Archive for Strategy

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HAL in your pocket – Artificial Intelligence is here

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One of the most important things brands expect from their agencies, according to a recent survey in the SoDA Report, are insights on what’s coming next. No sooner do we get comfortable than technology has a nasty habit of changing things up.

At the SoDA annual meeting of the leaders of 100 of the world’s top digital agencies last week, I listened to the always brilliant technologist Rick Barraza from Microsoft, as he painted an exciting, if somewhat dystopian, picture of the fairly immediate future.

While we all think we know Moore’s law, Rick reminded us that while we had hit 5mm transistors on a single chip in 1995, IBM managed to get 7BN on a single chip this year. If Moore’s law continues, and it hasn’t failed yet, that’s 14BN coming next year. According to Rick this kind of computing power is making the fantasies of artificial intelligence come true already.  For example using 100 “likes” as data points, AI can predict what someone will choose better than their parents. With 200 “likes” AI makes better predictions than someone’s spouse, and no one knows you better than your spouse.

Rick described a rapidly approaching world in which our AI driven devices become primarily digital assistants. Siri is just the beginning.  Imagine computers so powerful that you don’t need to fiddle with a screen, your assistant just takes care of whatever it is. This will become even more powerful when your assistant is connected to micro devices all around you with the “Internet of Things”.  He went on to describe the next paradigm as one where “visuals under glass” is no longer the experience model and these mobile HALs take over.

While exciting (boy, do I need a good assistant), it’s also a bit scary. As a marketer I wonder what this might mean for how we serve customers and prospects. What will a brand need to do to be valuable? As an individual I wonder about the sanctity and privacy of my personality. If machines know me better than anyone, do I lose control of who I am? I am not the only one worried about this as the giants of today’s technology from Bill Gates to Elon Musk have raised their hands to voice serious concerns about unchecked AI. Despite those concerns technological change keeps pouring out of Pandora’s box and we are unlikely to be able to control it.

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Three Weeks with a Computer on my Wrist

Russ's Apple Watch Review

How many times a day do our smart phones interrupt our conversations and moments with colleagues, clients, family and friends?  Each time the device vibrates on our desk, conference room table, kitchen table or in our pocket, it triggers a series of actions. We retrieve the smart phone, unlock the smart phone, open the app that caused the vibration, read the notification, act on the notification and finally put the phone back down.  Then we reengage with the people around us.

The Apple Watch eliminates many of the extraneous actions and distractions, allowing us to be more present with the people we’re with. It’s hardware that helps filter important versus unimportant.

Unlike smart phones with vibration motors so loud they serve as ringtones, no one knows when an alert is received on Apple Watch.  The Taptic Engine is quiet and alerts only the user; no one else is the wiser. When it’s convenient, you take a quick look and if the message warrants attention you can engage from the watch, or if necessary move to the iPhone to complete the activity.

If your phone constantly vibrates or if your friends, family or colleagues mention how often you’re on your device, the Apple Watch is for you. This device has changed how I interact with people. It has made me more present and less distracted and based on that alone, this device is fantastic.

And now for a more traditional review of the 42mm Sport, Space Gray with the black Sport band.

Look & Feel –

When picking up an Apple Watch the weight was noticeable. It is not heavy but it has an unexpected mass; it doesn’t feel cheap. You know you’re wearing it but the weight is unobtrusive. The Sport band is soft with a slight firmness.  After three weeks of use, 12 sweaty workouts, and 3 very sweaty lawn mowing sessions the band shows no signs of deterioration or discoloration.

One of the features Apple paraded was their reinvention of the watch crown as the Digital Crown; “A modern twist on a traditional feature.” It functions smoothly and with just a hint of resistance. But until Watch OS2 comes out, the Digital Crown just doesn’t have a whole lot of functionality that you can’t also do by swiping up and down on the screen.

After watching this it sure seems as though Apple sandbagged about the water resistance. There are brave users like Tim Cook who shower with their Watch on but so far my wariness of ruining it has limited my water exposure to washing my hands.

