The Rule Of Thirds Applied To Branding & Marketing

Digital SLR cameras are very common these days among consumers who like to capture exceptional everyday images. Even the phone cameras are getting better. But not everyone has the technical capability to capture exceptional images every time. Why? Because not everyone is aware of the technical aspect of good photography. One very simple rule is the rule of thirds.

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So what is the rule of thirds?

The rule of thirds is applied to composing all kinds of visual images – illustrations, film, designs, painting, and photographs. It divides every frame into nine boxes with two equally spaced horizontal and two equally spaced vertical guiding lines. The important elements in the composition are then placed along these lines or at their intersections, while horizon is placed at the top or the bottom line. The composer has the freedom to allow linear objects to flow from one section to another. The main objective of this exercise is to prevent a division of the picture frame in half by the horizon. This technique allows better compositions that result in striking, vibrant images that can hardly ever be matched by simply placing the objects at the center of the frame.

How does that work for branding & marketing?

The temptation to push content that focuses completely on driving sales is often strong and very real among marketers. They like to put the brand at the center of everything. The problem with this approach, however, is that it neglects genuine engagement with the audiences – the real environment and setup of the image. The grid is supposed to be the intersection between the brand’s values, vision, mission, and its USP.

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But with just the brand at the center, the frame usually ends up looking like an image taken by a 10-year-old with an autofocus camera at a family gathering. Just like an amatuer photographer keeps the subject in the center of this shots, an amatuer marketer keeps the brand central to all messaging, creatives, content, and marketing material.

Instead the brand should be placed at the intersection of the core aim, values, vision and beliefs of the brand.

The rule of thirds for branding & marketing

So how does a brand avoid making the mistake of allowing the brand image to look like the work of an ameteur photographer? Well, first, be aware of the simple fact that all content is aimed at the audience. But what’s supposed to set a brand apart is the focus on the larger picture with the brand positioned just off the center of the frame. Doing so takes discipline and a strong belief in the strength of the brand to begin with. The rest can be covered with the following three points.

  • ⅓ of your brand messaging should continue to focus on business – generating leads, conversions, and profits
  • ⅓ of your brand messaging should acknowledge the ideas of thought leaders from your industry
  • The remaining ⅓ should focus on interacting with your audience and building a trustworthy brand persona

First one is easy. Most likely, your brand is already on-track with it. For the second segment, however, brand marketers need to put their pride in a storage compartment somewhere and think about image composition. You need to present your brand as a confident and collaborative thought leader in its own right that is fully aware of the competition and acknowledges it as such with no need to hide from it.

The final segment of engagement is again tricky for most brands. The temptation of putting the brand at the center of every conversations comes back with a vengeance and this is where discipline plays a vital role. A real conversation with the audience can be allowed to test the boundaries of vulnerability to present the image of a humanized brand because that’s when the engagement starts. Share their stories, like their comments, reply to their comments – just have a fun conversation with them like a real person, not a bot.

In the end

The days of in-the-face marketing are over. With social media at their disposal, audiences are aware of the ecosystem and want to know they can trust a brand. They want to interact with the brands and let them know what they really need. They need brands to storytell them, engage them and speak to them individually to build trust. Brands, on their part, need to be aware of their strengths and believe in them. The brand itself is not the center of the business universe. The consumer and the brand belief is. And brand messaging needs to show that at every step of the way by being just off-center of the frame.

Managing Director at Mapplinks and Mapplinks Academy. First startup Durofy in 2008. Serial Entrepreneur. Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship Keynote Speaker. Growth Hacking Enthusiast. Connect @reachrishabh.

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Rishabh Dev

Managing Director at Mapplinks and Mapplinks Academy. First startup Durofy in 2008. Serial Entrepreneur. Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship Keynote Speaker. Growth Hacking Enthusiast. Connect @reachrishabh.

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