The Versatility of Lookbook Ads: For B2C and B2B Marketing Strategies

Roy is a Creative Strategist at StackAdapt who loves working one-on-one with clients to uncover unique methods of showcasing diverse stories, with creatives.

For years now marketers have been saying the same thing: print is dying. It’s unfortunate because there’s a comforting nostalgia associated with print, like circling everything you want in the holiday Sears catalogue, or that new-book smell. And while print advertising, and the print medium as a whole, has been on the decline since the advent of the internet, it doesn’t mean that the creative concepts we know and love can’t be translated into the digital realm.

Lookbook ads are inspired by the nostalgia of print, but with the functionality of digital. Think back to showroom photos and fashion looks in magazines, where each piece was labeled with a number and you had to go looking for whichever product you were eyeing. Lookbooks function the same way, without the eye having to go too far, by use of a hover or click. And while fashion photography or showrooms are an obvious choice for this unit, the lookbook unit can be surprising in how flexible it is.

Thinking Outside the Product Carousel

In digital advertising, it’s common to see product carousels or isolated product images as the prime tactic for selling consumer products. This is what the product looks like, and what it’s called—straightforward. This type of unit is valuable for creatives that are featuring sale products, new products, and especially dynamic retargeting creatives for viewed items or abandoned items in a user’s cart.

Outside of isolated product photography, most B2C brands tend to have beautiful stylized photography featuring more than one product. This can sometimes be utilized in display ads, but never on the same level as a lookbook ad. The lookbook allows users to explore that beautiful lifestyle photography unlike any other unit through curiosity and discovery.

More Detail, Same Space

When it comes to display ads, a challenge can be restraints imposed by their size. It’s difficult to fit all the information about a product in only a few hundred pixels without compromising the visual appeal. With a lookbook ad’s functionality, more information can fit in those few pixels, and in a less obstructive or distracting way.

Traditionally, when trying to say a lot in one ad, advertisers lean on animation to communicate the brand or product messaging. This method is known to be effective, however the philosophy of less is more still applies to animation. Animated ads that break up information run the risk of being too long, which could lead the user to miss key information. There’s only a few seconds to grab a user’s attention, and retaining it is even more difficult – unless your text information is quick and concise.

So how can lookbooks be more effective? Using animated hot spots, lookbook ads have an air of mystery to them. Humans are naturally curious, and the prospect of having to discover what’s hidden is exciting. Hiding some of the details of your message also allows the visuals to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to drawing people in. With a lookbook unit, design can make clever usage of real estate that is usually forsaken for messaging.

The Two Types of Lookbook Ads

There are two main styles of lookbook ads: hot spots and pop-ups. Both function very similarly, but the pop-up style lookbooks offer even more space for additional information or functionality.

Hot spot lookbooks are based entirely on hover effects. Upon hover, either an element (such as text above the image) changes, or some text appears (typically product name and price), and that text can even click out to individual product pages.

The hot spot style lookbook is best suited for when you’re looking to highlight short and sweet features. This could include that 2 year warranty mentioned above, the price of a product, or different service types. This functionality could even be used similar to a zoom tool by showing a close up image on hover of the material on a shoe, just as an example. Hot spots are intended to be brief bites of info, like we see in the luggage ad below.

Pop-up lookbooks on the other hand function very similarly to the hot spot lookbook—the difference is that a window pop-up appears on hover. In the hot spot lookbook, the hidden content will disappear once you stop hovering on the spot. This more robust variation of the lookbooks allow the user to explore each product (or focal point) in full, with its own separate CTA, and close the pop-up window to go back to the lookbook’s main page. 

This form of lookbook is made for ads where the devil is in the details. With pop-ups, the viewer is able to see full product descriptions and prices. Even better, product carousels (or similar galleries) can be utilized within those pop-ups, marrying the best of both worlds. Below is an example of a pop-up lookbook, featuring information about locally sourced products.

Outside Retail: Other Ways to Utilize the Lookbook

The catalogue-like nature of the lookbook ad fits well with retail brands, such as clothing and furniture, and mimics the physical catalogues consumers are familiar with. That said, it can also be used with verticals that do not have a history of this type of advertising. After all, a lookbook ad is simply an interactive unit where the user can choose to unearth further details about your product or service. For example, if you want to highlight that your product has a free 2-year warranty, you can include that information within a hotspot, without having to squeeze it in with the other copy. 

I know what you’re thinking—is it just relevant to B2C verticals? And the answer is no, it really is flexible!

One of the challenges when it comes to B2B creatives is how to communicate everything you have to offer in a visual way, and without an overwhelming amount of copy. In B2B lookbook ads, the hot spot feature can highlight service details, such as the offerings of a full-service advertising agency. While there may not be visually compelling product photography, you can still utilize appealing stock imagery that is relevant to your business. 

From software functionality, event space features, to even cleaning services, the lookbook unit enables advertisers to think outside the box on how to communicate with prospects. Your hidden messages don’t have to be a product name or price—they could even be parts of a car, like in the example here.

Lookbook ads aren’t just great to look at. They’ve proven to be efficient when it comes to communicating your message, and inviting for users to discover more for themselves. While this style of unit may have been inspired by catalogues, if we challenge ourselves, we can find many innovative ways to appropriate it’s functionality outside of the runway and showroom.

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