How Powerful Are Images?

by: James Pearce

Existing in a world without constant images streaming across our faces and racing across our many screens would seem nearly impossible to imagine. We are overexposed to images in technology and this has perhaps removed us a bit from the reality of our lives. Images hold a powerful presence in the lives we lead today. Perhaps sometimes they are a bit much?

I was reading Don DeLillo’s book Mao II today. In the text, DeLillo writes: “In our world we sleep and eat the image and pray to it and wear it too.” DeLillo published this novel in 1991, but his words ring so true today that I thought he was talking about our lives. What he speaks of is really an exercise in branding. Marketers want their brand images to resonate with us. This resonance is important because it leads us to make deeper commitments to the products these marketers and their companies sell to us. We wear the images on t-shirts and on hats. We dream about the messages. We do all but physically eat the images.

My question is this: when have we overstretched branding to the breaking point? What DeLillo alludes to is that we are slaves to these images, to these visual messages presented to us that have no purpose to our true lives beyond the moment in most cases. Instead of watching the live images that are before us represented by the people and places in our lives, we are cast into the imaginary world of brands where anything can be true and perhaps make us happier than we already were. Supposedly we can solve it with the right product or series of products. This is, at least, what companies want us to believe.

I myself believe that we can (and sometimes do) reach what I’d call overstretching points when marketing products. Once we build our audiences, we keep hitting them over the head repeatedly with our message (supposedly so the customer won’t forget about us). We send them coupons they may not want at that particular time and hope they’ll be saved long enough to use. We present them with opportunities for purchase that may not fit when they need our brand. What we must consider is that our brand can become part of the noise, not what we want.

When we send our images forth in search of brains to perceive them, we don’t have poor intents. After all, we have a brand or brands to promote, sell, accentuate. We want people to be fulfilled by our products and services because if they are, we feel awesome about our work as marketers. However, we might take the time to think about overexposure. How can we adjust our thinking so that our customers still love our brands, but love them at all the right moments and without entering the noise that drones into one sound of confusing perception?

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