One the strongest emerging trend we have all experienced in the last few years is a massive increase in usage of photography. Not just for the purpose of documenting and remembering events for nostalgia-filled family gatherings but rather to communicate in real-time. In fact, the core foundation of all social media is photography: There are no successful social media platforms without photo sharing at its core feature. This has impacted advertising and brand awareness strategies in a revolutionary way.

In the age of physical film, it would have been utterly ridiculous for brands to consider they could insert their message within the family photographs gathered in shoe boxes. While some failed experiment tried – free prints with branded messages in the back- no one ever thought this would be a massive advertising opportunity.

Fast forward to 2015 and mentalities have taken a full 180 degree swing. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat are fast becoming central to any advertising strategy and companies like Olapic, Curalate or Chute, as well as emerging in-image advertisers like Gumgum, Kiosked or Zentag are building impressive businesses on this opportunity. And we are only at the staring blocks.

The center of it all

With the rise of photos as a communication vehicle, one that expresses a variety of emotions much faster and stronger then any previously known medium, fast thinking brands have realized that they too can join the photo conversation and insert themselves as a participant. While social media platforms control where the conversation happens, no ones dictate what the conversation is. Using the same tools as their consumers, brands started posting – or recycling already posted images – to “photo communicate” with their existing and potential clients. Today, anyone who has any type of business, big or small, product or service-based, communicates via photos, wether on their websites, blogs, social media or direct marketing. Photos are at the epicenter of every brands’ communication.

Who’s in charge ?

Photos come from a variety of sources.They are either self-produced, licensed from independant pros and stock agencies or borrowed from UGC. And because of its novelty, most of the decisions around what image is posted where and when comes from a variety of diverse sources within the same company: An intern or junior employee might be in charge of a few social media accounts while the art director decides which image is placed on the home page, the webmaster will pick those that go on the blog and the CMO will give the final green light for a national ad campaign. The result is a completely disconnected image strategy which can quickly lead to image conflict, consumer confusion and overall poor experience. The more images are used, the bigger the chance of an eventual complete disconnect.

Not the type of reaction a brand wants to see. Photo by cuellar
Not the type of reaction a brand wants to see. Photo by cuellar

The rise

Thus soon, we will see the creation of a much needed CVO, Chief Visual Officer. The role of the CVO will be to oversee and manage all images (and videos) activities across a brand to maintain consistency. In other words, managing and protecting the brand’s visual identity across all mediums. Wether it is hiring the same photographer for social media and ad campaign ( for style continuity), or building a rock solid and highly curated input/output UGC tool for all departments to use, or deciding what color should dominate this quarters’ visual communications, as well as deciding which emerging photo platform to adopt, the CVO ( Chief Visual Officer) will have to carefully orchestrate the right content for the right medium, maximizing each platform, while keeping visual messaging on track. While the same image cannot be used for a blog post and Snapchat, for example, a unity in visual messaging will greatly enhance a brand’s identity. People could recognize a brand just by the style of photos, regardless of where they encounter it.  And with visual analytics, what used to be a gut guessing game will soon become an almost perfect science.

To our knowledge, this is not an existing position in any company…yet. However, and probably triggered by frequent mishaps and overwhelming workloads, we wouldn’t be surprise to see it emerge within the next year or two. Expect large and medium brands in fashion, cosmetics, lifestyles and the energy drinks space to be the first to jump in.

Photo by Loozrboy

Photo by cuellar

Author: Paul Melcher

Paul Melcher is a highly influential and visionary leader in visual tech, with 20+ years of experience in licensing, tech innovation, and entrepreneurship. He is the Managing Director of MelcherSystem and has held executive roles at Corbis, Stipple, and more. Melcher received a Digital Media Licensing Association Award and is a board member of Plus Coalition, Clippn, and Anthology, and has been named among the “100 most influential individuals in American photography”


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