Using photos to market to millennials can be extremely effective – if you’re authentic, know how to speak the language, and make strategic partnerships. In this blog post, we explore how affiliate marketers can use images and tools (such as Rakuten Marketing’s Curate image publishing tool) to effectively market to millennials.

A picture is worth 1000 words, but what’s the marketing value behind those words? If you’re an affiliate publisher or advertiser, that value could be relatively high. That’s because images are crucial to getting the attention of the biggest age demographic – millennials.

In this blog post, you’ll learn how millennials communicate with images, the value an image brings, and how you can partner with or start promoting products and brands through images. Read on to learn more!

1. Millennials Communicate with Images

In an August 2016 study found that the top three social media platforms for millennials were Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

It is not a coincidence that these platforms, as well as the other popular social media platforms millennials use, are all image-intensive. That’s because, for millennials, images aren’t a distraction from the message – the pictures themselves are the message. Images are a language that millennials are fluent in. Translating your brand into images that speak to millennials is a key strategy to winning their business.

“Visual platforms such as YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram are highly influential in shopping,” writes eMarketer in their US millennial Shoppers 2017 report. Nikki Karai Renaud, the CMO at Zazzle who was interviewed for the report, was quoted saying “ ‘for millennials, we found that the visual piece – honing our photography and creative assets – helped attract and convert [this generation].’ ”

In other words – not only are millennials taking, posting, and sharing images, these images are a major influencer in their decision to purchase a product.

But it can’t just be any picture of a product. The picture needs a key ingredient: authenticity.

2. Images Need Authenticity to be Effective

What makes millennials respond to the images they see on these social media platforms? First and foremost, the authenticity of the images behind them.

millennials are some of the greatest detectives when it comes to identifying what’s meant to feel genuine and what’s an advertisement – and they crave the former. According to a study by Marketing Daily, 63% of consumers say that repeated, generic messages from brands are irritating to them. And that’s all demographics – for millennials, authenticity is even more important.

Millennials value authenticity because it enables them to identify with a brand and their products, rather than feel like a brand is speaking at them. When it comes to using images in marketing, those images need to feel natural – like something a millennial could have taken themselves or pictured themselves participating in. Per an infographic on VisionCritical, “today’s always-on social and mobile savvy consumers are no longer willing to accept inconsistencies between the image a brand projects and the reality of what it represents.”

The sentiment is clear – if you want millennials to get on board with your images, they need to feel authentic. Who better to provide that authenticity than content creators, the publishers that customers love because they’re authentic.

3. Translating Your Brand Through Images in Affiliate Marketing

When looking to establish authenticity in your content, why not look to some of the most authentic content creators you can partner with? Content publishers and influencers aren’t just naturals at using authenticity to build followers and help convert visitors into shoppers – their entire publishing model is built on the concept.

Rakuten Affiliate Network’s product discovery platform, Curate, allows publishers to authentically build product showcases from their favorite brand partners. This tool gives content publishers and influencers the freedom to design a beautiful product collection in addition to basic affiliate text links. With each uniquely designed showcase, Influencers visually relate to their audience which, in turn, increases engagement and loyalty among readers.

Brands recognize how important authenticity is when identifying and partnering with influencers – 75% of them say that quality and authenticity of content is the most important factor, according to a study by eMarketer. Likewise, influencers (and content marketers) know that being themselves and upfront is the most important factor in keeping an audience engaged with them. This extends to all content – from blog posts to videos and, yes, even images. Many influencers will use pictures of themselves posing naturally and in normal, everyday situations with a product to show the product’s functionality, what they like about the product, and how they use the product.

This is a no-brainer: when looking to establish authenticity, look to content creators and influencers who build their entire publishing model on the concept!