As consumer habits constantly change, eCommerce studios feel responsible to produce content that meets transitioning expectations and speaks to the audience's needs. Studios are high-volume enough as it is, so how do they respond to behavioral trends and new demands while still generating the same high volume of product images?
"We know we need our assets to take us further, but we also have to create them more frequently than we used to," says Lindsay More Nisbett, a partner, and brand director at The Line Studios.
Lindsay has seen the industry from several vantage points-agency art director, in-house talent, leadership with early e-commerce retailer Gilt, and now partner for a commercial studio-so she knows the demand for image versatility and the constraints on creatives who produce it. That's why Daniel brought her to The Creative Operations Podcast to discuss versatility in an age of volume.
As always, you can stream the episode from our website or from fine purveyors of fantastic pods. Find it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and more. But for more details read on.
Think Bigger Than Front, Back, Detail
So we need to make more images and also more versatile ones? Yes, but let's make it tougher still-we need those images to embody the brand," they need to really represent the brand itself and not be so simple and not be so transactional," Lindsay says.
While adding another layer of objectives seems to further complicate the challenge for studios, that's not necessarily the case. The more brand-reflective your images are, the more cross-functional potential they have.
"That imagery doesn't just live on the PDP anymore," Lindsay says. It's serving the marketing team, appearing on social media, and so on. We're seeing more brand specificity and multi-functionality given to seemingly standard shoots, leading to images that truly are assets for multiple teams.
Prepare More, Not Less, to be Agile
Note that agility isn't the same as ambivalence. Image versatility isn't about creating generalized images with a loose idea that could later be repurposed. There's planning and discussion that goes into shooting for agility.
Agility is also more than being nimble on an image-by-image base; it also about bringing a multi-use focus to the planning of an entire shoot or campaign.
"That way, during however many shoot days you have to capture that collection, you have a very well planned out shoot, and I think that is the core of what we talk about when we talk about agile assets," Lindsay says.
"Then, throughout the day, as long as it's well planned out in advance, your shot list is telling you, 'OK, these 10 pieces, we're going to do a quick TikTok video with the model,' you know?"
However many shoot days you have to capture [a] collection, you have a very well planned out shoot...that is the core of what we talk about when we talk about agile assets
Get Low-Cost Contextual Details From User-Generated Content
One way to get agile shots is by turning to user-generated content and elevating it in your brand's presentation. What these images lack in optimization they compensate for in shareability, so incorporate them into your overall agile strategy.
"A professional photo still carries a lot of weight to really understand what you're buying, to get the color, the texture," Lindsay says. "All of that kind of isn't going away, in my opinion, or being replaced with user-generated content. But user-generated content does add that sort of really awesome component and also, from a brand perspective, builds a community."
User-generated content does add that...really awesome component and also, from a brand perspective, builds a community.
Brief Influencers with Agility in Mind
Want to combine the shareability of user-generated images with the stylistic direction of studio work? Take a new, more prepared approach with your influencer content.
"It's important that, as a brand, you're briefing them properly, you know?" Lindsay reminds. "They need to understand your brand values, brand aesthetic, and what you're looking for. We can create really in-depth briefs so that they know what you're looking for, so you're not just kind of sending stuff out and hoping it comes back within your brand voice and vision."
Brand Dictates Control, or Lack Thereof, in Agility Approach
One difficulty in using user-generated and even influencer content is the reduced control your studio has over outcomes. Yes, you can retouch images to better adhere to your style guide, but it's not the same as having a full-cycle ability to affect a photograph.
"The difficulty, when we talk about trying to make assets and content and creative that's more agile, is that it comes back to planning and really having a clear idea of what your marketing campaign is going to look like," Daniel says. "And then, you must be able to execute that efficiently."
That idea of integrating both studio shoots and outside content into a single campaign makes the orchestrating role of a content director or brand director all the more important, Lindsay points out. There's a need for someone to see how assets from so many inputs, and in such variance to the brand's style guide, can work in one comprehensive direction.
Build a Community That Knows the Brand Voice
So much of being agile is about entrusting an audience to pick up on the small signals that make a brand voice and to even echo that voice in their own depictions of the brand. It's fair to say, then, that a push toward agility is also a nudge toward greater audience engagement.
"I won't say it's a trend, but direct-to-consumer is so valuable, and I think more and more brands are in that space," Lindsay says. "Building that community that understands your brand voice is so important because there is so much out there. If you can find a group of influencers who get your brand voice and can amplify it for you in their own way but still under that umbrella-it's super key."
For more thoughts on agility, as well as takes on brand refreshes and strategies that yield a big-time ROI, listen to the full episode on the website, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Amazon Music.