From website hero images and digital ad campaigns to entertaining TikToks and strategic emails, there are so many marketing channels available to brands in today’s eCommerce landscape. If you’re an eCommerce brand, you need a variety of content to meet the needs of these various channels. Your audience is out there waiting to interact with you through different marketing mediums, and it’s time to harness the power of content creation to connect with them. Now more than ever, it’s essential for brands to have a solid production strategy to address the need for different types of content. It can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. In this article, we’ll look at the difference between high and low-production value imagery, why they both matter and how to balance the two for a content strategy that leads to raving customers and sky-high conversions.
This image is an example of hi-pro content shot for the lifestyle brand Hill House Home.
What is Production Value?
Production value is the amount of work that goes into a photo or video shoot. Think location scouting, creative direction, talent options, hair and makeup, wardrobe, styling, photography, and everything else that brings a shoot to life. It’s a lot!
There’s also a second piece when it comes to defining production value. Outside of the actual work it takes for a shoot, the production value is also the perceived quality of the final product. It’s how you want your audience to perceive the investment you put into the end result.
So – what are the actual differences between high production value and low production value?
High production value, or hi-pro, is a shoot that involves a lot of work and intends to create a high-quality final product (or one that is perceived that way). In a hi-pro shoot, every element is meticulously planned and styled to create a final product that exactly matches the brand’s vision.
Imagine a swimsuit brand needs to create new imagery to launch its summer swim line. They want several types of models each styled with multiple looks. The location needs to be somewhere with palm trees, water, tropical vibes, and don’t forget warm, sunny weather!
How do we bring their vision to life?
We’ll start with a detailed creative brief. Then we may go out and scout different tropical locations to find the perfect fit (Hawaii anyone?). But that’s just the start. We’ll also arrange travel plans, talent options, hair and makeup, wardrobe, creative direction, equipment, and so much more.
But hi-pro shoots don’t have to take place in exotic locations. As another example, imagine a candle brand wants the setting to be a high-end, masculine bedroom. We may build an entire mock bedroom in a studio to match the brand’s vision. We’ll pick out the furniture, sheets, and wall decorations-you name it-to ensure the set represents the brand’s luxury aesthetic.
Regardless of the vision, when it’s finally time for the shoot day, every aspect will be precisely planned to create that exact look for the brand. In addition, the client will be on set, weighing in and approving each meticulously planned shot. In other words, nothing is left to chance for a hi-pro shoot.
Here’s an example of a hi-pro content shot for Julie Vos.
Low production value, or lo-pro, is a shoot that involves much less work and intends to create a final product that is less polished. Lo-pro shoots tend to work from a general direction and give more control to the creator, tapping into the realism that is so prevalent and important across multiple marketing channels.
Here’s another scenario. Imagine that same swim brand needs content to use on social media. They want to show how their swimsuits look IRL. We’ll still draft a creative brief, but then that brief may be given to a singular creator. The creative brief will give the creator a general direction but will leave it up to them to bring that brief to life within their own individual style. For example, the brief may outline the core visual guidelines of the brand (i.e. color palettes, type of environment, target customer, seasonal conceptual themes) but then leave the creator to capture imagery within those guidelines through the lens of their personal style.
Lo-pro content is similar to user-generated content (UGC). However, UGC gives total control to the creator, while lo-pro content still allows the brand to have some control and direction.
This image is an example of lo-pro content. You can see that the photo is much less polished, and was likely taken with a cell phone.
Aspirational vs Realistic
Here’s the big difference between high and lo-pro content: hi-pro content is aspirational while lo-pro content is realistic.
Hi-Pro: Painting the Perfect Picture
Hi-pro content is the perfect representation of your brand and everything you want your brand to be. It serves as the anchor content for your brand to clearly and consistently communicate your brand’s image. It’s what your brand, and your customers, aspire to be.
Think about a brand that is known for its aspirational hi-pro content. We’ll use Nike as an example. Nike famously produces beautiful, evocative imagery of elite athletes wearing Nike apparel. But most consumers aren’t elite athletes. Most consumers are regular people who may want to have a more active, athletic lifestyle. When consumers see these Nike images, they aspire to be like the athletes in the photos. They can imagine themselves working out and wearing Nike apparel while doing so. They can imagine that kind of lifestyle, and how Nike can help them achieve it.
Nike has been creating this iconic hi-pro content consistently for years. When people think of Nike, they think of this hi-pro imagery of athletes. hi-pro is the imagery that creates brand recognition and represents your brand’s story.
Nike’s hi-pro ads are iconic and instantly recognizable.
Lo-Pro: Back to Reality
Lo-pro content is more raw and less polished. It’s a more realistic way to show your brand. Instead of every aspect being perfectly styled, lo-pro content allows consumers to see your brand incorporated into real life.
And the popularity of lo-pro content is on the rise with no signs of slowing down.
According to Forbes, “more so now than ever, consumers value brand authenticity when they’re making purchasing decisions.” Just look at the popular #nofilter trend that transcends any one social platform. It shouldn’t be surprising that 90% of consumers said that authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support. Consumers want transparency, and brands need to deliver.
Lo-pro content is the best way to communicate authenticity. When the content is more raw, the customer almost feels as if they are getting a peek behind the curtain, an invitation into the inner workings of the brand, and an understanding of what the brand is all about. lo-pro content allows the customer to interpret the brand in real-life and imagine how the brand fits into their personal reality.
For example, let’s go back to Nike. If you scroll through their Instagram or TikTok, you’ll find lo-pro videos of interviews, dancing, testimonials, and stories. The videos were likely shot on a phone with little to no other production elements.