The battery life has also been a pleasant surprise. My day starts at 8 a.m., I try to workout three to four times a week, have a yard to maintain and am a night owl. Even with this elevated usage I have yet to see the battery dip below 30 percent.  And since my iPhone isn’t waking up and vibrating with all of the notifications it’s sending to the Watch I’ve noticed improved battery life there as well.

I tested the watch’s heart rate monitor against the built-in heart rate monitor on two different stationary bikes and an elliptical.  The rate came within one or two heartbeats per minute, finally allowing me to believe those machines have been telling the truth all these years.

Taking calls on your watch sounded completely silly at first. In our open office it would be rude to make a call but in the car and at home it’s a great and easy way to communicate without actively holding a device. For example, I can keep cooking dinner or fold laundry while talking to my mom. (Hi, Mom!)

Apple Watch notifications for messages, emails, twitter and calendar reminders make the Watch so useful. As was addressed in the opening, the simple glance and dismiss functionality allows you to be more present with people and in the moment. It would be a nice future feature to select different rhythms and intensities to differentiate between notifications or contacts.

Replying to mail won’t be here until Watch OS2 but using Siri to send to messages or start a phone call is fast and simple, and might be my favorite way to communicate right now. The default replies can be edited for your style.

Twitter notifications like mentions, favorites, and retweets are sent to Apple Watch and Twitter’s app allows tweeting from the Watch but with some limitations. Personally, I’m holding out for the best Twitter app, Tweetbot, to make a Watch app. (Tick tock, Tweetbot!)

The built-in exercises the Watch will track are limited to Outdoor Run, Outdoor Walk, Outdoor Cycle, Indoor Run, Indoor Walk, Indoor Cycle, Elliptical, Rower, Stair Stepper and Other. Most of my workouts are in the “Other” category, which is fine but as processors and accelerometers improve I’m hopeful Watch will be able to track exercises like pull ups, sit ups, weight lifting, and other fitness activities.

Overall there are many positive features, but there are a few cons as well. At times Siri isn’t the easiest digital personal to wake up via voice and occasionally the home screen is unresponsive. This is probably to prevent Watch from being accidently woken up and to preserve battery life. Perhaps the sensitivity will get dialed in over time. The Digital Crown and Force Touch functionality are largely wasted because third party apps don’t have access to them but that will change with Watch OS2.

This product is useful right out of the box but the future of the device is most exciting. Coming in Watch OS2, more customizable watch faces to enhance the home screen with information that is important to you. Time Travel on the home screen; not only to see what’s coming up next but what your predicted battery life will be at that future moment. The SDK and native apps from third party developers will eliminate the current lag time.

All in all, the Apple Watch is a delightful way to navigate your life and work while leaving your phone in your pocket.

Contact us and let IQ research new and emerging technologies for your business.

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Coming Home: Noah Echols Rejoins IQ as Director of Strategy

Smith & Wesson Blows up the Competition

The Five Roles in a Project Team

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Coming Home

Noah Echols Rejoins IQ as Director of Strategy

Noah Echols Return to IQ

It’s different for everybody, but I’ve learned over the past couple years what it is that makes me happy at work.

I worked for a large agency several years ago and I got to work with some really big, exciting clients on projects that make careers. Prior to that I worked for a journalism start up that focused on the niche topic of juvenile justice. I went home each day feeling as if I was doing something beneficial for society – helping to shed light on a topic that is under covered by mainstream media outlets. And just recently I led digital marketing for a large, very stable, well-respected company. I had the privilege of having the trust of leadership to do a lot of big projects in a relatively short amount of time that separated the company from its competition in terms of its digital marketing sophistication.

While all great jobs, none of them fulfilled me professionally.

For me, it’s the people and the environment we create together that matter. I don’t mean that I just need to like the people I work with – at each of the places I’ve worked, the people have been fantastic. It’s the culture that we cultivate that matters – one where you work hard together and at the end of the day feel like you accomplished something great AND grew personally in the process.

The reason I came back to IQ is because I craved the indirect opportunities to learn and grow by just being surrounded by so many brilliant people approaching a similar problem from different perspectives. IQ is especially unique because egos are non-existent, the people are fun and friendly, and the culture is one of support and collaboration unlike anywhere I’ve ever seen. It truly is a hub of innovative thinking for our clients because we all love what we do and thoroughly enjoy doing it everyday with each other.

