Does Your Marketing Venue Establish a First Mental Image?

Guest Post by Irene Watson

According to a Yankelovich study conducted in 1978 we typically saw around 2000 advertising images per day.  Thirty years later, in 2008, the same type of study indicated we saw over 5000 advertising images per day.  Like you, my first reaction was “no way!”  But, think about it.  When  you are driving on a street, how many store signs, directory signs, and billboards do you see?  When you stand at the gas tank pumping your gas, how many signs do you see on the tank? Look around your desk; how many things are on your desk that have a logo or name on it? Open your pantry door and look at all the items in there.   Even clothes have logos on them.  Or, what about on the internet?  Advertising is everywhere!

So, why am I telling you this?  Because, we, as an authors, are competing with all those images. It’s important to create our own brand and be sure our marketing techniques are memorable to the potential reader. It could seem like an overwhelming task if we aren’t cognizant of how the brain works. It’s easy when you know how it works, but unfortunately many “experts” in the publishing industry don’t and charge mega-bucks for marketing/publicity that  doesn’t work.

The most important thing is to create the first mental image that is memorable.  It could be in words or pictures.  As soon as we see a specific check mark, we know it’s Nike without having to read the word. And we immediately know it has to do with a whole gamut of products.  Those that follow the studies of the Yankelovich Research Company will recognize the word Yankelovich without having Research Company attached.  Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code are synonymous.  We can say either one and we immediately envision the book or movie.  This is exactly what we want when we create  our marketing campaigns, websites, and books.  And, it’s all to do with the brain function. Knowing how the brain functions is an extremely important factor to know when creating our brand. 

Recently we were creating a video for an author whose book has a theme of breast cancer.  Our video producer put in several images of a bald woman which made the author upset.  The author claims not all breast cancer patients have chemo or lose their hair. This is true, and there is no argument there. However, our brain doesn’t recognize that on the first mental image.   When we see a bald woman we immediately think cancer and our brain switches into that mode.  If the first mental image was of a woman with a full head of hair our mind could go into the mode of the last shampoo commercial we saw. In this case, our video producer reiterated the first mental image with a second and third image of a bald woman to really set the representation in the mind of the potential reader. Adding women with hair diminishes the thrust of the video and loses its important message.  The  jury is still out whether or not I can convince the author of this.

Another example is your book cover.  What is the first mental image?  Does it have anything to do with the content of the book?  Not long ago a how-to book on public speaking arrived in this office. The cover was a lovely sunset in oranges and browns.  What has that got to do with public speaking?  The first mental image would be a reflection to the last time we saw a beautiful sunset and certainly not the last time we attempted to do public speaking.  A better first mental image would be a person standing at a podium. (btw – this same cover appeared on two other books that we received for review – different author, different genre, same cookie-cutter cover.)

How about your website?  What is the first mental image? Does your banner reflect you or the book?  Or is it a cookie-cutter template that many others have and has nothing to do with the book or content? 
Does that give you enough to start looking around and realizing why  the first mental image is of so much importance? Don’t be one of the 5000+ images seen in one day; be one of the 3 or 4 that are remembered.  And, remember, you have only one chance to set the first mental image in the mind of the potential reader. All your social networking, tweeting, press releases, or other venues aren’t going to move the dial on the who-gives-a-crap-meter unless you are able to establish a memorable first mental image.

Did I just give you something to think about?  I want to hear your comments.


Posted on June 6, 2010, in Publicity & Writing, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Very interesting article – thank you, Irene. It has certainly given me food for thought as my sites are devoted to my life as a children’s author. I haven’t used any of my books’ covers as part of the design – but I do use my own photographs or artwork, so it’s more a case of what appeals at the time.I am wondering though (and this applies to the world of children’s books writers in Australia) whether we have oversaturated the web with our sites – are people turning off or not bothering to turn on anymore? I mean this generally, as I have been up to my neck in writing stories recently so haven’t been keeping up my own blogging. What do you think?

  2. I don’t believe we’ve over saturated the web, and I feel having a website is of utter importance. I find in many cases authors don’t realize the importance of a good, clean, and informative site that reflects their brand. A site that is thrown together or not professional looking is the issue. Readers have a whole gamut of choices of what book they read. If the author is unknown, as let’s say Dan Brown, then he or she has to create a brand that gives a memorable first mental image. So, yes, people get turned off if they do research on an author/book and the site is shoddy. If their first mental image isn’t memorable then they will move on, regardless how good the book/s may be.Furthermore, we are in the age of technology. Anything we want to know is now found on the internet. If we want to be found, we need to be on the internet. The ROI is the key, and the only way we will have ROI is if we persuade the potential reader to read our book/s. The first 15 seconds to establish the memorable first mental image is all you’ve got.

  3. David Carl Mielke

    Irene– Your article reminds me of the one and only day I fished with my grandfather on a fresh-water lake in Michigan. He was a man of few words. When he spoke, I listened.That day I was lucky to land one small bream fishing with worms while he hauled in over two dozen bluegill using a home-made lure on a sinker. "It’s the bait, son," he said. "The right bait bait, you eat. The wrong bait, you don’t." Kudos for bringing this obvious truth to our attention.

  4. Amen to that! I’ve seen many covers that left me wondering why they were chosen and what the book was about. When I was deciding on a cover for my memoir, Reclamation: Memories from a New Orleans Girlhood, I wanted something that attracted attention and fit the subject of the book. Rather than using a template or paying big bucks to have an artist design one, I decided to use a photograph. It conveyed the themes I wanted the cover to suggest: girlhood, a New Orleans house, summertime. Many people have commented on the cover when they see it. What do you think? Take a look:

  5. As usual Irene, you’ve hit the nail on the head.Over 80% of brain processes is visual, and it thrives on patterns. That means that repeated exposure establishes familiarity and a psychological bonding. Another interesting aspect is that if you stare at anything (Foveal vision), your conscious mind is aware of it. On the other hand, Peripheral vision actually takes a message directly into your sub-conscious mind, where emotions, patterns, and permanent memory reside. This means that even if you believe that you don’t see these thousands of messages, in fact, they are bypassing your conscious awareness and getting right to where the advertisers want them: your sub-conscious mind.Regarding logos, I always suggest avoiding multiple colors. A logo should be able to be printed in black and white and still be recognizable.Thanks again for your informative article.

  6. Excellent article. In conventional marketing parlance, the first image or impression could also be referred to as packaging, a key component of the marketing mix. Let’s face it – would you pick up a hair product that showed a person with a disastrous frizz or lustrous hair? Marketing strives to convince you of the value of their product through price, promotion, packaging, positioning and placement. And sometimes it’s good to do things differently than everybody else – as long as it still "hooks" the target audience.

  7. Excellent editorial, Irene. We authors, for the most part, aren’t business people. We don’t think like marketing folks unless prodded, but we have to take a different look at our writing and promotion if we’re to be noticed. And if we don’t get noticed–well, the publisher won’t pick up that next book.Some people call it "brand recognition." When I first heard the phrase, I thought it was just more market-babble, but I can see now how it works. Hate it or not, we have to get out there and promote ourselves and our product.Thanks for the advice on how to do it.

  8. Hi Irene~Since you’re addressing my video trailer, I thought I should offer my side of the story. I think we have to agree to disagree.I have had 2 different cancers in five years and people tell me I have never looked better. One cancer is gone and one cancer I will live with for the rest of my life. I owe my current good health to both writing and a positive attitude and part of that positive attitude comes from creative visualization of positive images — images of health and healing. