It should go without saying that the content and style of images should reflect the brand: if your car is supposed to be luxurious and roomy, the photos shouldn’t make it look cheap and small. If your service is meant to appeal to a certain class of person, the models in the ads should really exude the attributes of that class.
When brands cross borders, brand managers must re-evaluate the visuals, especially those showing people. Ads are frequently reshot in each country so the models depicted don’t look “foreign.” This isn’t prompted by racism; it is a realistic adaptation to audience response. It is human nature for customers in, say, Thailand to relate to different “types” than customers in Poland. A diverse group that is attractive to a multicultural market like the UK or the US will seem irrelevant to customers in places with more homogeneous populations.
Style is as important as content. The UK cell-phone company Orange used strong black-and-white images in the 1990s to differentiate its brand by giving it a cool realism. When the brand expanded from the UK to countries like Slovakia and Israel, its image was reconceived using color photography, as it was judged that black-and-white create the wrong impression in those markets.
In some countries, like the US, illustration in advertising has a long tradition of wit and sophistication. In other markets, however, hand-drawn art may be seen as a poor substitute for slick photography. Of course, the style of illustration will have a huge effect on perception in any market, so all decisions about illustrative style must be approached carefully to ensure that customers will respond in the right way. When an artist with a readily identifiable style or subject matter is hired to illustrate a campaign, the brand is effectively getting an endorsement by association with that artist’s personal brand. Nearly everyone is familiar, for example, with Andy Warhol’s famous illustration for Absolut Vodka.