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Smith & Wesson Blows up the Competition

The Next Big Fight Won’t Involve Boxers

At IQ #weloveATL

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  • 05.07.15

Smith & Wesson Blows up the Competition.

M&P_ExperienceStrategy and creative teamed up for IQ’s new campaign for the American icon, Smith & Wesson. The POV campaign lets consumers project themselves into the shooting experience and see how it looks and feels to have a Smith & Wesson M&P in their hands. And there’s nothing quite as fun as blowing up a watermelon.

Watch the TV spot:

See the rig that let’s the camera shoot right down the barrel during live fire:

This is one of many campaigns IQ has created for Smith & Wesson brands. IQ is an integrated agency with digital at the core. We work primarily with brands that need strong strategy, planning and integrated execution across media. Check out our Portfolio section to see more of our work.

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The Next Big Fight Won’t Involve Boxers

The New Brass Ring: Trusted Knowledge Source

How Facebook’s New Algorithm Impacts Brands

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The Next Big Fight Won’t Involve Boxers

Content Providers Fighting

Many people are saying the “fight of the century” between Mayweather and Pacquiao didn’t live up to the hype. But a new fight emerged in the aftermath, live video streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat versus content providers. And this fight should be highly entertaining.

It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people watched this past weekend’s boxing match for free using these services. Sure the video quality was not HD and the audio was from whatever party was streaming it but the alternate broadcast was good enough for a lot of people. A lot of people who didn’t pay $100 a piece.

Let’s say that just three hundred thousand people worldwide watched via Periscope/Meercat. If those people had instead paid to see the fight that would have generated thirty million in revenue.  That’s ten percent of the overall fight’s purse. In a day when HBO and Showtime are still sending bounty hunters to bars to find illegal fight broadcasts, they aren’t going to leave thirty million just lying around. Even if the fight brought in revenues of at least four-hundred million.

But what happens when Periscope opens up an API? This situation is going to explode. Imagine a high quality GoPro camera live streaming a Taylor Swift concert via Periscope from the front row. Access and then monetization. A scalper gets their hands on a premium ticket and now it’s not about reselling it to the highest bidder, it’s about making money from live streaming from that ultra-exclusive location.

Twitter has a lot of friends in entertainment; friends that spend a lot of money within Twitter. And Hollywood uses/needs Twitter to make a lot of money for their TV shows, records, movies, and events. It’s going to be fun to watch both sides maneuver but the winners will be the artists and entertainers who figure out how to adapt and use the new technology to their advantage and elevate the user experience.

If you have questions about how to enhance your content using emerging technologies contact IQ.

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How Facebook’s New Algorithm Impacts Brands

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How Facebook’s New Algorithm Impacts Brands

Brand impacts of new fb algorithm

On Tuesday, Facebook announced changes to their News Feed algorithm. We’ll overview how these changes affect marketers and brands and what they can do to be successful, but first: the changes from Facebook.

“Previously, we had rules in place to prevent you from seeing multiple posts from the same source in a row. With this update, we are relaxing this rule.”

“The second update tries to ensure that content posted directly by the friends you care about…will be higher up in News Feed so you are less likely to miss it.”

“Lastly, many people have told us they don’t enjoy seeing stories about their friends liking or commenting on a post. This update will make these stories appear lower down in News Feed or not at all…”

How will these changes affect brand page reach?

More posts from friends and more posts from the same source mean less room for brands. Additionally, brand pages will see less activity generated from users engaging with brands because that content will be served up less often to users.

Facebook tries to keep brands from freaking out by saying:

“If you like to read news or interact with posts from pages you care about, you will still see that content in News Feed.”

But we know what this really means.

The window of opportunity for brand content to be served in the News Feed just got more competitive and more expensive.

“The impact of these changes on your page’s distribution will vary considerably depending on the composition of your audience and your posting activity. In some cases, post reach and referral traffic could potentially decline.”

If that sounds vague, it’s because it is.

Will your reach go up, down, or sideways? For the reasons we outlined above, you can go ahead and bet the farm on declined brand reach.

