking down a few key points. The idea I want to highlight specifically is the connection between “emotion = life = association = impact.” Thein explains, “if you feel something on viewing an image, it feels alive or speaks to you; it does this simply because there is some sort of conscious or subconscious association you make between the image and your mental bank of experiences, feelings and visual memories.”

He goes on to conclude “there is a sense of connection with the image, and because an associative mnemonic already exists in your brain, the image lodges itself in your consciousness. Since it makes you think about it, the impact is there.”

Simply put, you see a photo of pizza on your screen and you think about the awesome slice you had last weekend with friends. Now you have a positive association with that photo and created, in this case, a positive impact. In terms of recreation, we have to figure out what photos spark those positive emotions within our users. Playing on those emotions helps propel our members to participate in future programming.

All in all, we know photos are powerful but sometimes we forget how they drive us to make decisions. Playing on our emotions and association with past experiences, photos and visuals are key components to successful recreation marketing.

Ashley Demshki
Ashley Demshki serves as the outreach coordinator at the University of California, Riverside Recreation Department. Ashley received her B.A. in public relations and advertising from Chapman University in Orange, California. She began her career in the fashion industry, working on editorial and ecommerce shoots. Moving to focus on public relations, Ashley worked with numerous nonprofit and government agencies to help empower community organizations and the members they serve. She is passionate about student development and how recreation contributes to academic, physical and social success.

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