“The Right Image for Your Image”

by Stephanie Darenkamp

Some say a picture is worth a thousand words. Our clients demand imagery and branding that speak the same 1,000 words to a targeted market or demographic. With or without text, an audience relates their own experiences to the image they see. Here is where it gets complicated. What do you see in the following images?…

My response is delicious, home, and animal – mind you I am a 26 year-old artist living in Southern California. I ask my grandfather (78 year-old Texan who owns a ranch) what he thought and you guessed it – disgusting, hell, and dinner! Welcome to the world of targeting audiences and demographics. With this in mind, you understand how vital the right imagery is when designing a menu for a restaurant, a brochure for a realtor, or a website for a dairy farm.

Have you ever been inspired to buy clothing, eat at a restaurant, or buy a new car based on a advertising campaign you’ve seen? Sure, we all have. We are sold on buying a lifestyle. Corporations strive to build strong identities specifically for this purpose: to stand out among the competition so the consumer will buy into their lifestyle. When selling a product or service, it is crucial to have the right imagery in order to seamlessly integrate identity, product, and lifestyle.

Volvo’s identity has presented them as the “safest” vehicle. In their advertising campaigns, they use imagery of traditional families with small children. They do this because they know their audience will watch the commercials, relate their own family to the one on screen, question the safety of their current family car, and want the lifestyle that Volvo is offering - a secure and safe drive while taking the kids to soccer practice.

Apple takes the same approach with their campaigns based on their “hip and trendy” identity. They target a youthful and stylish audience – and who doesn’t want to be youthful and stylish? Their iPod commercials use imagery of trendsetters rockin’ out with their iPod’s on the subway, in the streets, at the office. The iPod plays the soundtrack to your life – I want to be the girl dancing on the way to work with my Green Tea Frappuchino!

Which brings me to Starbucks. By establishing a creative coffee-house atmosphere, using warm and inviting imagery of their products, and placing this “lifestyle” conveniently on every corner ― they have become the “image” next to the word coffee in the dictionary. They are selling a lifestyle of treating yourself to a taste of extravagance.

When you look at strong identities - such as Volvo, Apple, and Starbucks, you see that their presence is consistent by communicating a message throughout their imagery that corresponds with their “lifestyle theme”.

In a culture of short attention spans and I want it and I want it now attitudes, the right imagery for a corporate identity is crucial for successfully selling a lifestyle. I listened to my iPod on the way to work this morning, drank my Starbucks coffee, and gawked at the new Volvo SUV parked in the space next to mine. Take it from a professional – Advertising Works! The right “image” for a company’s “image” will boost sales, increase profits, and grow market share.