What makes people remember you? Two thousand years ago, the great Roman orator, Cicero, recommended the use of images as part of memory training. He also used visuals, in the form of props, in his speeches. Well ahead of his time, the scientists and psychologists of today can confirm that pictures are more immediately recognized, and more quickly recalled, than either the spoken or written word. Advertising, in almost any form, invariably takes the form of images rather than a long exposition in text format, all down to the fact that images are more memorable than words.
John Medina in his book of “Brain Rules” points to a 1996 study by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration which found that if we are asked to recall information of text or audio stimuli after three days, we are likely to remember around 10%, whereas if the information is presented in combination with imagery, we are likely to remember closer to 65% of the information. It’s clear that if you want your business or even yourself to be remembered for a particular reason, the focus needs to be on having a visual impact.
There are many practical applications to this school of thought. Large billboards and posters with striking visual imagery garner substantially more attention than lengthy articles and wordy notices. Social media posts with images seem to attract individuals’ attention far more in the form of likes than those with just words. The success of apps like Tik Tok and lookalikes is down to the diminishing average attention span coupled with the fact that visuals are more memorable than text.
In any presentation, regardless of whether it is in an academic institution, politics, or in the business world, visual aids are vital in ensuring that the message sticks with the audience. As is common knowledge, slides with short phrases supported by relevant images are much more powerful than slides with no visuals and full of text.
This tendency of the mind to remember visuals over text is why advertising and branding is a cornerstone of all forms of business today. Many would argue it can make or break a venture. Our memories are made up of stories intertwined together through rich life experiences in visual and audio formats. What gives memories meaning are these stories the mind creates. Visual cues are therefore imperative to our understanding of the environment we inhabit.
Armed with this knowledge, images can be powerful tools to manipulate the perception of a business or individual. Logos, photographs and even certain colors can be used to evoke an emotion or reaction in the audience. Think how you can make a visual impact in your personal life or professional life, and you may be surprised at the positive results.