Pictures Speak a thousand words
After thousands of years of human development, we haven’t come so far that we no longer respond to the cave painting on the wall. Today’s cave wall may be a laptop or a device that fits in the pocket, and the painting may be done with pixels and digital cameras instead of crushed berries and ash from the fire, but we’re essentially doing the same thing that our fur-clad ancestors did: we’re sharing stories through the direct, powerful medium of still images.
No matter how much classical literature you read, no matter how many foreign films and expansive, complex television dramas you watch, no matter how many French comic books you pick up, you still respond to the simplicity of the human experience frozen in a single image. We can’t help it, it’s where all recorded art began, and it’s something we’ll likely never outgrow.
The freelance marketing firms that acknowledge this are going to do better business than those that don’t. Respect your audience, certainly. Recognize that human beings are sophisticated, that they can be intelligent, that they can weed out the honest marketing from the junk, but the way that we communicate is still remarkably simple and low-tech, even if we deliver it with high-end technology.
Pinterest and Tumblr prove that people still respond, first and foremost, to the tremendous visceral power of the still image. Look at the popular Tumblrs and you’re not going to find text-driven blogs, you’re not going to find much in the way of subtlety, you’re going to find big, bold images that are immediately gripping. You’ll find humor blogs like Pusheen, single-panel cartoons about a lazy, hedonistic, amoral kitty cat. Sort of a stripped-down Garfield for the digital age. You’ll find plenty of blogs featuring scantily clad models, hot male celebrities and weird, surprising moments. What these pictures all have in common is that they take something interesting, and they get it across to the viewer immediately.
It’s especially true in marketing that a picture speaks a thousand words. Are you more likely to be swayed by a long review of a great beer, or by a high-definition photograph of a sparkling glass of foamy brown ale? Around Valentine’s Day, all of the romantic commercials feature supermodels and Ken-doll lookalikes exchanging gifts, not because that’s what the average couple looks like, but because it takes a long time to explain that “my husband might not look like George Clooney, but he’s a giving lover and a great father.” It’s much quicker to go for the gut punch of a handsome face than it is to try and explain the intricacies of real life.
When you work in a visual medium, you need to work with visual cues, and marketing is a more visual medium than a lot of us like to acknowledge.
Marketing is an artform and a means of communication, and when you’re communicating, you need a shared language between yourself and the people with whom you’re communicating. In this day and age, most freelance marketing opportunities are going to define that shared language as some sort of a visual medium.
We’re not saying “use Tumblr to sell products.” If you’re serious about marketing as a career path, the still image is a language in which you need to become a fluent speaker. It can be great practice to get on Tumblr and Pinterest and try to develop content that gets shared frequently. This can help you train to develop resharable imagery for your clients. If you can do that better than anyone else in your niche, then you can pretty much write your own ticket and proove why a picture speks more than a thousand words
Gilbert S is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.