For Some Marketers a Picture (or Selfie) Might be Worth More than a Thousand Words

Social Media Icons and Marketing
(Source of image: content/uploads/2012/04/social-media-icons.jpg)

Marketers have been, and always will be, interested in gaining a better understanding of consumers. Being able to communicate with those consumers who are most likely to find value in a specific product/service and doing so in a way they are most likely to be receptive to is a very attractive proposition for any marketer. Advances in digital marketing have made targeting ads to the right people easier to do and advances in analytics have made it easier to study whether the different tactics in use are generating results.

In particular, social media platforms have provided an outlet for individuals to connect and share almost any aspect of their lives that they wish to. For companies looking to invest in digital advertising, social media platforms have made it easier to target consumers with relevant ads. Imagine you’re an only child for instance and you receive a sponsored post (Facebook ad) with an image of a box of Chewy brand granola bars overlaid with text that says “The best part of being an only child, not having to share your Chewy bars.” In the scenario just described it’s probably not a coincidence that you received that particular ad given the wealth of data that most social media platforms share with companies in order to help them (and entice them) to invest in advertisements. In essence, through the pages that a person likes and the information that they provide on their interests, background, etc. they are creating a profile of themselves in a machine readable format that can be leveraged by marketers.

Taking this concept one step further an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal takes a look at how some digital marketing firms are using software that analyzes images to better identify consumer interests. The insights gathered and tools that use the technology capable of gathering these insights are offered to companies that are interested in their applications. This type of photo analytic technology is capable of identifying within images a number of valuable elements for companies including: products, brand logos, clothing types, facial expressions, and background scenery.

For instance, consider a fictitious scenario in which a marketing manager for a company that sells healthy fruit snack sticks decides to purchase the services of a company that has a platform that is capable of analyzing images taken by users on Pinterest. The company has identified its target market as that of younger children whose parents are looking to give their kids a tasty, but healthy snack. In reviewing their analytics reports from Pinterest of what types of images have their company’s product in it they start to see another group of people who value their product. Specifically, marathon runners who are taking commemorative photos of themselves post-marathon with a healthy snack on hand, to be more precise the company’s fruit sticks. As it turns out there are vitamins and nutrients in the fruit sticks that make it a perfect snack both for kids and for marathon runners. Now the marketing manager is seeing another group that he can target with his advertising dollars and in turn the company sees sales of its fruit sticks grow.

Given the sheer number of photos that are taken and shared on social media, including the increasingly popular practice of taking photos of oneself (also known as a selfie) there appears to be no shortage of data available for the analysis of images for use in a marketing context. For many companies this means the opportunity to better understand consumers and target them appropriately with relevant advertising. While the idea of having one’s photos used for these types of purposes may seem unsettling, those who are not interested in having their photos used in this way can at least take comfort in the knowledge that by marking any photo as private or choosing not to share it in the first place they are able to prevent the use of their photos in the aforementioned manner.

From a marketing management perspective here are some questions to consider:

  • The applications and value of this type of technology may be more apparent for a marketer in the B2C space, but what are some products or strategies that could possibly be used to leverage technology that analyzes photos if you were a marketer in the B2B space?
  • As a marketing manager what potential risks are there related in investing in using this type of technology? Would you accept those risks, work to mitigate them or decided to avoid leveraging this type of technology because the risks were too great?
  • How would you measure the value of an investment in type of technology? What are some key metrics that would be included?