The pen may be mightier than the sword, but images are even more powerful than words!
Images excel at certain types of communication, but are not so effective for other types. Still, it is important to understand what visual content does better than verbal content so you can choose the best medium for your message.
Here are 3 secrets to help you unlock the power of visual images in your content marketing.
SECRET #1: The human brain is designed for processing images.
Leonardo da Vinci said, “All of our knowledge has its origin in our perceptions.”
Human beings have five main sensory pathways, but most people rely quite heavily on their visual sense. Scientists estimate that close to 90% of the sensory input that enters our brains does so through our eyes!
An estimated 50% of all human brain resources is devoted to seeing and interpreting what we see. Approximately 30% of our gray matter contains vision neurons, compared to only 3% for hearing. Of all the nerves connecting to the brain, 40% of nerves come from the retina of the eyes.
Our brains are obviously set up to prioritize visual input over other types of sensory input. Vision is clearly the primary path of sensory input for most people.
The brain can process visual input 60,000 times faster that is processes textual information. Plus researchers have found that visual aids can increase learning by up to 400% over teaching with verbal methods alone.
What is all this visual input that our brains are so busy processing? Much of it is processed by our subconscious brains and is used for countless instant decisions to keep us safe.
SECRET #2: Written content is not primarily visual.
The role of written content is often misunderstood; we think it is visual because we use our eyes to read. But reading is more properly classified as a verbal task rather than visual.
Consider for a moment that not everyone uses their eyes to read. Visually impaired people can learn to read perfectly well using the Braille system of writing processed with the fingertips, not the eyes.
Reading is a unique task that involves multiple parts of the brain. But one thing is definite: Reading is a high-level, abstract reasoning skill performed mainly by the conscious brain. Reading is a very different brain process than the subconscious visual input described above.
Even though most people use their eyes to view a printed page or screen, that is not the most important part of the reading process. We must use the verbal processing part of our conscious (logical) brain to translate those lines and squiggles into thoughts and ideas.
The visual part of the reading task is useless by itself; the verbal part of the task determines the meaning of what we read. It is the coordination of those 2 brain functions which makes reading such a complex skill.
In summary, it is more accurate to classify written text as verbal content than as visual content – regardless of whether those written words appear in a book or on a PowerPoint slide or video screen. Sharing written text on the screen is verbal content, NOT visual!
SECRET #3: Sharing visual content offers unique benefits.
Traditionally, we have assumed that pictorial information can be translated into words and vice versa, leading to expressions like: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
But cognitive research has discovered that these two modes for representing knowledge are qualitatively different and the same information cannot be easily converted from one mode to the other.
The dual-code, or dual-channel, theory of learning states that humans use separate channels for mental processing of verbal and pictorial information.
Active learning requires both time and mental space for processing input. Working memory, with its limited capacity, is where this active processing occurs and it involves integrating the input from the verbal and visual/pictorial channels.
When a learner mentally integrates the spoken or printed verbal information from one channel with the visual/pictorial information from the other channel, this active processing achieves the most successful learning outcomes.
According to Walt Disney, “Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.”
Educational researchers have documented that we learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words.
Pictures are the language of the subconscious. Visual communication reaches the subconscious mind of your clients and prospects, regardless of the specific medium, form, or sharing platform.
Images are concrete and approximate reality more closely. Our eyes and our brains perceive all parts of an object simultaneously as a whole. By contrast, reading involves scanning distinct letters in a linear sequence in order to recognize the individual letters as a word.
There is a whole category of information that is processed visually without any thought involved. These “preattentive attributes”, such as color, direction, and pattern, can convey a great deal of information visually at unbelievably quick speeds – within 250 milliseconds!
One example would be using color to make certain elements of written content stand out from all the rest. The effect is instantaneous! Preattentive processing is one of the ways that our visual system is able to process far more input than all the other senses combined!
Much of the sensory input we process is completely subconscious and, as stated above, 90% of that input is visual. That subconscious stream of visual information forms an impression in the mind of your audience. This is extremely powerful and has been used by many politicians and world leaders – for good or for evil.
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT that you haven’t been creating and sharing more visual content.
If our brains are optimized for handling visual input, then why do so many people rely on a preponderance of verbal, text-based information to get their message across to their intended audience?
The subconscious part of the brain is busy processing sensory stimuli, while the conscious brain is focused mainly on processing internal information. The conscious brain focuses on its own thoughts, using activities like planning, abstract thinking, reasoning, and analysis. These thinking tasks are often completely independent of external sensory stimuli.
While our subconscious brains are processing all that sensory input, we are not conscious of all that activity… because it is happening at a subconscious level. Most of us rarely think about what our subconscious brains are doing, let alone how we could improve our brain’s effectiveness by providing input in a more desirable format.
If we are not aware of these issues in relation to our own mental processing, then it’s not very likely we’ll think of the same issues when communicating with others, such as in the marketing messages we deliver to our clients and prospects.
So, my dear reader, you are to be congratulated for understanding the importance of the insights in this article and for considering the possibility of changing how you deliver your educational marketing or content marketing – or even changing your communications in general.