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SMB Marketing: The Image Opportunity

Back in the day, the primary vehicle for small businesses marketing was the yellow pages. It made perfect sense: yellow pages directories were the primary tools for consumers looking for a plumber or a local sporting goods store, and they drove business leads efficiently.

And then consumers found a better tool: the Internet and its magic-performing search engines. Type in the product or service you need — in other words, help Google understand your needs, give its algorithms a little context — and relevant business listings appear in less than a second. According to eMarketer younger people are now five times more likely to use a search engine than the old, thick print directory. Marketers have had no choice by to follow their customers online.

Of course those potential customers are using the Internet for more than just hunting down a phone number with the help of a search engine. Is there an opportunity, then, to meet likely customers even when they’re not searching?

One of the most frequent things they’re doing online is looking at pictures. By some estimates the 3 trillion-plus online images make up 40% of the pixels on the Internet. Everyday Facebook users alone add 300 million more, and Pinterest, the third most popular social network (and fastest site ever to go from zero to 10 million users), is built solely on images. Yet more evidence to support the research that says 70% of everything we do inside social media involves a photo. Big media sites report a similar trend, with some of the largest online publishers logging 60% of their total page views inside photo galleries.

The next trick for marketers is to bring the magic of SEM — an acute understanding of context — to the imagesphere, so that businesses can pluck from the trillions of images the handful that are attracting the attention of potential customers.

At Luminate, my employer, our mission is to make those 3 trillion images interactive, to enable a user to just mouse into an image and be presented with apps that deliver content and services relevant to that particular image. In order to make those apps work — say sports stats on athlete photos, apparel information on red carpet photos, or Wikipedia profiles on the people or places inside almost any photo — we need first to unpack the context of each image. That context, it turns out, is very interesting to certain marketers. The two side-by-side images above show how a retailer like Macy’s runs ads on Luminate apps when an image contains at least two apparel items that look like similar to products in its catalog. The app (and advertising) isn’t presented unless a user rolls over the invitation to “Get the Look,” so the opportunity combines visual context with a level of user intent.

Businesses of all sizes are focused on mobile strategies and social strategies — as they should be. But given the enormous consumer interest in photo content, an image strategy has become equally important. Forget about those often-talked-about thousand words, a picture may be worth much more to a business that learns how to connect its brand with the context inside it.

(This piece was originally published as a guest post on Shawn Graham’s site, which is dedicated to “marketing and strategy for badass small businesses.”)

Macy’s Ad in Miami Herald Congratulates Miami Heat on Winning NBA Title

Wait, didn’t the Mavericks win?

Macys ad in Miami Herald congratulates wrong team

“The ad runs directly under a banner headline about how badly the Heat’s point guards sucked and an all-caps header proclaiming, ‘DALLAS WINS BEST-OF-7 SERIES 4-2,” writes Miami New Times, who also got a vice president from the Herald on the phone. She called it a production error. “We weren’t going to sit and wait around for Game 7 to decide how to advertise something like this. That ad was in the system for the eventuality that the Heat ended up winning the title.”

Hometown pride or slopping newspaper publishing?

(Thanks, Pete May!)

Celebrity Endorsement in Ads Mostly Ineffective

According to an Ace Metrix study of all nationally televised ads in the first 11 months of 2010 (summarized here in Ad Age), commercials featuring celebrity pitchmen and pitchwomen generally perform worse than non-celebrity commercials. While the average TV ad contributed to an 8% lift for the brand, celebrity spots (on average) hurt brands — affecting a negative lift of 1.4%.

Ad Age data on celebrity ads

What’s going on? Ace Metrix CEO Peter Daboll speculates that relevance and social recommendations have become more important than associations with fame.

“Today’s consumer is more likely to be influenced by someone in their social network than a weak celebrity connection. Today’s consumer is informed, time-compressed, and difficult to impress, and they are only influenced by ads that are relevant and provide information. They don’t want to have products pushed at them, even from a celebrity. In fact, the data show that relevance and information attributes were key missing ingredients from most celebrity ads.”

I wonder, too, if celebrity endorsements make it easier for agencies get lazy — so confident that the famous face will sell the product that they forget to make a brilliant commercial.

Related: Back in November ChasNote asked Would you want Snooki and Rod Blagojavich endorsing your brand? For those of you fence-sitters, here’s some data to help you decide. While Tiger Woods (-30% for Nike), Martha Stewart (-21% for Macy’s), Andie MacDowell (-21% for L’Oreal) and two dozen other celebrities fared worse for their sponsors than did Snooki and Blago, both hurt the Wonderful Pistachios brand. Snooki delivered negative lift of 15% and Blago brought it down by 12%. Go, Snooki!