Using photos to market to millennials can be extremely effective - if you're authentic, know how to speak the language, and make strategic partnerships. In this blog post, we explore how affiliate marketers can use images and tools (such as PixMaximiser Review) to effectively market to millennials.
Picture This: Why Millennials Love Images in Marketing
A picture is worth 1000 words, but what's the marketing value behind those words? If you're an affiliate publisher or advertiser, that value could be relatively high. That's because images are crucial to getting the attention of the biggest age demographic - millennials.
In this blog post, you'll learn how millennials communicate with images, the value an image brings, and how you can partner with or start promoting products and brands through images. Read on to learn more!
- Millennials Communicate with Images
In an August 2016 study found that the top three social media platforms for millennials were Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
It is not a coincidence that these platforms, as well as the other popular social media platforms millennials use, are all image-intensive. That’s because, for millennials, images aren’t a distraction from the message – the pictures themselves are the message. Images are a language that millennials are fluent in. Translating your brand into images that speak to millennials is a key strategy to winning their business.
“Visual platforms such as YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram are highly influential in shopping,” writes eMarketer in their US millennial Shoppers 2017 report. Nikki Karai Renaud, the CMO at Zazzle who was interviewed for the report, was quoted saying “ ‘for millennials, we found that the visual piece – honing our photography and creative assets – helped attract and convert [this generation].’ ”
In other words – not only are millennials taking, posting, and sharing images, these images are a major influencer in their decision to purchase a product.
But it can’t just be any picture of a product. The picture needs a key ingredient: authenticity.
- Images Need Authenticity to be Effective
What makes millennials respond to the images they see on these social media platforms? First and foremost, the authenticity of the images behind them.
millennials are some of the greatest detectives when it comes to identifying what’s meant to feel genuine and what’s an advertisement – and they crave the former. According to a study by Marketing Daily, 63% of consumers say that repeated, generic messages from brands are irritating to them. And that’s all demographics – for millennials, authenticity is even more important.
Millennials value authenticity because it enables them to identify with a brand and their products, rather than feel like a brand is speaking at them. When it comes to using images in marketing, those images need to feel natural – like something a millennial could have taken themselves or pictured themselves participating in. Per an infographic on VisionCritical, “today’s always-on social and mobile savvy consumers are no longer willing to accept inconsistencies between the image a brand projects and the reality of what it represents.”
The sentiment is clear – if you want millennials to get on board with your images, they need to feel authentic. Who better to provide that authenticity than content creators, the publishers that customers love because they’re authentic.
- Translating Your Brand Through Images in Affiliate Marketing
When looking to establish authenticity in your content, why not look to some of the most authentic content creators you can partner with? Content publishers and influencers aren’t just naturals at using authenticity to build followers and help convert visitors into shoppers – their entire publishing model is built on the concept.
Rakuten Affiliate Network’s product discovery platform, Curate, allows publishers to authentically build product showcases from their favorite brand partners. This tool gives content publishers and influencers the freedom to design a beautiful product collection in addition to basic affiliate text links. With each uniquely designed showcase, Influencers visually relate to their audience which, in turn, increases engagement and loyalty among readers. http://bit.ly/2DCntzo
Brands recognize how important authenticity is when identifying and partnering with influencers – 75% of them say that quality and authenticity of content is the most important factor, according to a study by eMarketer. Likewise, influencers (and content marketers) know that being themselves and upfront is the most important factor in keeping an audience engaged with them. This extends to all content – from blog posts to videos and, yes, even images. Many influencers will use pictures of themselves posing naturally and in normal, everyday situations with a product to show the product’s functionality, what they like about the product, and how they use the product.
This is a no-brainer: when looking to establish authenticity, look to content creators and influencers who build their entire publishing model on the concept!
In the social media world, authenticity is key. We often turn to social media to see an authentic look into the lives of our friends, our acquaintances, and our favorite brands.
The content shared to these platforms is meant to give us a glimpse into the world of the people and brands closest to us. And often, the most authentic and genuine content is the most interesting. This is evidenced by the surge in popularity that stories have seen since the format was debuted by Snapchat. Stories enable us to see raw, often unedited content and give an authentic glimpse into other’s lives.
The problem with most stock photos is that they’re not authentic. For example, when it comes to business-related photos, there’s no shortage of clichés. A photo of a business person in a crisp suit or a smiling group of twenty-somethings might help fill a void, but often, these images will fail to connect with your audience as they’re simply not relatable or authentic.
Let’s say you’re looking for a stock photo showing someone working, the below image could fit the bill:
On the other hand, something like this image from Andrew Neel may be better suited:
Essentially these two images show similar scenes, but the first one feels a little more staged and inauthentic. Whereas the second option feels a little more relatable.
It’s hard to tell exactly what makes an image authentic, but it seems to be incredibly important as people are instinctively drawn to brands that are considered more authentic than their competitors.
Authenticity means that the things we say and the things we do are the things we really believe, not just something we say to help sell our products/services.
The reason being authentic matters so much is deeply seeded in our instinct to survive as Simon Sinek explains:
Instinctively we’re constantly evaluating the words and actions of others. We’re assessing if they can be trusted. To that end, the more we sense that our values and beliefs align with the values and beliefs of others, the more apt we are to trust them. This is the reason we are drawn to people who are “like us.” The trust we feel and the relationships we form with another person or with a brand are exactly the same.
So when we’re looking at images, we’re making split seconds decisions based on their authenticity. If the image feels fake, or in any way inauthentic, we might lose trust in the brand instantly.
On the other hand, an authentic image can provide feelings of safety, trust, and comfort.
You might think an image of a group of people working is just an image. But if it doesn’t feel authentic, it’s likely doing more harm than good.
2 quick tips on identifying authentic images
1. Look for real people
It can look obvious if the people in your stock photos are models. When looking for a stock photo, keep an eye on the people in the photos:
- Do they look like they’re genuine or are they clearly models?
- Are their hair, teeth, and clothes perfect?
These are often tell-tales of stock photos. When choosing an image, look for real-world setups and subjects that a little reveal character.
Here’s a great example from Priscilla Du Preez, where the subjects look like they’re actually having a great time:
2. Identify natural poses
Most of us don’t sit fully upright or smile 24/7. But it’s very common to see stock images with generic traits like these. Try to identify images where the subjects look natural and not posed.
Check out the below photo by Jacob Ufkes and notice how natural the subjects look:
How to find the perfect stock image
Most stock images were taken to fit with a wide range of topics and concepts, which can sometimes be both a blessing and a curse. The images can be used for a bunch of different occasions, but can also look rather generic.
As a marketer, the images you choose for your campaigns or to company content can help you to stand out from the noise. But it takes careful consideration and planning to do successfully pick the right images.
Here are 4 tips to help you find the right one:
1. Use images that compliment your content
Images shouldn’t feel like they’ve been randomly dropped into a piece of content. Where possible, try to ensure that the images you choose compliment your content in some way.
For example, in a recent Buffer Open blog post about using playlists to help boost productivity, we chose a feature image showing music being played on a mobile phone:
By choosing this image, people can see right away that the post is about music without having to glance at the headline. Check out how it looks when shared to Facebook, too: