The Power Of Images in Marketing: Can A Picture Really Be Worth A 1,000 Words?

Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture. Allen Ginsberg 

In 1981, when I was six years old, I lived in Sweden and a Soviet submarine stranded on a rock close to the Swedish shore. I remember two things clearly from this time.

  1. How upset the grownups were. A mix of fear and anger.
  2. The image of the gigantic black submarine stuck in Swedish waters.
Photo: TT

Photo: TT

When I was around ten years old, Barbie had an ad campaign on the back of comic books in Sweden. It was a family with a mom and a dad and two babies. The babies were twins. I looked at these images every day for months, dreaming and imagining if I could maybe get these dolls for Christmas.

In 1989 when I was fourteen years old the Chinese government cracked down on protesters in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Now, I was a bit older and understood more but what still comes to my mind when someone talks about this is the image of the man in front of the tanks. This image will forever be prevalent in many people’s minds.


1993, I was eighteen,  and I didn’t really know what to make of the Obsession advertising with a naked Kate Moss. Everybody talked about it, half were upset and half loved it. I was somewhere in the middle.

Photo: Mario Sorrenti

Photo: Mario Sorrenti


I could keep talking about images from my own life and experiences that have had an impact on me. If you think about your own life and experiences, there are images that stand out specifically to you, as well.

So what can we, as marketers, do with that information?  

Understand the importance of images in our marketing campaigns, in our content marketing strategies, and in our social media platforms.

We live in a fast paced world. Most people scan through a large quantity of material each day. Text, gifs, videos and images. They do this as they wait at the doctor’s office. They do this as they eat lunch. In front of the TV. In search of something. During their commute.

Photo: Matthew Wiebe

Photo: Matthew Wiebe

How will you get them to stop and look at what you have to offer?

Because that is what you want. You want them to stop long enough to realize that what you are offering is what they need. That what you are offering is unique and better than the thing they just scrolled by.

“Most people have a limited attention span. In an information age where data can quickly become overwhelming, people have to pick and choose among plenty of content options, all begging for their attention. This has resulted in many people skimming through content to extract what they’re looking for. When there’s a long winded post with nothing but text, it can turn many visitors off because they simply don’t have the time to read through it. However, incorporation images is a natural way to grab attention” (The Power of Images in Social Media Marketing. Sendible Insights).

A few weeks ago I wrote about music in advertising and I spoke a lot about how music makes us feel and therefore create a strong memory. The same thing goes for images. Images evoke emotion and tell you what you need to know in a faster and more powerful way than text alone can do.

“Vision is our dominant sense. Seeing takes up to 50% of your brain’s resources, making us literally hardwired to respond to images. While you can argue that text also is visual, it is the images that do a better job of reaching into our brains and affecting the intuitive, emotional parts of us” (Images Are Powerful Communicators,

Look at warning signs for example. They use images to quickly tell you what you need to know. You don’t even need to know how to read to understand.

Photo: Skitter Photo

Photo: Skitter Photo

Look at a viral gif of a cat doing something completely silly. No words, no text-still it makes people happy and it makes people stop and engage.

I will give another example of images that I remember. In 1993 Anna-Nicole Smith modeled for H&M’s Christmas campaign. The photos were displayed over gigantic billboards all over Sweden and the other Nordic countries and there were some interesting stories of people…ahem, men, crashing their cars because they couldn’t take their eyes of the images.

Photo: ScanPix

Photo: ScanPix

“In order to get attention, it is important to use images strategically. When implanted properly, images can complement and enhance your content, catch the interest of new readers, and improve your chances of getting found through organic searches” (Your Guide to Using Images In Your Content Marketing Strategy, Jayson DeMers, Forbes).

This is something I have come to notice as a writer. I can write a poem that I feel immensely proud of and that I have worked a lot on and I will get no attention at all. Then I can post the same poem with a beautiful picture and suddenly I get trice fold the attention or even more.

Photo: Jessika O'Sullivan

Photo: Jessika O’Sullivan

And when you think about how social media works today you will soon realize how important images are. Instagram grows constantly. Pintrest is huge among people interested in home décor, fashion, and arts and crafts. Tumblr where you can write a blog is mostly images anyway.

Software Advice together with Adobe did a survey of what marketers used to produce the best content for social media. As you can see in the infographic images are very important.

