As brands continue to deal with all the changes to how they communicate with an increasingly nomadic customer, their challenges have not escaped the notice of their research partners. 

"A true partner doesn’t sell projects; a true research partner helps solve problems."

And right now, brands are facing some big ones. For many brands that have spent the last few years focused on the digital space and counting clicks, the softness of their brand’s equity has them deeply concerned. While advertising has always been both a short and a long game, the focus on the measurement of the immediate sale has resulted in taking their eyes off brand strategy. And, now, with a renewed vigor, many are searching for solid research partners to get them back on track.

Researchers that delve into a brand’s creative are not often at the top of that list of strategic partners, yet they should be. Today’s consumer speaks in visual language, and it’s a brand’s visual dictionary that they carry around in their heads. We know from extensive research that powerful visual communications from a brand leave a trail of at least 6 years in memory. To silo research on a brand’s creative to the single use of copy-testing is a waste of a virtual goldmine of strategic information.


Great research designs can use visual information to pinpoint the story being carried about a brand in the mind of its target customers—a critical thing to know before a brand builds and evolves its current story. Understanding the territory and equity a brand has is imperative to pushing out that territory and building on that equity. By knowing what imagery is most powerful in getting that mixture of meaning and emotion just right the agency team can carry it forward into new territory without losing what made it work.

In addition, understanding the stories your brand’s competitors are telling, and the degree to which they are successful or not, allows you to lift those learnings about what matters and do an even better job telling visually compelling stories.

Going outside your own category to examine the power of things like humor, spokespeople and brand purpose, and who is doing it well and where the guardrails are, can also recharge your brand with visual information that your creatives can then shape.

It’s past time to stop thinking about the limited uses of visual research on your creative. Meta analyses can be shaped to answer compelling business questions in an actionable real-world way that no abstract conceptional brand work ever can. Fluency in an Instagram world is not impossible. It simply requires outstanding visual research.

In short...

  • A recent industry focus on short-term digital measurements has caused many brands' equity to slip
  • Using visuals in specifically designed creative research can help you not only solidify your own brand strategy but assess and respond to others in your competitive space as well

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