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Photo Contest Insider Blog

The Important Role Photography Plays in Visual Branding

December 5, 2016

The rise of social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest have seen a massive shift from text-based content to visual stimulation, but how can businesses use this to their advantage?

‘Visual branding’ is a term we hear a lot these days and it is certainly the answer to this question.

For those of you who may not be so familiar with this phrase, visual branding simply refers to the look and feel of a brand. Marketing Profs delves into this definition further, explaining:

[Visual branding] establishes standards for each of the following: logo, typography, color, imagery, layouts, and formats.

Today we’ll be concentrating on how visual branding extends to imagery, with a specific focus on photography and the important role it plays in visual branding. We’ll be looking at why it’s a vital part of any business’ presence, as well as the positive outcomes which arise when a business uses photography successfully as part of their marketing.


Visual branding is crucial for businesses to survive in today’s economy

The business economy is a crowded one in today’s society, so individuals and companies must try extremely hard to stand out from the crowd. While an engaging, emotionally stimulating, and aesthetically pleasing visual brand will truly set a company up for success, a lack-luster, dull, or boring visual identity will certainly hinder a business’ chances of standing out from the rest of the pack.

Professional photographer Sally Ullman agrees, stating:

In my opinion, visual branding is the key to influencing your business…However adding photography to produce an image in one’s mind and association to the brand adds an interesting and competitive dynamic. Through the years, we have moved from a predominately text base society to a visual language society, forcing businesses to react and now speak this ‘visual language’. Businesses that are able to organize their visual brand, generally outperform their competitors.

Visual branding gives businesses a personality and ties in with their products

Similarly to people, businesses have personalities too, and it is their personality that can set them apart from the competition. While it may be easy to represent a brand’s personality and values through written content, it can be a little more difficult (yet a lot more rewarding) to portray these elements through photography.


For example, take a look at I Love Vintage Bikes, which is an online store specializing in classic vintage bikes and parts. While their product images are clean and crisp to portray each item in a way that doesn’t confuse or overwhelm the viewer, they also embrace photography to enhance other elements of their visual branding.

The background of the webshop is a black and white photograph of two professional cyclists from an era gone by, both riding classic vintage bikes. Not only does the photograph’s content emphasize I Love Vintage Bike’s products, but the old, black and white aesthetic of the photo further communicates the brand’s vintage style and aesthetic.

This image also takes pride of place on the company’s Facebook page, adding cohesiveness and tying their visual branding together across both platforms.

Speaking of Facebook, did you know that visual branding on the platform (such as photographs) constitute 93% of the most engaging posts compared with status updates, links, and even video? (source: Socialbakers).

Visual branding establishes trust and reputation

If you were to visit a website or social media page of a brand that had blurry, unprofessional, or unengaging photographs, you most likely would not follow them, let alone buy one of their products. Alternatively, when you find a business using clear, professional, and stunning photographs as part of their visual branding, you can’t help but put your trust in them and be drawn to their products and services time and time again.

When companies embrace visual branding that includes photographs of real people actually engaging with their products, it drastically increases that company’s reputation too.


Visual branding helps businesses to become instantly recognizable

When you think of the colors red and yellow, you probably think of McDonalds, whereas a color combination of royal purple and white might have you suddenly craving Cadbury’s chocolate.

This is visual branding at its best, and photographs also have the ability to make a business instantly recognizable due to its cohesive aesthetic. For example, companies related to the travel industry often use colorful and vivid photographs in their branding which make viewers feel a sense of wanderlust. Whilst scrolling through your Instagram or Facebook feed, you might instantly be able to recognize that the photograph has been posted by that company – before you even spot their name.

Marketing Profs further explains:

By establishing clear guidelines for these visual aspects of your brand, you ensure that your audience will recognize you—in every context. Think of a leading brand, like Apple or Starbucks. Part of what you’re picturing in your mind’s eye is a distinct visual style: clearly defined and scrupulously managed, regardless of the medium.

Photography plays a vital role in the visual branding of a business, and without these visual cues, companies are unable to establish trust, portray their personality, and become instantly recognizable. Therefore, without branded photography, it would be difficult for the business to survive and thrive in today’s economy.

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