Photo analytics – watching your brand in the wild

Often the most important and cherished commentaries are accompanied with visuals. Take for example newspapers; a blown up photograph accompanies every front page story. Images, whether in the form of paintings, drawings, photography, or digital illustration, have power and influence the written word do not possess. Even in an electronic world, image and graphic content become increasingly more prominent.

With the invention of mobile phones equipped with camera and Internet capabilities, everyone has been made a commentator. This, combined with the ability to share image content, has helped establish a unique, constant narrative that reflects individuals and their community. It is quoted that nearly 2 billion pictures are put on social media per day, and these are the most viewed content type. (See the infographic below for research on images in media.) The popularity, and sheer mass number of images, makes it imperative for brands to explore today’s visual commentary.


Blogger Chaitanya Chunduri addresses images’ popularity in her blog post “Selfies As 24×7 Focus Groups”. In her post she highlights a study called Selfiecity. The Selfiecity project analyzed “selfies” taken in five cities around the world. It found that the proclaimed “selfie” constitutes only 3-5% of images they analyzed. The other 96% (roughly) were of other things, but what are these other things and how do we measure them? To find these answers marketers can use the same tool the Selfiecity study used— image recognition.

Although it is not a new form of technology, image recognition has greatly advanced, allowing a marketer to analyze user-generated material. With tools like Ditto— “a visual recognition engine” that allows for photo analytics— marketers no longer have to hold focus groups or distribute surveys to determine how consumers are using their products. The creator of Ditto, David Rose comments, “Through this digital ethnography, we are able to see how people are using brands’ products in the wild”. Check out the video below to see an overview of how Ditto works.

However, some are skeptical about how effectively the analytical information being collected will be used. James McQuivey, a consumer products analyst, says in response to the tool, “Sure it’s cool to get a report about the feeling that people are getting about your brand, but after one or two years of gathering this data, they will want to know how this helps them move product or get more subscribers. It is up to Ditto to push companies to be innovative with this data so that it does move the needle.”

Chunduri claims that picture analytics are not useful for companies that only want to increase market share, it is for companies “measuring their consumers’ pride and enthusiasm.” In addition to pride and enthusiasm, it can also find consumer habits that may have been unrecognizable by traditional web analytics and consumer purchase tracking. This can been seen in some of the patterns Ditto has already found, such as the fact that people will eat Chobani yogurt during their morning commute by sitting it in the car cup holder.

Picture analytical tools will not only be successful, but also become a necessary part of future marketing analytic efforts. Why? They can help a brand understand the rhetoric around a product and culture better and faster than ever before. Companies now have the ability to passively see glimpses of the role their brand and products play in the lives of the consumer, and how it differentiates throughout regions, cultures, and nationalities. This insight is very valuable and should be used to drive decisions made about the product and marketing communication efforts. For example, the information about Chobani yogurt eaters could shape product package design; how can we make our packaging more functional for those who eat yogurt in the car? However, in order for tool to work companies have to accept the information they learn and adapt their strategies. As Seth Godin advises, “Don’t measure anything unless the data helps you make a better decision or change your actions. If you’re not prepared to change your diet or your workouts, don’t get on the scale”.

So, if you are prepared to see how your product is “being” in the real world and are prepared to change your communication strategy to match or indulge those realities, then picture analytics  could be of great benefit, but tell me what you think. Have you ever used picture analytic tools? Were they helpful? How can marketers use picture analytics to its full benefit?

-Caroline R.

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