Are you ignoring how 65% of your audience processes information?

There are three types of learners/processors—but one clearly wins over the others. You can see (no pun intended) how much that is influencing marketing’s direction.

There are three types of learners/processors—but one clearly wins over the others. You can see (no pun intended) how much that is influencing marketing’s direction.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a late, former client of mine. Her name was Rosemary, and she was the owner of a small company where “teachers taught teachers how to teach.” A bright-eyed, gregarious person with infectious enthusiasm, Rosemary was an expert in how people learn and process information. She had done extensive studying and training in brain science and neurology, which was all backed up by about 25 years in the classroom. She was fascinating to talk to.

I learned more about communication from Rosemary than probably a dozen books on marketing and copywriting. Her approach was an intriguing cocktail of lofty scientific theory and muddy trenches experience. When I met her, she was in the process of writing a book, which outlined three types of learners/processors:

Visual – These are people who must see it to learn/process it effectively. They tend to have difficulty with verbal directions, think in pictures, are very observant and may be distracted by sounds. About 65% of the population is predominantly made up of visual learners/processors.

Auditory – About 30% of the public processes information and learns by hearing. These people are very keen to things like tone and picking up subtleties in vocabulary or expressions. They are often very good at repeating things they’ve heard—like lyrics, phone numbers or instructions—verbatim.

Tactile – This is the smallest group of all… only about 5% of the population owns this style. Think of these folks as “doers,” who learn through touch, feel and physical experience. Many children start off as tactile learners (they’re always touching everything), but then settle into visual or auditory predominance by second or third grade.

Granted, most people are not 100% visual, auditory or tactile; they are often a mix of styles (usually visual and auditory), but one style often dominates.

I find an interesting correlation between the high percentage of visual processors and the direction marketing is taking.

A great example of this is the recent Social Media Marketing Industry Report—a 52-page tome that details how 3,000 marketers are using social media to grow their businesses. (You can download it here.)

The report reveals that marketers love visual marketing more than ever. Here are just a few of the insights that bubbled to the surface…

  • Marketers with five years or more of experience in social media marketing use Facebook (98%), Twitter (92%), LinkedIn (76%), and YouTube (74%). And the vast majority (nearly 70%) want to increase blogging and their presence on YouTube.
  • Pinterest and Instagram are very much rising stars in the social media universe. (Interesting side note: Beyonce announced her new album—music, mind you—on Instagram, not Facebook, even though she has 60 million fans there and only eight million on Instagram.)
  • B2C marketing is more visually focused than B2B right now. As you’d expect, B2B uses more Google+, blogging and LinkedIn.
  • For the auditory types out there… while six percent of marketers are using podcasting now, 21% plan on going into it!

A lot of this makes sense. Most of our online experience is visually driven with a flurry of photos, slideshows, videos and infographics. Even text-based content—like blogs, e-books and white papers—often use imagery and typography to make them more scannable. A wall of text will often send most audiences scrambling for the back button.

The heavily visual nature of our society may also explain the short attention spans and multitasking so commonplace in our cubicles, schools and homes. Since it’s a faster way to process information, it accelerates everything.

Our predominately visual world is also important to consider in any marketing communications you do. Whether it’s a website, brochure, video, or any kind of information, I always ask myself:

Can this be told visually? Or…

If I’m telling this visually already, is there a better visual way to tell it?

Such is marketing in a screen-filled, eyeball-ruled world.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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