The Blog

Brand Building Through the Looking Glass

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.


By Ed Preedy, MD for Europe, GumGum

Does any of this sound familiar? You pride yourself with keeping up with market developments, and down with the kids. You've horrified your children by posting a video of yourself on Snapchat and follow a few Kardashians on Instagram.

More to the point, you and your media agency have planned out an extensive campaign of ads across all the social media platforms it deems relevant to your brand. But the first evaluations are in and they're not looking good. And now you're confused.

We have a lot of sympathy for this position; we hear it a lot. So we commissioned some research to get a better handle on the digital motivations of 18-29 year-olds and how they relate to brand-related messages on image-focused social media platforms.

It didn't surprise us to discover quite how often these young consumers are visiting the most popular platforms – Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. 42% told us they are on Instagram at least five times a day. It’s not surprising then that close to two billion images are being shared online every day.

This validates our view of the Internet becoming a predominantly visual medium. As cyberspace (and our brains) creaks under the weight of ever-larger amounts of uploaded information, images become much more attractive; the human brain can process them 60,000 times faster than words.

While Millennials might check in consciously looking for stimulation, the desire to feel connected to others (whether conscious or unconscious) is also a very strong attraction. If they can't be with friends and family, the periscope of social media allows them to share experiences with them. This is borne out by the fact that nearly half of them only browse content posted by others – much more than the 27% who regularly post images themselves.

We also explored how these young consumers respond to brand-related communications amongst image-focused platforms. A whopping 91% have never bought anything via a link from Instagram (slightly higher than the figures for Snapchat and Pinterest). 60% actively skip ads on social media.

This insight matters to us. Our business is a unique one, specialising in creating unimposing ad slots within and next to the images hosted on digital publishers and social media platforms. The research data helps us to clarify with our clients how to approach marketing on these platforms.

Quite simply, this is about brand building, rather than immediate purchase. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram offer great potential for marketers who can tap into 'browsing hunger'. Users of these sites are keen for visual inspiration, a gift to any brand that can offer inspiring images that don't rely on explanatory text. Almost half of our sample said they only 'somewhat' pay attention to the words that accompany pictures.

All of which supports our view that marketing is increasingly becoming an image-first discipline. This presents a paradox for marketers who want to scale up their campaigns using programmatic. The usual belief is that you can either opt for data-driven, efficient marketing, or go for something more creatively customised to the context in which the ad appears.

Our image recognition technology allows for a combination of both – an ad slot booked programmatically that also takes into account the nature of the image it is next to. We exist where programmatic meets native: an interesting place with huge potential for innovation.

One thing is for certain. The appeal of images online, whether on social media platforms or the internet in general, will only increase. For marketers, the challenge is to stay relevant to the context, by planning image-focused campaigns that inspire, rather than overtly sell.

About the Author

With over 15 years’ experience in digital advertising, Ed Preedy was appointed Managing Director of Europe for computer vision platform, GumGum, in July 2016 to spearhead its operations from its London offices. Ed is responsible for leading the company’s growth across the continent, establishing new offices in the major European territories and building key partnerships with advertisers and publishers. Prior to joining GumGum, Ed worked for Capital Radio, Rivals Digital Media, Exponential and more recently InMobi. In recognition of his digital advertising expertise, Ed was awarded the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s 2012 ‘Commercial Director of the year award.’

Before You Go