Our Visual World

vcThe old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words has ever-greater resonance as time goes on. And when visuals come up against text – it’s really no contest at all.

Marcel Just, PhD, who directs the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, states the case plainly:

“Processing print isn’t something the human brain was built for. The printed word is a human artifact.  It’s very convenient and it’s worked very well for us for 5,000 years, but it’s an invention of human beings.   

By contrast, Mother Nature has built into our brain our ability to see the visual world and interpret it. Even the spoken language is much more a ‘given’ biologically than reading written language.”

So it’s fundamental that photos, other pictorial graphics and videos are effective with audiences across the board – not just with certain demographics. This universality makes the visual world so much more universal than the world as seen through an “education level” or a “language” prism.

3M Company has done research to attempt to measure this impact quantitatively. It has found that ~90% of all information transmitted to the brain is visual.  And now, the growth of digital communications has provided all sorts of ways to gauge the effectiveness of those visual communications.

Consider these points:

  • Visual content is processed 60,000 times faster than text.
  • Humans retain only about 20% of what they read … just ~10% of what they hear … but ~80% of what they see.
  • ~80% of the text on most pages of content doesn’t get read.
  • Twitter tweets containing images generate ~20 more clickthroughs … ~90% more “favorites” … and ~150% more re-tweets.
  • Social media posts including video clips do dramatically better – outstripping text-only posts by a factor of ten times.

The implications for advertisers couldn’t be clearer. The explosion in digital content only makes it that much more important to catch the audience’s attention, because typically advertisers have only seconds to do so.

And that attention-getting content is going to be visual.

A surprise? Corporate reputations on the rise.

Corporate reputations on the riseWhat’s happening with the reputations of the leading U.S. corporations? Are we talking “bad rep” or “bum rap”?

Actually, it turns out that corporate reputations are on the rise; that’s according to findings from the 2011 Reputation Quotient® Survey conducted by market research firm Harris Interactive.

Each year since 1999, Harris has measured the reputations of the 60 “most visible” corporations in the United States. The 2011 survey, fielded in January and February, included ~30,000 Americans who are part of Harris’ online panel database. Respondents rated the companies on 20 attributes that comprise what Harris deems the overall “reputation quotient” (RQ).

The 2011 survey contained 54 “most visible” companies that were also part of the 2010 survey. Of those, 18 of the firms showed significant RQ increases compared to only two with declines.

The 20 attributes in the Harris survey are then grouped into six larger categories that are known to influence reputation and consumer behavior:

 Products and services
 Financial performance
 Emotional appeal
 Vision and leadership
 Workplace environment
 Social responsibility

Each of the ten top-rated companies in the 2011 survey achieved between an 81 and 84 RQ score in corporate reputation. (Any RQ score over 80 is considered “excellent” in the Harris study). In cescending order of score, these top-ranked corporations were:

 Google
 Johnson & Johnson
 3M Company
 Berkshire Hathaway
 Apple
 Intel Corporation
 Kraft Foods
 Amazon.com
 Disney Company
 General Mills

At the other end of the scale, the ten companies with the lowest ratings among the 60 included on the survey were:

 Delta Airlines (61 RQ score)
 JPMorgan Chase (61)
 ExxonMobil (61)
 General Motors (60)
 Bank of America (59)
 Chrysler (58)
 Citigroup (57)
 Goldman Sachs (54)
 BP (50)
 AIG (48)

Clearly, BP and AIG haven’t escaped their bottom-of-the-barrel ratings – and probably won’t anytime soon.

What about certain industries in general? The Harris research reveals that the technology segment is perceived most positively, with ~75% of respondents giving that sector a positive rating.

The next most popular segment – retail – had ~57% of respondents giving it a positive rating.

For the auto industry, the big news is not that it’s held in high regard (it’s not) … but that its ratings jumped 15 percentage points between 2010 and 2011. That’s the largest one-year jump recorded for any industry in any year since the Harris RQ Survey began.

What industries are bouncing along the bottom? Predictably, it’s financial services firms and oil companies.

But the news from this survey is, on balance, quite positive. In fact, Harris found that there were actually more individual companies rated “excellent” than has ever been recorded in the history of the survey. Considering the sorry state of the economy and how badly many brands have been battered, that result is nothing short of amazing