2014 is the year of the mobile and for the first time we are posed to see mobile internet usage overtake fixed internet access. Brands are now beginning to shift their marketing focus towards a more mobile first outlook, with greater importance being given to visual communication.  

As part of our research on the use of sensory imagery across advertising, we met with James Chandler, Global Mobile Director at Mindshare to find out how marketers are using mobile and how brands are speaking visually to consumers.

S&T: How are brands using imagery on mobile devices to connect with consumers and what progressions in technology are driving this?

The most influential advancement in mobile that relates to imagery has to be the higher resolution and larger screens that brands are now able to utilize. This is particularly pertinent with FMCG companies that have the power to showcase very detailed images of the products they sell; two great examples is John Lewis and M&S. Both these brands have completely adopted the tablet and mobile to deliver a much richer experience for consumers, by providing mouth watering images alongside other content (recipes etc) to create a fantastic brand experience.

Imagery is also being used to create deeper connections between a brand and its consumers – the tablet is an incredible canvas to build content on as users are physically touching the brand through the app, both literally and figuratively. The tablet allows brands to create a gestural interaction with consumers and strong imagery is really driving this. Consumers are now thinking differently about brands as they can interact with them, touching and exploring the brands world through a mobile/tablet experience.

S&T: How do you think brands can create a more meaningful experience on mobile?

Mobile allows brands to create immersive experiences through the levels of interactivity within their content. This is being achieved by taking out flat adverts and messaging, replacing them with interactive and engaging content. An example of this can be seen with the SSENSE I Think She Ready music video, where clickable ads and hot spots during the video allow the user to ‘shop the video’ and explore content around particular clothes – materials, design etc.

Imagery plays an important role in this type of interaction as it acts as the doorway that leads users to other forms of content, supporting and defining how users are interacting with their mobile device.

Adverts typically do one of two things, getting a user to perform an action of some kind (like a page, enter a competition) or getting a user to think or act differently about something. Mobile is changing this as it allows a brand to do both simultaneously, blurring the physical and digital lines.

S&T: What about multiple screens? How does brand interaction play out across multiple devices?

Social/mobile data is shaping how we think about TV and is enhancing the experience a user has with a brand through social commentary and sharable moments. Technological advancements within AR also allow ads to jump off the page and into the homes and devices; turning national adverts into personalized adverts.

Overall multiple devices are giving brands even more opportunities to create cross-platform communications and also give brands a better understanding of how consumers interact with the content.

S&T: What does it take for brands to create an immersive and sensory experience on a mobile?

Mobile is the same as any other channel in terms of what the marketing activity is trying to achieve; users are being told and sold a story and mobile has become a fantastic way of telling that story. Brands need to pay attention to the mindset a consumer is in, making context the king over an individual piece of content.

If brands are able to fully realize how to effectively use the context of different situations to reach out to consumers they will ultimately reach the consumer at the time and place that matters, therefore creating a deeper sensory experience that is using the world around them.

S&T: How are you seeing visual content being used on mobiles and how has this changed as mobile marketing has grown?

As mobile marketing has grown we are seeing users interacting more with glance-able content. Consumers are checking their mobiles over 70 times a day and many don’t have time to spend reading heaps of editorial content on a mobile device. This is where visual content comes into play. Applications are now moving away from descriptive content and are now replacing them with visual cues to prompt user engagement.

We are increasingly seeing brands using purely visual content to convey messages through various image based social platforms such as Snapchat. This is leading us to the point where brands now don’t need words to convey messages via mobiles and can solely communicate through imagery alone.

Squeezing text on a screen just doesn’t work anymore and through responsive design we are now seeing text being filtered out according to what screen you are viewing the content on; the smaller the screen the less text and more imagery.

S&T: Do you think consumers react the same to visual content compared to text on a mobile device?

I think consumers respond better to visual cues compared to long form copy on any digital device. Visual content is coming of age and consumers are expecting to be interacted with through imagery and videos. The popularity of apps such as Instagram is testament to this, boasting over 200 million monthly active users and a 25% user growth on mobile from December 2013 – May 2014, which is staggering. Brands are now utilizing this but it shouldn’t be limited to existing platforms, brands really need to start creating this level of interaction and visual content on their own sites and content assets.

S&T: Is it more powerful for brands to use imagery or text on mobiles when trying to convey brand messages?

When thinking about how best to engage a consumer via a mobile it is important to think about how this content will appear on the screen. Brand collateral via a mobile is much more valuable as a brand messaging will take up the whole screen – so a users attention will focus solely on that piece of communication. This holds the same, if not more, value for brands as a TV ad, billboard or full magazine spread as mobile effectively allows a brand to takeover the device with the content.

Naturally brand messages through imagery that make use of the full screen will deliver a more impactful message to users, of course this does depend on the type of message you are trying to convey!

S&T: How can brands make better use of visual content via a mobile?

Brands need to start thinking about mobile first; what I mean by this is that mobile needs to be considered before anything else – brands should step back and think ‘what can we create that will work on mobile’ before any ideation or creation. This allows a brand to create more interactive content that puts imagery at the centre, in terms of what will work on mobile and how images will direct users around other content.

Mobile devices allow a brand to forge one-to-one dialogue with a user that can be personalized for each individual. Visual content should be used by brands to create customized communication based on things the individual already likes and consumes.

As imagery is driving interaction and engagement brands need to make better use of the data available to discover what imagery will be appropriate for different users in different situations.

Key Takeaways

1. Think mobile first – what can it do that TV, desktops and print can’t
2. Context – one size will not fit all, need to understand where and when to interact with consumers
3. Cross device communication – brands need to think about how they are talking to consumers and on what device – laptops are not going away – people are in different mindsets with different devices and situations
4. Real estate on the screen – taking over a device compared to print ads or desktop – very expensive on these but much cheaper on mobile – easy to have the whole brand on the screen
5. What does the data tell you – data tells us the consumers story – we need to fully understand what and why people are consuming content

Browse an edit of high-impact, sensory images here