The Power of Images in Marketing

by Ken Mueller on August 8, 2013 · 3 comments

Haiti relief efforts from LCBC

A version of this post originally appeared at Inspiring Generosity.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

We’ve all heard that phrase, and while the sentiment may go back centuries, it actually dates to ad man Fred Barnard, who promoted the use of images on bus signs by writing in 1921:

“One look is worth a thousand words”

And then he revised that sentiment in 1927:

“One picture worth ten thousand words”

What Barnard understood was that in marketing and advertising messages we have the ability to communicate so much more through visuals than we can through any amount of text. We’ve been there. We’ve suffered through reading (and writing) lengthy donor plea letters where the nonprofit felt they had to include every example and every bit of research.

We are a visual society, and images tell stories. Even a short video can communicate so much more than even a few paragraphs of writing. We can see emotion, we can see context. As nonprofits, we all have stories to tell and for years we’ve been telling them in the form of letters, articles, newsletters, and more. Our pleas for funds usually take the shape of a lengthy letter, laying out the very real need for our services.

The social media landscape is perfectly tailored for us to use images and video to tell our stories and better engage our constituents, whether they be donors, volunteers, or those for whom we provide services. Consider this:

  • Facebook’s Timeline is designed with visual appeal in mind, and offers all sorts of opportunities to use images creatively.
  • YouTube is the site with the third heaviest traffic in the world; a platform that promotes the creating and sharing of videos.
  • Instagram has quickly become the photo app du jour, giving everyone with a smart phone the chance to take better quality pictures.
  • Pinterest is built around the sharing of images.
  • While Google+ hasn’t taken the social world by storm, its Google Hangouts feature has become incredibly hot.

Anecdotally, I can tell you that when my clients upload either images or videos to Facebook, they have seen an increase in engagement. This is confirmed by a Digital Market Intelligence Report from Yesmail Interactive:

Facebook Image engagement


While another study from Momentus Media indicates that posting images on Facebook can generate a 200% higher interaction rate than links.

To paraphrase Barnard,

A picture is worth a thousand likes/comments/shares/pins/retweets

The reason? Images and visuals draw us in. As you post photos of the work you are doing, you can show us both the need for your work, and the results of that work. If you’re helping provide relief in the wake of a disaster, seeing an on-site video of the devastation in just one area speaks more loudly than merely telling us how many have lost their lives or have been displaced. A simple smile on the face of a child who has just received his first pair of shoes speaks volumes.


Providing visuals of your clients, volunteers, and staff is easier than it’s ever been, with smaller, more powerful mobile devices and free or inexpensive editing software. Nearly everyone has the ability to capture visuals at nearly any time, and post them to your social channels.

Give it a try. Start posting more visual elements more regularly on your social platforms and website. I guarantee you’ll begin to see more action, and if you plan it properly, it will translate into an increase in engagement, likes, followers, and possibly even donations.

Tell your story, but tell it with pictures.




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