In the 21st century, ads are getting smarter. The classic approach—trying to get an ad seen by as many people as possible—is no longer the most efficient or effective way to go. There are simply too many messages competing for everyone’s attention.

That’s why so many advertisers have turned their focus towards targeted advertising. By doing some research on potential consumers, businesses can direct their ads solely towards those who are likely to be interested in them. Having access to more customer data by using new methods like image recognition can boost your brand’s marketing and give you a crucial edge over your competition.

From text to images

The old methods of research for targeted advertisements were mostly text-based. Searching through online posts for mentions of a particular brand or product is trivially easy for computers. However, these methods are limited in the amount of data that they have access to. Consumers tend not to mention most products by name (at least not when they have good things to say about them).

That’s why, rather than searching for mentions of their products in text, companies have started simply looking for images displaying their products which have been posted online.

Image identification is here to stay

The technology to automatically identify products from images not only exists—it is widely available. There are several free applications available for download which can identify objects viewed using a smartphone camera. Some newer phones even come equipped with this software already pre-installed.

One of the most popular free options is Google Lens. This free app can scan and analyze just about anything the camera is pointed at, including plants, animals, restaurant menus, constellations, and yes—products. A key feature of Google Lens is the ability to not only identify products, but quickly open up pages where those exact items can be bought online.

If this technology is already being made available to everyday consumers, it is certainly available to big companies as well. It seems very likely that in the coming years we will be seeing more and more image recognition software being used for a growing number of different applications.

Soon, there will likely be image identification software that similarly finds products in social media pictures and automatically ‘tags’ them with purchasing information. Instagram influencers already receive sponsorships from companies whose brands they use or promote in their pictures. Automatic image tagging could streamline this proces, and make money off of ‘popular’ Instagrammers who already use those brands.

But is it creepy?

The subject of data collection has been a hot topic for debate in recent years, with incidents like the Cambridge Analytica scandal raising major concerns about what constitutes private data, and how it can be used.

Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of companies going through their ‘private’ information for marketing research. Some have even taken active steps to make their data harder to obtain, by using VPNs or other encryption software. Others opt to turn off cookies or targeted ads, preferring non-personalized ads that don’t assume anything about the viewer.

However, by and large people seem to be accepting targeted ads as a fixture of internet browsing. If ads are inevitable (and with more and more sites forbidding the use of adblock, this seems to be the case), then most people would prefer that the ads they see are at least relevant to them.


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How advertisers can use this data

If a picture is worth a thousand words, and the internet contains millions of pictures, there is more data to be accessed than any person could ever explore in a lifetime. And when making decisions related to marketing, it helps to consider every scrap of relevant data you can get your hands on.

Of course, the nearly infinite amount of information to be obtained can be daunting so sift through. Analytics software like Dimensional Insight’s Diver Platform can be essential for visualizing and keeping track of it all. Its powerful business intelligence will allow you to shape the raw data into something useful that can help you make the best possible decisions.

Images posted online can tell you a lot more than simply who is using your products. You can look at how people use your product to find better ways to market it. You can look for who is using your competition’s products so that you can try to find ways to reach their customers and determine what they might be doing better. Some facial recognition software is even capable of analyzing the age and demographic information of customers, giving you a better idea of who is buying your brand.

If you have a product that you are advertising online, using data from images to target your messages can be a great way to boost your ad strategies and get the most mileage out of your marketing budget. All it takes is it takes is the right image recognition software, and the business know-how to properly utilize it.

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Parker Jones

Parker is a public relations specialist working for Dimensional Insight. After graduating from DePauw University and working as a writer for a playground company, he left Indiana and moved to Boston. There, he continues to develop his abilities as a writer and hopes to one day turn them into a career focused on environmental conservation.

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