Are photos really forever?

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A picture was once worth a thousand words. Today, it’s barely 140 characters. Our relationship with images is changing – while once they were seen as a precious documentation of a unique event, today they’re disposable – barely worth the bytes they occupy on our memory cards.

We live in a world where smartphones have put a high-resolution camera in every pocket and unlimited cloud photo storage is available for free. You can even buy a lapel-mounted camera that automatically takes a photos every 30 seconds. This creates an ocean of images to deal with – and it can sometimes feel like you’re drowning under the deluge. But our kids are often bobbing around happily on the surface.

I’ve seen this with my two boys. They treat the photos they send and receive on their phones as experiences, rather than artifacts. The huge number of images they exchange with their friends every day are impossible to keep and catalogue. Sure, perhaps one in a hundred, or thousand, are saved for later – but the vast majority are glimpsed for half a second and then scrolled past as new pictures arrive.

Ben Rosen on BuzzFeed recently shared a similar experience while being taught how to use Snapchat by his 13-year-old sister. “I would watch in awe as she flipped through her snaps, opening and responding to each one in less than a second with a quick selfie face,” he wrote. “She answered all 40 of her friends’ snaps in under a minute. How was this even possible?”

My boys, and Ben’s sister, are future consumers – and so clearly a shift in attitudes is required for today’s brands to communicate in this new reality. It’s going to be vital for companies to grow their pictorial output beyond a library of terrible stock photos for the media. Instagram and Snapchat are the key platforms here – both have a strong chronological focus, and the brands that are successful there understand that the content they post is temporary, and the audience doesn’t hang around.

With the Tennis Brothers brand that I’m building, I’ve found that Instagram is crucial for telling their story without lots of words & in a digestible format that fits into the schedules of the viewers. Every photo we share gets hundreds of likes and comments, and ultimately builds that strong connection that enables emotional content to supersede “empty” marketing messages. It’s all about authenticity & digestible entertaining content. Our audiences want to connect with us, want to receive our daily tennis life update – they want to be part of us. They represent thousands of brand ambassadors for years to come.

With ballooning storage in the cloud, and smartphone cameras improving at a rapid rate, it’s clear that this is a trend that won’t be slowing any time soon. The key question your company needs to answer is: how you going to avoid being left behind?

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Michael Mischker
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Michael Mischker

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