A picture tells 1,000 words

Do a Google image search for ‘Stomp poster’. You’ll see black-and-white photos of young dancers leaping in the air with dustbin lids in their hands. Look closely, and think about what those young people were feeling during that photo-shoot. They are full of energy, from the tips of their fingers to the tips of their toes. You can see the sparkle in their eyes, the tension in their muscles, and the wild movement of their hair. The Stomp logo is emblazoned in red across the image. In many cases, there’s no other text.

I saw some of those posters the other day — there was a series of them running up the side of the escalator at London Bridge station.

I’m a copywriter, so why was I so excited about a poster with hardly any words on it?

First, because my main hobby is dancing.

Second, because I’ve seen the show — twice — and know how well the poster sums up the performance.

And third, because I was looking for a theme for this last issue of my Write Right newsletter. I decided that, having written about writing for two years, this month I’d focus on communication without (many) words.

When I run training courses, one of the examples I use is an A5 doordrop card with a picture of a sleeping puppy on the front. When I show delegates, the reaction is usually “Awww, sweeet!”

I once heard that research shows we humans are programmed to respond like that to pictures of puppies, kittens and babies.

Top tip: Eye contact is powerful too.

The caption under the photo reads: “Fido found his insomnia was completely cured, after his owner had searched high and low, and found the right mortgage.”

Apart from being too long, that heading is a weak and feeble attempt to connect the puppy to the product.

Turning over the card, the main heading is: “Find the right mortgage designed for you!”

To go with that message, it would be better to have a picture of an artist’s palette, or a tailor measuring up a suit, or an architect with a blueprint. Even a kitten sitting on a drawing board would be a better match!

The rest of the copy is about mortgages. Nothing about dogs, insomnia, nor Fido’s owner.

A special offer is buried in there somewhere — a free review worth £295 to the first 10 bookings. That would be better pulled out in a starburst, circle or box, so it can be seen at a glance.

The only good thing about the card is that the call-to-action phone number is big, bold and easily visible. It’s hard to even find the name of the company, and there’s no logo.

If you’d like to see the real thing, please email jackie@jackiebarrie.com with ‘Show me the puppy’ as the subject line, and I’ll send you a scan.

Professional photographers know how to take a photo that sums up your message in visual form. Photographers and copywriters often collaborate to create words and pictures that enhance each other. I know plenty of great photographers that will make your marketing communications work better. Just contact me and I’ll connect you.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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