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January 12, 2024

Local Marketing Insider #073 // A Low-Risk Way to Work Faster and Save with AI Image Tools

The simple way Widewail uses AI in marketing imagery

Hey! Welcome to Local Marketing Insider, where 13,000+ local marketing professionals get better at reputation strategy & more with insights delivered 2x a month.

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To kick off the new year, I want to thank the LMI readers. We had a great 2023.

We sent 22 articles. Open rates are up: 22% on average, trending even higher to 24% in Q4. 

Plus, readership has grown to over 13,000 subscribers, including over 1,000 readers on LinkedIn. Thank you and more to come in 2024!

Last month, I was faced with a decision. How do I support Widewail’s image needs? It was budget season after all.

We’ve long used Unsplash, which is a great image tool, particularly for startups. It’s free, and the image quality is respectable.

But, being as familiar as I am with Unsplash images, I always laugh when I see another company using a familiar image in its marketing. And I’m sure someone has had similar revelations about our content, which I’d prefer to avoid.

As Widewail grows and the Marketing department grows, we need a solution to support the volume and variety of images we require. I’m sure many of you have worked through similar problems with your companies.

There are the usual stock image options: Shutterstock, Adobe Stock and many others. They are great, don’t get me wrong, but all require a new budget line item.

We already use Adobe Creative Cloud for all our design work, so my coworker suggested we look at Adobe Firefly - its AI Image product.

Designing a Visual Identity that is Easy, Flexible and Cheap to Produce

While we developed our brand image style to differentiate ourselves - incorporating mixed media, black and white color scheme and unique textures - our style purposefully makes good use of stock imagery. 

More specifically, we use fragments of stock images that, when put together creatively, look unique and distinctly “un-stock.”

We all look up to brands with amazing imagery: Apple, Airbnb, Coke, Nike. I’d be the first to admit that custom-shot imagery looks amazing and projects organizational maturity and stability. 

All good things. 

However, heavy reliance on imagery with limited editing means expensive custom photography. The less expensive option is stock photography. 

I'm generalizing, but most of the time, stock photography looks bad. You can smell stock photography from a mile away. 

It's why “cartoon” visualizations are so popular. They can be created custom for each brand, are flexible and are owned by the brand.

If you’re like me, you’ve entered 2024 having been told incessantly by the chatter online that the fate of our careers hinges on our ability to master AI as an efficiency tool, just like I expanded my skillset by learning the Adobe Design Tools 14 years ago. 

But, at the moment, I haven’t done much about it. Except start using Firefly. 

Big goals require small steps to start. Firefly is mine. Using AI image tools to source image fragments for our designs is my first step into regular AI use in my design workflow.

Here’s Widewail’s very simple but practical use case for image AI.

We recently launched a new newsletter, the REV, with some new style elements: the hand accent and textural backgrounds. AI has been great for this.

For example:

To create this in Firefly, you can ask for “a hand pointing up in black and white.”

Adding the “in black and white” description saves me the time of making that edit in Photoshop later. If I need a hand from the left side of the page highlighting a range of data, I can ask for “a hand making a c shape to the left in black and white.”

While I could likely find a hand image in the shape and orientation in a stock image library, it would likely take me a lot more time. For the background, I asked for a “white sheet of paper, crinkled, no background.”

Another bonus is you can target specific demographics, body language, and device type for example.

While the quality of AI images can vary, AI is still worth a look if your visual brand language uses a collection of image pieces to create a final design. And if you already subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud, Firefly is an included tool.

Thanks for reading all!

To my auto readers, we will be at NADA. Swing by booth #6306N to see the Widewail products in action.

See you in 2 weeks - Jake, Marketing @Widewail

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Jake Hughes

I’m the Director of Marketing here at Widewail, as well as a husband and new dad outside the office. I'm in Vermont by way of Boston, where I grew the CarGurus YouTube channel from 0 to 100k subscribers. I love the outdoors and hate to be hot, so I’m doing just fine in the arctic Vermont we call home. Fun fact: I met my wife on the shuttle bus at Baltimore airport. Thanks for reading Widewail’s content!

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