Trend: Are Photos Replacing Text?

Posted by | July 11th, 2013

The way we communicate is changing. After mastering the blog post, the microblog, Facebook and then the 140-character Tweet, it appears that digital photos are starting to replace text altogether.

The New York Times quoted Robin Kelsey, a professor of photography at Harvard, as saying that we’re moving away from photography as a medium to record and store the past. Photography has turned into a real-time communication medium – and it appears to be overtaking text.

Consider the skyrocketing popularity of Snapchat, the app that allows users to send a photo or video, and once it is viewed, it disappears forever. These images have no longevity – they only exist in the moment. Despite that, users send 200 million images a day.

In fact, the CTIA, the trade association for the wireless industry, reports that images sent between mobile devices are on the rise, while the number of text messages continues to fall. Last year, photos and videos exchanged via mobile grew by 41%; text messages fell by about 5%.

As a parent, my husband often sends me images of my son to let me know what they’re up to – having ice cream in downtown or swinging at the park. The other week a friend texted me a picture of a freshly poured beer to gently nudge me and let me know she was waiting for me at happy hour. These images alone communicate what I need to know.

Why the shift from text to photos? Because photos capture emotion — it’s that simple. They’re easier to take, and well, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

So what does this mean for marketing? It means that brands need to use images to connect with consumers – they must think visually, socially and cross-channel.

Images cause people to react, and Instagram and Pinterest are ideal channels to showcase personality and emotion. Brands should also leverage user-generated content. An example of this is the Red Bull #summerishere instagrammin’ contest:

Now, picture all the possibilities for your brand!

How do you use photos to communicate? Do you use them more than you used to?