So, what should we do? Two things:

1) Only publish truly engaging content. 

Does it create an emotional response? Meaning, is the post relevant, funny, clever, beautiful, interesting, or create desire or action? Facebook even reminds us in their announcement to post “things that people find meaningful.” Commercialized content has no place in the News Feed.

2) Increase your Facebook budget.

Facebook’s CPM in Q2 of 2014 was $1.08. By the end of 2014 it was a staggering $4.40 and will only rise. Impressions will continue to decline with these algorithm changes and with more brands entering the space.

Facebook was never intended to be a free advertising channel. The glory days of free and bountiful organic reach are long gone. If you want your brand content to be seen you have to pay to play; just like display. Don’t get discouraged by Facebook’s changes. Instead embrace the idea of delivering meaningful content to a highly targeted audience supported with a smart budget. The results will be better than ever!

Let us know how IQ can help you deliver better content to highly targeted social audiences.

 

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Every Brand Needs a Playbook

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6 Ways Financial Institutions Can Simplify Copy

Simplify Financial Copy

Finance isn’t simple. Unless you’re armed with a handy jargon cheat sheet, ‘Compound Interest’ and ‘The Rule of 72’ just sound like bad action movies. So for those of us who can’t leave a tip without a calculator, pinpointing something like the appropriate amount for a home equity line of credit can be overwhelming. What does this mean for financial institutions in our digital world? Consumers are searching for straightforward content, and whoever has easy-to-understand copy wins.

How can financial institutions simplify their copy? 

1.  Jargon-proof your copy.

Nothing scares a consumer more than confusion. Believe it or not, not everyone knows the difference between APY and APR, especially millennials as they age into the market for mortgages, car loans and other financial products. Spelling out acronyms and offering short definitions can be the difference between closing the tab and clicking “open account.” Vanguard spells out exchange-traded funds on first mention, rather than simply saying ETFs. Then, they give an overview of what this means as well as how to choose which is right for you. By skipping the technical language, brands can build trust.

2. Show real-life examples.

Consumers want to know, “What exactly is in this for me?” Often, financial services can seem abstract or uniform compared to services offered by other institutions. By helping the consumer see real-life use, it’s easier to establish need. For example, Simple doesn’t say, “We track spending in your checking account.” They say, “Goals and Safe-to-Spend go hand in hand to help you control and understand spending while making sure you have enough to pay the bills-and maybe even save up for something special.” That way, the reader doesn’t just see a digital service — they see secure rent and a fridge full of groceries.

3. Keep it short and sweet.

Big chunks of text can make simple copy seem complex. Be sure to cut empty copy and see what can be said in fewer words. Break up copy with more paragraphs and punctuation. Splitting sentences doesn’t always save space, but it does improve readability. That’s why Mint’s website reads, “Bills? Paid. Don’t miss a bill again. See and pay your bills on one place.” That’s much better than “With the ability to view bills and make payments on the same website, you’ll be less likely to incur late payment fees,” right?

4. Just come out and say it.

Honesty is the fastest route to credibility. If consumers feel like they need a microscope to spot the difference between services, the choice won’t be made with confidence. After all, value can’t be built if consumers aren’t sure what a service is. While Gateway Bank offers multiple checking accounts, each is identifiable through simple headlines and copy that explains which account best suits different life stages and needs. Because “people who just want the basics” have different needs than teachers or retirees.

5. Get personal.

In 2013, Pew Research Center reported that 51 percent of Americans chose online banking over in-store. This means less representatives sharing brand values and walking customers through financial processes. And you know what? A human touch brings simplicity to difficult or new processes. Incorporate personality reflective of a brand’s voice and tone, and offer additional help through straightforward calls to action. GoBank adds personality to copy with short lines like “Psst… you can also find free nearby ATMs with our mobile app.” Personality can lighten financial copy, as well as encourage consumers to follow along to the next step.

6. Speak the customers’ language.

Not only does speaking the customers’ language help readers understand copy, it boosts search optimization. By using phrases customers are already searching for, you can better drive traffic to your online content. Google Hummingbird picks up on conversational queries, like “How do I open a bank account?” So think about how customers speak and ask questions, then provide copy to match. To give users the most accurate search results, pinpoint which pages should use which keywords and phrases. Don’t overuse them — over-optimizing your content does more damage than it does good.