It’s this type of content that is resonating with consumers, conveying authenticity, and ultimately forming connections between the brand and its audience. In time, the customer looks forward to seeing the brand’s content. The viewer may even come to think of the brand as a trusted friend who regularly shows up on their For You page.
This is the cover image for a reel on Nike’s Instagram page. The lo-pro video follows the journey of runners completing a half marathon
Why Both Hi-Pro and Lo-Pro Matter
Consumers expect brands to regularly put out original content, and this expectation has only risen in the past few years. Brands can leverage both high and lo-pro content to address different marketing needs.
Marketing Budgets Vary
High and low pro hit different budget goals. hi-pro content is expensive, and most brands can’t afford to have all of their content highly produced. That’s why hi-pro is typically better for seasonal brand awareness and marketing campaigns. On the other hand, lo-pro is much less costly and can help to fill in gaps between higher-cost marketing campaigns.
They Each Serve Different Purposes
Both types matter and serve a unique purpose in a brand’s overall marketing strategy. Here’s how we’ve seen brands successfully leverage both types of content.
How to Use Hi-Pro Content
hi-pro content is typically used for high-level marketing materials that need to precisely communicate the brand. Think digital ads, marketing campaigns, print ads, hero images, and landing pages. Hi-pro content has more longevity and is best used in things that are more evergreen. For instance, the Hero images on your homepage generally live for a few weeks and are hugely important in telling your full brand story.
How to Use Lo-Pro Content
Lo-pro content is usually best used in places that have a shorter lifespan. Lo-pro content is often produced with the “social-first” approach, meaning that the content is created specifically for social. For example, TikTok is almost exclusively lo-pro content.
Each Fits into Different Parts of the Marketing Funnel
Let’s take this a step further and dig into how high and lo-pro content fit into the marketing funnel.
A marketing funnel describes a customer’s journey with a brand from awareness to action. Here’s a diagram to illustrate what we mean.
High and low pro content both play important roles in this marketing funnel.
Hi-pro content is usually at the top of the funnel. It’s the imagery that gets people’s attention. Because it represents your brand perfectly, it’s the ideal introductory imagery to make people aware of your brand. High pro also extends into the interest section, and potentially into the desire category.
But the desire category is where lo-pro content shines. Once consumers feel a realistic connection to the brand, they desire to be part of that brand. And then they take that final step to purchase a product.
Product detail pages (PDPs) are a good example of lo-pro content at the bottom of a marketing funnel. Recently, we’ve seen a shift in PDPs: brands are increasingly combining hi-pro product photos with lo-pro videos. And this strategy has proven to increase conversions.
The PDP is usually the very end of a sales journey. Imagine a customer is on your PDP trying to decide whether or not to add an item to their cart. A video of a real customer giving a real video testimonial of the product can be the final push to make them click that “add to cart” button. It doesn’t get more authentic than a real customer wearing and showing your product in a positive way.
How to Balance High and Low Pro Content
Different brands use high and low-pro content in different ways. It’s all about what aligns with the brand’s values. A luxury brand like Chanel Beauty might create mostly hi-pro content. Even Chanel’s ‘lo-pro’ content has a certain higher quality production value, and UGC isn’t used by the brand on their main channels. For comparison, a lifestyle brand like Supreme New York has a much different brand voice. Supreme New York doesn’t have much use for hi-pro content creation, relying instead on a much more lo-pro approach for much of the content they create.
Example: Negative Underwear
Let’s look at an example of how a brand balances hi-pro and low-pro content. Negative Underwear is a women’s underwear brand that specializes in pieces that are uncomplicated, minimal, yet luxurious. Plus, they’re one of our clients here at The Line Studios!
These first images are an example of how Negative Underwear uses hi-pro content. These photos were taken in our studio and were highly styled to represent the brand’s image. Negative Underwear uses images like these for their website, PDPs, ad campaigns, and social media.
This next set of images is an example of how Negative Underwear leverages lo-pro content. These images were likely taken with a cell phone and are much less stylized than their hi-pro counterparts The viewer can see how the products fit into real life and imagine themselves using the product in their life too. Negative Underwear primarily uses this content on their social media pages.
Negative Underwear also uses lo-pro video content. Here’s an example of a lo-pro digital ad, and you can see an example of an Instagram reel here.
The brand’s high-pro and low-pro content work together to create a social media feed that looks on-brand, but shows a mix of highly styled images and more authentic, real-life snapshots.
The Line Studios’ Approach to Hi-Pro vs Lo-Pro Content
At The Line Studios, we consider the brand before determining the right balance between the two types of content. When brands come to us with imagery needs, we work with them to create a shoot that fits their vision, budget, and content strategy.
“Every image a brand creates must come from a thoughtful place, and ultimately needs to serve a particular purpose. At The Line Studios, we start with the overarching vision of the brand. We think through the visual cues of the brand – what are the things that make it unique and identifiable to its customers? Then, how do you best translate these things into compelling content? Whether it’s hi or lo-pro, we want consumers to stop scrolling and think “oh, this resonates with me.”
-Lindsay More Nisbett, Co-Founder and Brand Director of The Line Studios
Hi-pro and lo-pro content are both integral parts of an effective marketing strategy. Hi-pro imagery serves as cornerstone content to precisely and consistently communicate the brand and its values. Lo-pro content is more raw, organic, and realistic, which allows the consumer to feel more personally connected to the brand.
Both types of content are important, and brands need to utilize both for an impactful content strategy.
For questions, contact The Line Studios at firstname.lastname@example.org.