Using visual stimulus in research – a breakthough approach

By Reach Brands

The adage ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ refers to the notion that a complex message can be communicated with a single image. It highlights the main goal of visualisation: to make it possible to absorb large chunks of information at pace.

We process visuals 60,000 times faster than text and to a degree that is why we are all in this business called branding – the creation of visual shortcuts to complex emotional stories.

It’s no surprise then that visuals are a highly effective tool. Graphics affect our emotions and emotions affect our decision making.

However, despite all the literature on strategy and visualisation of data, the ‘how to apply it well’ seems to be missing. The key issue is that, although complex messages gain salience quickly through the visual, it is hard for us to deconstruct and rationalise what elements are driving what emotions or appeal. If we are only able to look at an image as a collective story, rather than individual fragments that make up that bigger story, are we currently missing a trick? Our belief is that this is where conventional concept testing goes wrong. How many times have we seen finished ideas going in front of consumers and rejected outright and absolutely, based on the visual execution?

Imagine a world that leaves final concepts at the back door and uses visual stimulus in a way that informs and ultimately aids the building of the final ‘big picture’. Well that has become a reality. The trick is to ask questions visually, but only ask one question at a time and ask that question well. Be specific and make sure it is good enough to elicit a very real and targeted response.

By working in this way you can understand what every element of an innovation concept visual is conveying and get it working to maximum effect, ready for quant testing and validation.

By Zoe Tuttle, Strategist at Reach