If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a picture with words worth?
As a cartoonist, I find it fun to play with images. Wordless comics allow me to let the images tell a story, and invite the reader to interpret it anyway they’d like. Pictures can be powerful. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
But without text, it’s hard to know which “thousand words” will pop into a viewer’s head.
For example, many people agree that the Mona Lisa is a wonderful painting, but it means different things to different people. One person may reflect upon the artist’s skill, while another may be struck by her lack of eyebrows. Still another may start thinking of Italy, and wouldn’t it be nice to visit there one day?
Then why not just use words?
For advertising purposes, plain text can be easily passed over. Think of transaction ads in a newspaper. When I worked at Santa Maria Times, I’d have to take a small paragraph of plain, black-and-white text, surround it with a thin black border and place it on a page with 37 other small paragraphs of text surrounded by black borders. It’s easy for one small box of text to be swallowed up by the larger sea of text that is a newspaper page. If there isn’t something visually distinctive about one of those small paragraphs of text, it’s easy to miss.
An image, or at least a graphic treatment of the text, can be the perfect attention getter—a barker that brings customers to the main attraction.
A graphic treatment can be the use of different fonts, font sizes, shapes, and color. For instance, when working with a transaction ad, I could put KEY WORDS in all caps or a bold typeface. Just that little distinction can be enough to make it POP and attract more attention.
But what if the ad was larger and used a photo? Let’s say it’s an ad for a special, stain-resistant carpet.
What did you just think about when you read, “Wine?” Did you think about a formal dinner? Or about the dish you made last night with cooking sherry? Or maybe that the author of this blog is easily distracted and wishing they had a glass of wine right now? Okay, that’s another discussion. Simply put, a word is powerful.
What about a wine stain in a carpet? If you saw an image of a wine-stained carpet, would you react? I know I would.
And if you put that image next to the phrase “Stain-Resistant Carpet,” well, that’s a whole story right there.
Image Says: “What would you do if this happened?”
Text Says: “I can help!”
The image with the text gives you a question and an answer. This is the power of storytelling.
What if, instead of a newspaper, we’re placing a magazine ad. Adding the variable of color to your cast of typography and image can play a big part in drawing in your potential client. We can’t forget digital media and the ability to harness the power of motion. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a video worth? It’s been predicted that video could even replace written words and pages.
Text, images, and video are all tools you can employ to tell a story. The trick is finding the correct balance of these tools to ensure your information is found by someone who can use it. That’s the key to successful marketing.