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Do pictures speak louder than words?

In the world of marketing, everyone is trying to work out how best to connect with their audience, whether it’s a brand looking to attract a new target market or a company trying to engage with their employees. The influencing factors that help to deliver that connection are varied and vast, and it’s only through testing some of them that you can start to understand what does and doesn’t work for you.

Putting a face to a name can be a powerful tool in generating a connection between a brand or service and a customer, but the question about how much prominence it is given and how big of a role in the overall marketing message it plays is always hotly debated.

With more than 50 branches across the Capital and over 35 years in the London property market, we have the advantage of a very well-established brand. Whilst it is important to us that we continue to maintain our brand awareness and position across the London market, it is just as important that we are connecting with our customers on a local level and so the use of photographs does play a role in our overall marketing strategy. We have gradually been integrating the use of sales and lettings manager photographs in our local marketing channels such as bespoke mailers, direct mail pieces and even on a broader level online with the property portals and on our website.

PR and the media have long championed the use of photographs to give commentators and experts an identity and this has become increasingly prevalent in the digital sphere where blogs and social media are dependent on making a connection with the individual. Marketing too is following suit but at all times it is important that the photo complements rather than overpowers the message and this can be challenging at times.

The property industry is highly personalised. Whether you are buying, selling, renting or letting, the success of the transaction, and the emotional experience you have during the transaction, is made or broken by the sales person you are dealing with. Trust goes a long way and using photography can help the client identify with and develop rapport with that person, but whether we admit it or not, humans do have the instinct to ‘judge a book by its cover’ so if the first impression from the photograph is not positive, it can also have a detrimental effect.

We use manager photographs to support local branch marketing and communications activities where the direct relationship with the branch manager is very important and where the client is most likely going to interact with that person. Other brands however, like Virgin, have very successfully used the polar opposite approach by using the brand’s most senior figurehead as a personality and essentially using that person to set the tone for the brand. This works well if that person is dynamic and representative of the brand, but can be the wrong action to take if your brand is about more than just one person or if that person isn’t aspirational.

Likewise, the channel being used is an incredibly important aspect worth considering. For example, the use of staff photography on a branch details page of your corporate website is relatively quick to update and easy to maintain however its usage in print, which naturally has longer lead times and a longer shelf life (sometimes spanning months or longer) is harder to control and requires a higher level of organisation and maintenance.

If considered appropriately, the positives of using photography in communications far outweigh the negatives – its use develops confidence in new customers while providing an assurance and stability that the person is one of authority and standing within the company. Companies with a high staff turnover however need to be mindful that the constant change of face could be perceived as a sign of instability and we have found that having to manage the process across a number of branches can be time consuming as it requires a diligent approach to updating all of the channels on a regular basis.

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