There are 3 basic types of visual communications:
A. Those we have to consume.
B. Those we choose to consume.
C. Those we are coerced into consuming.
A. Those that we have to consume include: traffic signals, warnings, emergency services etc. We are legally obliged to follow their instruction. They tend to be symbolic in nature. Quick and to the point. No faffing about.
Usually the consumer of the message doesn’t have time for fancy wordplay and imagery. Nor is it needed. You don’t have to coerce someone if the alternatively is a hefty fine or a few weeks in the pokey.
B. The second type of communications are those that we choose to consume such as books, films, tv, music, internet, etc.
You may say movies advertise (coerce) using posters and TVCs, but they don’t usually go beyond the actual content of what you will be viewing. So, in essence, it’s still a personal choice as the content in each case will be unique.
In a sub-category to this are newspapers and magazines.
What people choose – The Sun or The Guardian usually depends on personal taste, moral and ethical viewpoint and social class. There is a large element of coercion with these types of media as they are usually competing against similar products. As you will see with publications like Hello, OK, Grazia etc. Or The Sun, The Star and The Mirror.
C. The third type of communications are those that the consumer is coerced into consuming, such as advertising. We interrupt what people choose to consume with our sales messages. People think they are making a choice but if we used only the methods described in Type A, that would be monologue. (You see this method used more in retail advertising.)
If we only use Type B then you have purely content – no differentiation. (Most brands aren’t in the privileged position of being unique.)
So we have to opt for a different method which may incorporate elements of Types A and B. But alone they aren’t enough. A lot of brands products and services can’t differentiate from their competitors.
This is where creative strategic planning comes into play. Finding that unique insight that blends brand truth with consumer necessity.
Learn from what people choose to consume. Learn from what people have to consume. Learn about your brand. Learn about the market. But most importantly, learn how to make your client’s brand as important to them as their favourite book, movie or friend.
Then make it fit tighter than a sado-masochist’s jim-jams.