Seeing is believing – buying a product you’ve not seen

Last week I was on a photoshoot, it was a great day and a real privilege to be earning my living art directing, amongst other things. At lunchtime we did what thousands of people do every day in the UK, we went to Greggs. Nothing fancy, quick in and out, you know what you’re getting and has something for everyone, or so we thought.


Was hand written on the fridge, the note went on to say that all the sandwiches, salads and other chilled food was still available, but the display fridge had thrown it’s legs in the air that morning, making it impossible to have any product on display.

Lost without a visual

I’m pretty confident that I know what a sandwich looks like, whether that’s a wrap, panini, brown or white bread, even a toastie, because just like you, I’ve seen them a thousand times before.

But suddenly everything was different, I was in a queue needing to make a decision quickly, but there was no product to be seen. So I started reading the tickets on the shelf, no mean feet when you’re in you’re 40’s and your eyes are screwed from years of sitting in front of a computer screen. Then comes to text itself, and the descriptions that were…well lets just say confusing, sub or roll? What’s the difference? It was impossible to tell without seeing them. Whilst I could just about read the tiny text descriptions, this is also proof, if ever it were needed, that we seldom read labels, placing huge amounts of trust in our eyes to guide us.

Why am I telling you this?

This experience really brought home to me something that I have demonstrated many times in workshops and client presentations. What you see will always outweigh what you read. Our brains are hard wired to process images, we’re visual creatures, able to see from birth, using our sight to make all manner of life decisions.

Text in whatever form it happens to be present, comes after, not second, after. I think there’s a really significant difference here. If I had said text was secondary that would assume image first with text following close on its tails. The reality is much different, I believe the image gets us to somewhere around 90-95% of the way to making a decision, a decision that we make in around 2-3 seconds. Yes text comes next, but to call it secondary over emphasizes it’s role. For sure it adds clarity and affirmation but the vast majority of the work has been done by the visual.

It’s a visual world

Wherever you go, whatever you’re doing, your brain is processing the world around it based mainly on visual elements, what they say to you and whether or not that message is attractive, the latter will be shaped by your outlook, your experience, mood, time of the day etc etc.

So it’s no surprise that food requires a lot of visual narrative to connect with people. When we think about tech, really clever stuff that does all kinds of great things for us, the tech itself is often not very visual, it may even just be code or an algorithm. However, the stuff it does is visual, it will bring joy, excitement and many other emotions to those who use it. This is why we rarely see images of processors, chips and other technical equipment because it doesn’t connect with people. Whether that’s B2B or B2C, we’re all people, we all need something tangible, something human and something visual to understand and connect with.

What did I buy?

Chicken – yeah I know, a safe middle ground option, though I did go for a spicy sauce and it was in a roll, though I’m still not sure how I’d differentiate between roll and sub to be honest. It tasted OK and provided some much needed protein and carbs (probably way too much fat, salt and sugar in there as well) but worst of all in my eyes, it had Cucumber in it!

I hate Cucumber, it’s some sort of gene thing and for me it’s the blight of many a good sandwich. If I had been able to view the sandwiches it would have never made it to the counter, but we were in a rush, grabbing and going, following a tight deadline. When I discovered the green disks of horror I quickly removed them. Thankfully the spicy sauce was strong enough to mask the flavour of the dreaded sandwich weed and I lived to tell this tale.

Whatever you’re doing, never under estimate the power of good visual communication. The difference it makes is huge, even if you actually like those Cucumber things. If you’d like to know more, see what we do for our clients or just generally want to up your #brand game, get in touch.