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Every Brand Needs a Playbook

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Brands have been planning since the dawn of marketing, but with the advent of the digital consumer it has become a great deal more complex. This post lays out the steps that lead to a marketing execution plan that is based on data and insights.

An Evidence Based Approach

Marketing has become a very complicated game. On every play there are thousands of possible permutations and like chess you have to not only win the moment, but also make it part of the bigger strategy. It’s not easy because there are so many things to consider, from the sheer number of channels and influences, to the behavior of the independent minded, digitally savvy consumer. Trying to do it by gut, or even experience, alone is just not possible anymore. That’s why brands need an evidence-based approach to marketing planning.

First Things First

There a number of steps to developing a plan, each building on the other, but to begin you need to gather all the intelligence you can find. This includes data and insights on barriers and opportunities inside your company, the category, the competition and the target consumer. It also includes doing a health check on the brand position, reviewing the lead process, if any, the conversion process and the role of technology; internal and external. Then with, hopefully, target audience segmentation and personas in hand, you should conduct a competitive analysis, use social listening to see what your targets are talking about, and analyze search patterns to glimpse what they are actually doing.

Mind the Gaps

Normally companies already have lots of this information, as well as Attitude & Usage research, sales and geographical data and so on. The idea is to synthesize all this data into insights and direction. But first you should determine the gaps in your knowledge, where you need additional understanding, and decide how critical it is to fill those gaps. Often stakeholder interviews, across the organization, from sales to the executive suite, are a fast way to fill in knowledge gaps, identify what is important internally and as an important bonus, get buy-in for the planning process.

Journey Mapping

All this data and knowledge becomes inputs for the next phase; Journey Mapping. This critically important step is based on the Mckinsey Consumer Decision Journey model introduced in 2009. Its job is to map consumer behavior at the key steps of awareness, evaluation, conversion, post purchase and loyalty. It tells us what each segment of consumers is thinking, doing and feeling at each juncture; it also identifies barriers, distribution requirements, brand role and more. Usually conducted as a collaborative workshop, Journey Mapping brings marketers together with key stakeholders and subject matter experts, to answer the key questions of “When” and “Where” to connect with consumers, and the role and purpose of channels at the different stages of the journey. Of course it is invaluable to talk to consumers too if time and budget allow.

Mighty Messaging

Building on Journey Mapping is Content Strategy, which is focused on answering the other two key questions “What to say” and “How to say it” at each touch point. The objective is to determine the most relevant and impactful messaging that can be presented to each consumer at each interaction.  That messaging needs to be relevant to the persona and their stage of the journey, while also being designed to contribute to a cumulative brand impression. At the same time messaging must be delivered in a way that is right for the context of the interaction; a video on a phone, for example, might be perfect or completely wrong depending on where someone is likely to view it and what he or she might be doing at the time.

Making the Cut

By this stage of the process you will have identified many potential tactics that address “where, when, what and how”.  But since budgets and time are always limited, you need to make choices based on each tactic’s ability to achieve business goals. Tactics are therefore reviewed for how they are projected to deliver on business objectives within time, resource, difficulty and ROI requirements and those that make the cut go into The Playbook. This is a prioritized action plan, typically covering 12-18 months, made up of the most effective and efficient tactics that you have determined will together achieve your business goals for the period. With it you know what marketing tactics need to be executed when, what performance they are projected to deliver, over what period of time, at what cost and at what difficulty level.

Less Guesswork

The Playbook is the culmination of a comprehensive evidence-based strategic process that takes the guesswork out of this complex process and gives senior management and the marketing team the confidence they need that their marketing plans will accomplish their business goals. While experience alone might have worked in simpler times, it’s just too risky today, which is why the Playbook will give a brand a much higher chance of success vs. reacting, improvising or just going on gut.

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The Time is Now: Google’s Mobile Deadline

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The Time is Now: Google’s Mobile Deadline

Google's Mobile Deadline

It’s here — Google has pulled out the guillotine for mobile organic search. This time, they’re not messing around.

