How New Technologies are Shaking Up the Way We Market in the Charity Sector

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Imagery can be a powerful tool for evoking emotion. We can easily call to mind the photographs that have moved or confronted us. From the heart-breaking images documenting the tragic death of Aylan Kurdi, the young Syrian boy who drowned last autumn trying to reach Greece, to images of the devastation caused by the Ebola crisis – we all know from our own personal experience that evocative imagery can pack an emotional punch. The power of imagery to educate, to provoke conversation and to drive change is unquestionable.

Visual storytelling goes back to our caveman years, and to this day is still a large part of how we communicate with one another. Images create a deeper more emotional engagement than other mediums, such as text or speech. The human brain can process images an incredible 60,000 times faster than text and 90 per cent of information that enters the brain is non-verbal. Because this is so, charities, can use imagery to create impact.

Images are frequently used by charities as a key part of their marketing strategy to build empathy with their cause and, in turn, raise awareness and rally people to take action. With continuous innovations in technology, and a proliferation of channels available to marketers, there is more opportunity than ever for charities to move their audiences to care.

Visuals have the unique ability to transcend language barriers and offer a universal understanding that other media simply cannot achieve. This has been put into practice most recently by the Global Goals initiative that aimed to reach seven billion people – the world’s population – in seven days, spreading the message of 17 ambitious targets set by the United Nations – from ending extreme poverty through to securing gender equality. As part of this campaign we curated 17 images, one for each of the UN’s goals that, at a glance, drew attention to these important issues in a unique and unexpected way. This is a great example of the ability of imagery to overcome cultural divides, socioeconomic conditions and geographical locations, identifying with people wherever they are in the world.

But what if new technologies enabled charities to build on these experiences making them more evocative, lifelike and immersive? It’s an exciting time, with new formats such as virtual reality, augmented reality and 360 degree imagery doing just that.

While many charities are already using imagery to tell compelling stories, some are now exploring how this can be enhanced through technology to build even deeper connections.  A great example of this is the Battersea Cats and Dogs Home’s #LookingForYou campaign. As part of the campaign, those passing by were handed a leaflet with an RFID tag embedded within it. A nearby billboard was then activated and an animal on the billboard would directly interact with the passer-by following them along the street. What made this campaign so successful was the use of disruptive technology and imagery to directly engage and interact with people. It felt personal and impossible to ignore because the image was going one step further and interacting with you.

Technology combined with the right imagery results in action. Miseroer, a relief organisation, developed an interactive poster billboard that not only allowed quick and simple donations through a swipe of a credit card, but immediately showed the donor what their money was helping the charity achieve. Examples include: cutting the tied hands of modern slavery, as well as breaking bread to feed the hungry. Such campaigns will no doubt continue to evolve alongside new technologies, allowing charities to build engagement with a cause and drive direct action.

As technologies continue to evolve, we can expect to see rich imagery combined with immersive technologies that ultimately lead to more effective and moving marketing campaigns. The critical emotional connection between the individual and the campaign will only be further strengthened as visuals become more immersive, real and affecting. We will be able to engage people with images that truly move the world.

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