A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

By Ron Rosenberg

The stamp on the left, commonly referred to as the Inverted Jenny is a United States postage stamp from 1918 that features an image of the Curtiss JN-4 that was mistakenly printed upside down.

Approximately 700 of these misprinted stamps were produced, and inspectors found 600 of them before they left the printing facility, but the remaining stamps are generally considered to be the "holy grail" of stamp collecting.

In fact, an intact block of stamps featuring the printing plate's number sold for $2,970,000.00. Not bad...for a mistake!
Unfortunately, making mistakes in your own images will probably end up costing you money...

The Power of Illustration

Since the very beginning of advertising, the ability to include images has been an important and effective tool in getting prospects to respond. With the advent of online and digital marketing, this has become both easy and commonplace. Even video can be recorded, edited, and uploaded easily to really enhance the effectiveness of online marketing.

The problem is one we see in business every day: just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it.

The fact that you have a smartphone and free editing software does not make you a photographer. The fact that you have page-layout or HTML editing tools does not make you a graphic designer.

And sometimes, trying to accomplish these functions on your own can cause more harm than good.

How About a Trip to Florida?

Because of the proliferation of travel sites, it's possible to plan a vacation without ever having seen the area or even talking to another human being. Sites like TripAdvisor.com make it easy to explore different regions and get great recommendations on where to stay, which restaurants to eat at, and the best attractions to visit.

And if you're looking for a more "homey" stay, then a quick visit to VRBO.com, HomeAway.com or Airbnb.com will show you listings for people who will rent out either their entire home or a room within the home.

This was what we were looking for. We entered the location and dates we were interested in, and got back a nice list of options, along with a few surprises.

Welcome to Our Home!

Many of the listings had interesting and catchy headlines (always a good thing) and the built-in filtering that allowed us to narrow down our search in terms of price and number of rooms. The reviews from past guests provided some very valuable information.

But since a picture is worth 1,000 words, we wanted to "peek inside" these homes and have a look for ourselves.

One image was taken sideways - in other words, it was rotated 90 degrees so the couch appeared to be standing on its side. Imagine browsing through the photos of a place you're thinking of renting...and seeing this picture.

Another one of the bathroom was barely visible because the sun was shining through the window. I guess it's supposed to show how bright and sunny the house is, but, all the image showes was a shower curtain, a cabinet, and an unrolled spool of toilet paper.

And finally, a picture showing the living room with a big-screen TV was completely upside down! I guess you'll have to do some kind of inverted yoga headstand to enjoy your program.

And just so you don't think this was an anomaly, while the majority of the listings included very attractive photos, every fourth or fifth listing featured images like these - either sideways or upside-down, poorly composed, or simply illustrating features of the house that took the listing immediately off our list.

How to Use Images Correctly

So now that we've seen some examples of how not to use images in your marketing, here are a few guidelines you can follow to make sure you're using them right.

  1. Be Clear on the Message - Determine what you're trying to communicate with the image. Are you trying to build confidence, demonstrate a unique feature, or support a testimonial?
  2. Be Professional - You wouldn't want to rewire your home if you knew nothing about electrical work, so read an article, take an online course, or get someone knowledgeable to help you compose your images and record your videos.
  3. Let the Image Work for You - There are lots of ideas you can communicate with words alone, but there are clearly times when images do a much better job. Abstract concepts, unique features, and special processes are all good examples of when photos and videos are the way to go.

Pictures can definitely add value to your marketing, but like any tool, you have to use it correctly and appropriately.