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The rise of image storytelling

It’s that time of year when a myriad of predictions are floated and debates rage on which hot new trend will characterise 2013. However, if past years of technology and media innovation and adoption have taught us one thing, it is that to define 2013 as ‘the year of’ anything is to oversimplify. What we can do is look to certain key shifts in consumer and brand behaviour that started to gather pace in 2012 and explore the potential impact we expect them to have on both people and businesses this year.

In a series of posts we wanted to look at a range of trends and implications for brands. The first of these is the rise of image storytelling.

Our love of the image is nothing new and the photograph for most people has always been a way to preserve a moment in the past. However, in 2012 we saw a significant shift from images being reflections of moments in the past to the expression of the now. We are now not only capturing memories, but using photographs to communicate what we’re doing right now, where we are and how we feel in real time.

The growth of social networks and the proliferation of cameras built into smart phones which have instant sharing capabilities are the key catalyst to this shift to real time image storytelling. Every two minutes, we take more pictures than the whole of humanity in the 1800s. 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day. In just 2 years, Instagram has gained over 100m users globally and 5 billion photos have been shared during that time. It has a growth rate of about 10 million users on average per month and 5 million photos are uploaded each day. It almost seems obvious that the most popular tweet in history was an image.

 

 

However, it isn’t all about the static image. 2012 saw a resurgence in popularity of GIFs. GIFs are a functional, small-file-size way of bridging the gap between image and video, but, they also offer a type of artistic expression. The Olympics generated a plethora of GIFs that were brought into mainstream media and there are 1000s of Tumblrs dedicated to the art form. For brands, GIFs and their evolution Cinemagraphs and now the 6” Vine, the newly launched micro-video sharing app. from Twitter, are great opportunities to put the image at the heart of communications in more creative ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This shift to real time image sharing has some important implications for brands and some are already capitalising on this. Burberry for example use behind the scenes activity to give fans an inside view of a closed world, with a thriving Pinterest page and real time Instagram feed during a fashion show and shoots. Free People, owned by Urban Outfitters, goes further by integrating customers’ Instagram photos on their product pages. They attach individualised hashtag information cards to specific jeans and then encourage customers to take picture of themselves in the product and tag them with #myfpdenim, allowing potential buyers the ability to see how a pair of jeans looks in real life. It isn’t all fashion though. General Electric’s Tumblr blog is very popular. Every image tells a story, exploring something new or interesting about technology ranging from parts of prototypes to footage of fighter planes.

In 2013 we expect to see brands increasingly use images rather than text as the primary way to engage people and tell their stories in the social space. The bravest and potentially most successful brands will be those who do this in real time and push the creative limits of the technology available.