A Picture Really is Worth a Thousand Words
Mike Parkinson is the Principal of the 24-Hour Company, a proposal graphics consulting company based in Falls Church, Virginia. He has been a member of EO DC since May 2005. For more information about what you’ve read here, email him at
I eat bad food,
buy crappy cars, wear fashionable clothes and watch ridiculous television shows. Why? The answer is in part due to marketing. Why can’t I stop myself? I know better than to fall prey to advertisements that promise happiness if I buy a new product or service.
Turns out, I'm normal. There’s nothing wrong with me. All of us are hard-wired to be influenced by visual marketing. And that’s good news for the good guys like you and me who want to use marketing to be more successful.
I spent the last two years writing two books about how to influence and motivate people when promoting a product or service. The independent research available on the topic is amazing and eye opening. In a nutshell, I found that using imagery is one of the fastest, least expensive, most effective ways to increase the success rate of my business.
Companies can use these findings to their advantage. Look around you: Advertisements do it all the time. They show us happy, pretty people. Why? Because seeing attractive people stimulates the same part of the brain activated by cocaine use. It makes us feel good. We can’t help but be influenced!
In fact, some EO members, like Tom Ball of EO London, have built entire companies on an understanding of the power of graphics. Tom’s company, Cognac: The Big Picture Company, is a design firm that prides itself on communicating complicated messages quickly. To do this, they use visual imagery to bridge the gap between the 10 hours it would take to explain the details of a company and the 10 seconds that company actually has to market itself. People understand and appreciate a message if they can see how it fits into the big picture, regardless of where in the world you might be working.
I spent many years analyzing the workings of the proposal industry, an industry that focuses on the submission of written and oral presentations to secure work that will increase or maintain a company’s revenue. I found that the priority of graphic development increases as award value rises. The industry understands the influence that visual communication has on their audience.
Flags, eagles and other symbols of patriotism are often included on proposal covers for the U.S. government because of the positive emotional influence patriotic imagery has on government evaluators. Part of the cover’s goal is to instantly establish that the presenter is a supportive, trustworthy, reliable patriot. As a result, the government evaluator is more likely to be in a positive, agreeable state of mind when reading the proposal. Emotions influence the very mechanisms of rational thinking, so if the evaluator’s mood is elevated by the visuals, the more likely he or she is to agree with the presenter.
“So what?” you may ask. Well, the same concept works for us in every facet of industry. I use my understanding of how graphics influence and motivate an audience to increase my success rate. I make sure my marketing materials use imagery to effectively communicate my ideas and convey a positive emotional response toward my product or service. In the end, I don’t need to write paragraphs of text to explain why my products and service are the best; I just show a graphic, and it makes my job much easier.