A few weeks ago Facebook rolled out colored backgrounds for iOS devices and we’ve been flooded by colorful status updates. I was sitting in my friend’s office and he wanted to show me something on Facebook so he fired up his browser, scrolled down the page and stopped, “I hate these things, I always stop and read them. Bright colors, bold white text, negative space, it’s good design.” We happened to be talking about selling photography, design and creative services so it was a perfect segue into the topic of stopping power.
“Advertising needs to cut through this competitive clutter, to reach consumers and grab their attention in likeable ways. In other words, advertising needs to have stopping power, and marketers need to know which factors influence the stopping power of their advertisements and how to assess this to improve their effectiveness.
~Rik Pieters, Michel Wedel, and Rajeev Batra in the Journal of Marketing
I’m a photographer, so I am going to talk about the stopping power of photographs and their importance in advertising. Think back to the good ole days of getting our content in print for a minute. We’d walk into the corner newsstand and peruse the shelves of magazines. We’d see familiar mastheads and maybe reach for our favorite yellow bordered one to inspect the cover. Our decision to purchase the magazine happened in an instant. It was the photograph. The cover photo had stopping power, we were already hooked, we read the headlines to reaffirm our decision to buy and read it. “A cover needs to be simple, direct and has to reach out and grab the reader,” says Steve McCurry, National Geographic Photographer.
Some of us still buy magazines from the newsstand, but most of our content is consumed using our thumbs. We scroll through our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds obsessively looking for content that interests us. Content that we are willing to take a few extra minutes to consume.
Facebook wants us to feel reconnected with our friends and family again and to differentiate itself from other social media. Through the design of the colored background status updates Facebook has created stopping power. Businesses and pages don’t have access to the colored background statuses and must rely on the stopping power of their images or, you guessed it, photography.
Last week, I had my strobes set up for a client and I asked Katie to take a photo of Agnes and I to test the lights. I uploaded it to Instagram and made it my Facebook profile pic. The image above has had more likes and interactions than most of my other content. Is it because it’s a photo of Agnes? Is it because of hair & makeup or wardrobe? Is it because it’s a brilliant photograph?
No, it has stopping power.
It doesn’t look like all the other smartphone photos, it doesn’t look like a drone shot of the ocean, it doesn’t look like a sunset or a plate of food. It stands out when people are flipping their thumb across the screen. They stop, they look, they interact.
This particular image wasn’t planned, it wasn’t intended for advertising, it was just a happy accident. The take away is that this photograph of me and my daughter reaffirmed the importance of creating images with stopping power.