Image advertising is an approach to advertising that is designed to cultivate positive attitudes about a brand, company, or concept. Rather than advertising a product based on what it does, image advertising promotes ideas about a brand, creating mental images for consumers that will encourage them to buy the product. This type of advertising is most commonly used to sell products with numerous similar competitors. Since the products cannot be distinguished by what they do, advertisers focus on distinguishing them by creating evocative images for consumers.
With image advertising, companies design campaigns that are intended to appeal to people with certain values and lifestyles. A company might promote a brand or product family with associations such as reliability, luxury, affordability, or more abstract concepts like fun and flirtation. When consumers are exposed to the advertising, it builds brand awareness, creates familiarity, and contributes to the development of a mental picture of the brand or product.
Consumers exposed to image advertising generally have ideas about products even if they are not familiar with product specifications. When consumers are faced with purchasing decisions, these ideas come to mind and the consumer may be drawn to specific products and brands. This translates into increased market share for the company doing the promoting.
Companies typically mix their advertising strategies. A beer company running an image advertising campaign to get consumers associating their product with fun outdoor activities, for example, might also run a product campaign touting the smooth flavor and high quality of the beer. Running simultaneous campaigns covers more advertising ground and embeds a brand in the minds of consumers. People who may not be won over by one advertising style a more likely to respond to multiple campaigns.
When developing an advertising campaign based on images about products, companies use considerable care. They want to be sure that the campaign is consistent with other messages sent about the same product and that it appeals to the right demographic. They also consider the campaigns being run by opponents, as they do not want to have an ad campaign that is too similar to a campaign for a rival product. Image advertising is used to distinguish between products that may be hard for consumers to differentiate, and thus campaigns that blend together in memory are not desirable. Companies also evaluate what has and has not worked for them in the past, and consider existing attitudes and beliefs about their products.