Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When a picture is really worth more than a thousand words?

A picture is really worth a thousand words.
Advertising, on its most simple and basic definition, is designed to selling products. Through catalogs, brochures, flyers, POP materials, print ads, outdoor billboards and other graphic products, companies communicate to their target audiences the products they do offer, their features and pricing proposal, when it’s neccessary.

For years I have heard the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" and for me has always made a lot of sense and I’ve taken it as a rule. In any given graphic proposal, pictures or images composition must convey a clear and specific message or, in any case, properly complement the contents of the text accompanying the images.

These two elements, graphic proposal and text should always maintain a dynamic equilibrium: Too much of one and to little of the other, and the message could go straight to the trash can.

We have always taken customer's participation for granted.

In any case, we have always taken for granted that the target audience can understand the message we are broadcasting. Whether the photo contains it all, or that the corresponding text would clarify any doubts the potential customer might have, the client, the audience has always been taken as an active participant in the message, at its full capacity.

When I receive catalogs by mail, or when I see a magazine ad that catches my attention, I’ve always been able to read the written content and fully understand the offer proposed by the company and, from that point, make a decision.

So the saying that "a picture is worth a thousand words" has always had kind of a soft meaning. Certain, but soft.

At the end, I always had the written content whenever the graphic proposal wasn’t clear enough, or did not transmit a completely clear message.

What happens when the barrier is the language itself?

This weekend I was visiting my sister in Hannover, Germany. This weekend I had the opportunity to prove, in my heart, what we mean when we say "a picture is worth a thousand words"!

I've always been in countries where language hasn’t been a barrier. English or Spanish, I can manage myself quite well in both, except in a very few instances with English words or phrases with a very strong local color. I hadn’t had problems understanding the content of any advertising.

However, I don’t speak, read or write Deutsch and obviously don’t even understand it a little bit. When I arrived at Bremen airport, where my sister was going to pick us up, I began to feel a strange anguish, because few people there did speak fluid English and not even mention Spanish, so my options were being reduced to just one: Deutsch.

And since I don’t speak Deutsch at all, you can imagine now what my situation was.

I began to search for images.

I found myself desperately searching for images. Graphic symbols. Icons. Words like Ausfahrt, Parkplatz or Lebensmittelgeschäft meant absolutely nothing to me. But the symbols, for example, the little guy walking to the door, showed me where the exit was.

The final test I had it in the small supermarket in Hannover. I had to do some shopping by myself, while my sister stayed in the car with the kids. I then took the printed catalog with offers that stores usually give away at the entrance and, as I could, I began to connect pictures with their corresponding prices so that I could be able to make sure I was buying what I needed and have an idea as to how much money I was going to spend.

In fact, upon arriving at the cash register, I didn’t understand a word the cashier told me but the number indicated on the digital display of the register itself made clear for me how much money I did have to give him. Again, I was depending on graphics to understand the message.

When designing your advertising materials, take this barrier into consideration.

That's why (and when) a picture is truly worth more than a thousand words. Because if the person on the other side can’t read what you write, your graphic proposal has to be clear enough to deliver all the basic information you need. Do it otherwise, and the message will be lost.

Don’t take it for granted that the other person will be able to read the message on its entirety. In my case, a clear and simple graphical approach helped me make my purchases with no problem.

And it also helped the company, NP Niedrig Preis, to serve an additional customer and bring in more money.

Don’t let your message get lost on any barriers. Make sure it’s always clear enough to be effective even if the customer isn’t able to read it.

Keep in mind a picture is truly worth more than a thousand words. At the end, your goal is to sell, right?

Related post: Reciprocation and influence: Why do we share content?

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