Making the Business Case for Better Marketing Images

Looking to connect with your audience? Don't rely on words to start conversations; use images to communicate instead. With more and more competition for our increasingly short attention spans, we are seeing an increased reliance on visuals as the leading form of communication across the Web.

When people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later (unless of course they were listening to something incredibly addictive (like Serial). However, when a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retain 65% of the information three days later. Not surprisingly, 46% of marketers now say photography is critical to their current marketing and storytelling images.

Throughout history, images have been at the center of human interaction. It began with cavemen communicating through drawings in, well, caves. The Egyptians did it through symbols on walls, and today, embracing the power of images to tell brand stories is more important to marketers than ever. Did you know 90% of the information sent to the brain is visual, and that images are processed 600,000 times faster than text? Seems like using images in your messaging would be a no-brainer, but choosing the right image takes real smarts.

While a picture may be worth a thousand words, every picture has its own value. Looking at data can help shine a light on the best types of images to use.

While a picture may be worth a thousand words, every picture has its own value. Looking at data can help shine a light on the best types of images to use. Think about your audience and what their goals are. The same way you (hopefully) write for your audience and leverage data to understand the best stories to tell, you should use images you believe make sense based on who they are and what behaviors they've demonstrated. And make sure those images are actually relevant to the content. According to a recent study, content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.

When it comes to advertising and promotion, it's important to attract the customer's attention in a subtle, yet meaningful way. The type of image you choose to use and where it runs could have a substantial impact on brand awareness and customer engagement. Having worked in the advertising industry prior to coming at Dun & Bradstreet, I experienced firsthand the types of images that were more effective than others. While I primarily looked at images used in B2C campaigns, the lessons can be applied to B2B goals. At the end of the day, you are looking to connect with a person on an emotional level, and using the right image can be the difference between success and failure.


Furthermore, whether you are trying to enhance awareness and visibility through a paid-, owned-, or earned-media strategy, images can have a substantial impact on results - especially when it comes to social sharing. A crux of the earned-media strategy, social sharing escalates with the use of images. Seventy percent of advertising agency executives think people share more image-based ads versus text-based ads.

So here are more data-inspired insights on using images.

Test Images, Not Words

In A/B tests, native advertising and technology firm TripleLift finds ad engagement increases by 65% when a new image is tested versus simply testing new copy. This observation does not discount the power of words, but in the end, subtle changes to an image have more of an impact than fretting over which words to use. Think about using different images to test which ones receive the strongest engagement from your audience.

Think Real Life

Don't be so quick to use the generic photo of the overly happy business people giving a thumbs-up. Real-life people in natural settings drive a 45% higher click-through rate and generate 15 times more shares than models in posed, studio environments. When crafting your story, you're using words to be honest and evoke real emotions. You should do the same with the images you use. Try to source real photos from blogs and social media to support your content versus stock photos that end up hurting your narrative.

Consider the Real Estate

Click-through rates for in-feed ads are reportedly six times higher than ads living on the right rail. Even when larger ads are on the right rail, in-feed ads perform better. This proves the old adage that it's all about location. For delivering sponsored content, it is important to reach customers where they are paying attention. The area traditionally reserved for banners - outside of the prime content area of a website - goes unnoticed most often. We have been trained to ignore banners, and really, anything you place takes a backseat to the focal point of the site. Plus, this is a much better visual experience for users and where the right image really shines.

To further show the significance of the location, in-feed ads delivered below the fold still outperform ads above the fold on the right rail, with a 270% higher click-through rate. Research shows performance remains constant, no matter where the in-feed ad is placed.

The Web as a whole is relying more heavily on visuals to communicate. Sites are constantly updating their pages to focus on large images versus more text. That doesn't mean you can't still engage users with relevant, inspiring words. You just need to supplement the words with engaging images that will capture their attention. If you employ some of the recommendations we've made, your content marketing results should be picture perfect.

Image credit: "Bahnhofstrasse" by @Thomas8047, Flickr