Image Power

“A picture says a thousand words….” we’ve all heard that cliche before. But according to neuroscience, it’s true.

We all know classic brand images like the Golden Arches. Even when you just read Golden Arches, you think of McDonald’s. You might even be salivating a little or remembering the smell of hot French Fries. This Pavlovian response is coupled deep in our psyche, connecting the image of arches to the taste of salty fries, a hamburger, and even a child’s excitement for a Happy Meal’s free toy. This post isn’t an advertisement, but what do images convey about your personal brand? Image branding is an intricate marriage between symbolic and evocative images calling the subconscious and telling the world volumes about who and what you are and what you will deliver.

The deep meaning and persuasive power of images and brand logos in our conscious and subconscious minds is well-documented by neuroscientists and psychologists exploring the psychology of marketing. But how do images compare with words, like a tagline or slogan? A recent study by researchers at Brown University and Harvard Medical School has reaffirmed the disruptive power of imagery. The researchers showed that even when people were asked to think in words, they still translated those words into mental images. To create an image in your mind: the study showed that visual images derailed the train of verbal thought.

This makes intuitive sense. If you picture a cave-person trying to explain where the most delicious wooly mammoth-burger can be found, she might try explaining with a quick pictogram. Maybe it is on top of two evenly-spaced, arching hills?

Traditionally, an arch represents the concept of a gateway. Images of twin gateways could be accessing deeply-encoded meanings in our brains, representing images and feelings of novel, expansive, and moving-forward actions. Each of these meanings can subconsciously activate small rewards. As we engage with the environment feeling the sense of novelty with excitement and wonder, our brains are releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that promotes positive feelings. Gateways also figure into nearly all major religions, found in all major cities. Perhaps the golden arches are accessing our spiritual connection, creating a feeling of a belonging, community and oneness.

These deeply-rooted mental images connect us to our other senses and our emotions. Neuroscientists have shown that visual images carry the thought process of memories, and are encoded with additional senses like touch, taste, smell, and hearing. But what is it about visual system and encoding in our brain that a word or an image can represent someone’s quest to become a world leader? How is that someone can create a deeply persuasive personal brand that evokes mental images of power and wealth as synonymous with his or her name?

What images are called to mind by your personal brand, and what emotions and sensations do you want to trigger in your audience?

On both conscious and subconscious levels, people are looking to connect to something they can hold on to. Images or brand logos create a tangible, solid and concrete foundation to access the deepest reaches of the mind, connecting us to places, memories, products, or even a work of art. Those images can also have an emotional value, whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.

So how can you connect with your audience to develop your brand using positive imagery? First, define your authentic voice and develop your message. Next, identify an image that is in alignment with your voice and vision and represents symbolic meanings and connections you want your audience to feel on a primitive level. By catching your viewer’s visual mind with your power image, you create conscious and subconscious connections, and tell your audience 1,000 words or more about you and your brand. ​