Using Pictures and Images, as Explained by Verizon and T-Mobile

Are visuals more persuasive or less persuasive than text? Do they present the truth more accurately or less accurately? In a comparison of the latest cellular network commercial-wars, Lisa B. Marshall, aka The Public Speaker, helps you unravel the facts.

Lisa B. Marshall
3-minute read

Maybe you’ve seen the Verizon TV commercial, “A Better Network as Explained by Colorful Balls." In it, a gate opens and little balls of four different colors roll out along four separate tracks. A voiceover explains that each of the four tracks denotes a major cellular network (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile) and the balls represent the state wins each of those networks received. The track with red balls (Verizon) has by far the most. You can watch the video below.

Pretty persuasive, isn’t it? That’s because of something known as The Picture Superiority Effect. Study after study after study has demonstrated that, under most circumstances, the visual image is superior to the written word in memory retention, both immediately and several days later. Even in the few situations in which words are equal or superior, it is usually words describing a visual that are most easily remembered.

Understandably, the other networks didn’t let Verizon have the last word (or image) on this one. Their rapid response, within just a few weeks, proves the threat they felt from those ads. Rarely do competitors directly refer to an ad campaign by another competitor, unless it was particularly effective and needed direct rebuttal. And this one was definitely effective.

But T-Mobile did us a favor by releasing two different commercials, one text-driven and the other image-driven. In the text-driven T-Mobile ad, we see the Verizon commercial replayed, but stopped repeatedly with word bubbles debunking every Verizon fact with T-Mobile’s own data. Lots of words, quickly flashed across the screen, give the viewer a good idea that T-Mobile begs to differ with Verizon’s claims. But the image-driven T-Mobile ad, released just a few days later, shows an avalanche of pink balls engulfing Verizon’s red balls and the entire runway, followed by graphics showing T-Mobile covering the nation. Which ad do you think is more effective? My vote is the second one. And I think T-Mobile realized the same thing, which is why they quickly switched to the new image format. (You can see it below.) But T-Mobile did us another favor by showing us how visuals can be misleading. The text-driven ad, though perhaps not as memorable, explained why Verizon’s facts were skewed. And this is something we need to keep in mind when we view or use images. While they are more memorable, they can also be more misleading. So when you’re seeing visuals produced by others, be careful not to be swayed by the visuals without checking the facts.

So what should be our take-away from all this?

Quite simply: use images. Use them in your presentations, in your advertisements, in your brochures, in your websites and newsletters. Images increase retention over the long term. So if you want your message to stick with your audience, and you do, make your point visually. But be honest with your visuals and the fact-checkers in your audience will come to trust you. And in business, trust is the one asset that most ensures repeat business, referrals, and success.

This is Lisa B. Marshall, moving you from mediocre to memorable, from information to influence, and from worker to leader! I invite you to read my best-selling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview, listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk, and invest in your professional development via my online courses: Powerful PresenterExpert Presenter, or Influence: Maximize Your Impact.   

As always, your success is my business

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.