For many years, marketers have pondered the implication of mobile site access and mobile search ranking results. Google is generally quick to respond to advancements in mobile technology that enhance the consumer’s online experience, and this is a clear-cut example of just that.

Content, content, content.

Google has always harped on the need for quality content versus quantities of “optimized” content. Whether its the Hummingbird update, Panda, Penguin, or whatever the next animal-named-algorithm they choose is, the goal is to identify higher quality content and eliminate what they deem low quality.

The delivery of quality content through search is not defined solely by Google itself, but through over a decade of research and consumer usage data to define what happens next. This time, what happens next is critical for all marketers.

According to ComScore’s January 2015 report, we’re far past the mobile versus desktop tipping point. This should be a wake up call for all brands and marketers.

ComScore January 2015 data

SEO is fun. It’s an always evolving, never stagnant, almost “game”-like adventure for copywriters, analytics professionals, digital marketers, and data geeks in general (like me).

But for too long, marketers have been focused on keywords with little attention paid to User Experience’s impact on SEO. Google doesn’t view them as totally exclusive — in fact in most cases, SEO and UX are complementary.

The magic is where UX and SEO meet in the middle.

Yes, you want to get users to the right web page or landing page through search, but if the page is not mobile-friendly or doesn’t meet the expectation of the user, then what’s point of optimizing for search?

At IQ, we utilize the “hub and spoke” marketing model. The brand website acts as the “hub” while the “spokes” are the content and channels driving to the website. If the hub is insufficient, the spoke suffers as well. If you throw in the rise of mobile use by consumers, you’ve got another wrench in the equation.

What if your customers can’t find what they need to because you’re not there in mobile search?

In the case of Google’s update on April 21st, many brand websites will suffer greatly in mobile organic search. And we can’t blame Google.

As technology has advanced, so have consumer expectations for mobile web experiences. With that advancement in consumer expectation, marketers are expected to meet them. Designing a responsive website can solve for that need easily.

Google’s made their decision on behalf of consumers — will your website live up to expectation or will it fall off the map on mobile?

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The End of Words?

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The End of Words?

End of Words -TQ

While the essence of a brand still involves a logo, a look, hopefully a differentiated position, and maybe even an enduring idea, it has become so much more thanks to technology and the new consumer. But while so much has changed, the fundamentals of the way people emotionally connect to other people, ideas, products and solutions are unchanged as they have been for eons. This is important to remember as we fight to stay connected to an always fast-evolving consumer. People haven’t changed. Our behavior may be new, but our motivations are ancient.

Simon Sinek talks about how brands need to answer the overarching question of why they do what they do. As he eloquently explains, money as an answer is not good enough. While “what” a brands does and “how” it does it is very important, according to Sinek, it is the brands that have a defining mission of some sort that have lasting resonance.

In the past much of this brand focus has been translated into the words a brand used in its adverting and communications. Words were the keys to a brand finding its place in the word. That’s why a positioning statement that could define a brand’s relative position in the consumer’s mind was considered so important for so long.  This focus on words was a reflection of the way companies distilled their ideas into communications and translated that in advertising. Of course sound and imagery was important too, but with fewer, simpler channels, words most often led the charge.

Fast forward to today and the electronic age in all its digital glory has ushered in a visual experience that has overwhelmed words. Screens surround the modern consumer, and screens scream out for images. Unlike words, and similar to music, images don’t need to be translated into meaning in the same way language does. We can look at an image or see a video and without any words feel the meaning. This direct consumption uses parts of our brain that are far older and more elemental than our higher thinking capabilities. Our immediate responses to imagery are, as a friend recently described, “reptilian,” appealing to elemental motivations of fear, desire, love and so on.

Now as I see more and more brands resort to imagery vs. words to communicate, the imagery being used naturally leans towards those that evoke emotional triggers. At the same time the digital camera has flooded the world with our own images of every second of our lives from cradle to grave. The result is a visual tsunami is already immersing us in a more sensory world. How it changes the marketers mission to influence consumers remains to be seen. Man has not led with images since the middle ages, before the advent of the printing press, and it will be one of the more important new dynamics for marketers to understand as we move beyond these early days of the new age of pictures.

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