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Marketing to Homo Visualis

Please excuse me while I take a moment to reconnect with my anthropological roots and contemplate an evolutionary explanation for the increasingly important position that online product videos occupy in the consumer path to purchase. According to this infographic (shown below) shoppers who view product videos are 174% more likely to purchase than those who do not, and there are other sources (found here and here) that further discuss the relationship between online product videos and increased engagement and sales.

Susan Weinschenk, a Ph.D. psychologist, explains why online video is persuasive (summarized here) by mentioning how humans are drawn to faces, voices, emotions and movement. However these are surface explanations of the deeper reason why humans seem to prefer moving pictures over other modes of communication.

The human species evolved to primarily understand the world around us through our most dominant sense of sight. When we describe something or someone we don’t first mention the way they sound or smell, as a dog might, but we focus on the way they look, describing attributes such as color or size. Because sight is our primary method of collecting information about our surroundings, it makes perfect sense that more people would prefer to watch a video about a product than read about that product.

While reading is something that most people do with their sense of sight, we must remember that blind people also read, and that reading is actually the mental interpretation of symbols. Reading is not a “natural” part of being human, rather it is a relatively recent (evolutionarily speaking) culturally constructed method of communication that has to be learned. On the other hand, watching visual stimuli and listening to spoken voice is an innate part of humanity that has a much deeper evolutionary history. This attraction to visual stimuli in the form of video can have quite a magnetic pull, as anyone who has seen a child mesmerized by TV can attest to.

Just as the emotion of fear has been used by marketers to drive behavior by tapping into our primal urges for acceptance, success and survival, product videos have become so successful because they stimulate our naturally evolved visual learning process.

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