From Software Advice survey









One of the reasons  images are so important is that they make people feel that you are real. That you are authentic. A person behind the brand or product or service.

Why is it important to show that you are real?

Because if you are real you create a relationship with your clients or costumers.

The more virtual our lives get, the more we hunger after something genuine. What people really want now is not just a product or a service, it’s an experience. An experience that is more honest and transparent …more authentic – and businesses are going to have to keep up with growing consumer authority and give people what they want if they want to survive (Truth Will Out-Why Authenticity is the Key to Growing Your Business, James T Noble).


The world have changed a lot in the last 50 years but we humans are basically the same. We rather engage in a product or site that we feel contented to. In the old days this happened word of mouth. We bought the products or the services someone told us was good.

Today a lot of commerce happens over social media. So, we need to create this sense of being real and creating relationships without being there in person.

In social channels, people can actually “talk” to brand. They can sense the personality of the people behind the brand, and feel more connected because they’re “like” them. Rather than building a brand of stuffed shirts and gray suits, you can build a brand that’s accessible and real.(3 Can’t-Miss Tips For Optimizing Social Media Content, Kathryn Aragon).

But using images to connect and engage is nothing new. I am sure you have seen this image before.

Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the Riveter

This is Rosie The Riveter and this image have been around since World War Two and was created to encourage women to partake in the war industry. This iconic image has since then become a symbol for feminism and strong women. Last year on Halloween I saw several women dressed exactly as this image 70 years after the campaign.

You know Santa Claus. The jolly fellow in a red suit who comes at Christmas if you have been good. The fact is that the way we imagine Santa has a lot to do with a coca cola ad. Before this ad Santa Claus looked a bit different. In “A Night Before Christmas” he is described as being an elf and having a sleigh pulled by miniature reindeers. The Coca Cola Santa surely can’t be pulled by miniature reindeers. A brand has created an universal image of Santa. Surprising, right?

Coca Cola Santa

Coca Cola Santa

Apple did something brilliant with its “Think Different” campaign. Here, they used the power of famous images with very little text. They knew that these photos of strong personalities, Maria Callas, Pablo Picasso, Amelia Earhart and more, would speak loud enough without a lot of explanation.

Think Different by Apple

Think Different by Apple

By now you have probably understood  why images are important to reach people. Now I will discuss how to do it.

How to incorporate images in your social media marketing

If you are doing a long blog post or article including images in the text is a great way to break it up into shorter parts. Your reader gets a chance digest what they have read and are more likely to keep reading.

If you have your own camera or even your phone you can capture images yourself and add to your content. This will make for a good opportunity to make it personal.

But if you don’t have the time or don’t feel you have the talent to do it yourself there are several sites online where you can find free photos to use. A good site to start is BootStrapBay where you can find links to 17 sites with photos free to use.

You can start an Instagram account and post photos daily and get in contact with your customers and build and audience.

Also, remember that there are different “learners” among your audience. Some have a hard time feeling connected to written content and will prefer a photo or infographics. 

Infographics require time and effort to be effective, but they can be powerhouses for your content strategy. Containing valuable statistics and information presented in an engaging, visual way, infographics are especially good for generating social media sharing. They work without requiring any additional written content to support them, and often get republished on major media channels, and become magnets for inbound links.(Your Guide to Using Images in Your Content Marketing Strategy, Jayson De Mer, Forbes)

Infographics are images that showcase a lot of data in a picture. Instead of only writing down all your information you can make a graph or an image. As with this map-infographic. This map shows how the relative cost of a cellphone in dollars from different places all over the world. The information is easy to take in like this compared to in a table or text.

The cost of cell phones across the world by Webpage FX

Of course an infographic needs to be well done to be good. If you are interested you can try  Venngage or Inforgram, both offers free programs or apps to make infographics.

If you sell a physical product good product photos will of course make a big difference. What makes a good product photo is a huge subject in itself so I won’t dig deep into it here. But always think carefully before posting photos of your products so that you are sure the image conveys what you are and what you have to offer.

A beautiful business card can make you stand out and be remembered. There are plenty of sites where you can design and make your own.

These are just tips and ideas.

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You have to find your own unique style that mirrors you and what you have to offer.

Because in the end you have to do what you believe in.

Do you remember marketing images, perhaps from your childhood or teens?

What do you think about using images in marketing or to connect with people?

Comment below, and share!












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