Pictures TELL AND TALK to reveal the unspoken

Pictures TALK when people are asked to answer a question by choosing an image. They often speak more compellingly than words.  We know they evoke stronger affective responses than verbal processing and we know when motivations are activated they become infused with feeling.   As a result, getting people to answer questions with pictures facilitates deeper motivational and emotional understanding.   Like the art therapist, we can tap into the unconscious mind for nonverbal symbols and metaphors. The selection of the picture is itself a discovery of insight and meaning.

In a recent survey, we presented respondents with an array of five emotionally rich images and asked them to pick the one that most closely aligns with their philosophy of life. Within seconds of reading the question, each respondent picked ‘their’ image and revealed implicitly something important about what makes them tick.   The picture TALKS to us and helps us understand the human being and their values for motivational segmentation.

Overlaying these motivational segments with basic demographic data yielded some interesting intersections.  For example, ‘freedom seekers’ were more likely to be suburban than urban.   The ‘people people’ crossed genders and age.   The ‘achievement people’ skewed to higher incomes.

Pictures are used every day in social media to TELL. Consumers increasingly curate their lives with images and minimal verbal descriptions. It is the pictures themselves that carry the meaning.   Mining and analyzing images as a means of understanding what consumers are expressing about their thoughts,  their lives, their brand affiliations and ‘whole selves’ is key. Images and what they TELL is one of the critical frontiers for machine learning and a big topic of discussion at July’s ‘Sentiment Analysis Symposium’ in NYC.

Pictures both TALK and TELL and it is the marketers who pay attention to the images selected and shared who will access the deeper emotional and motivational understanding of their customers needed to seize the day.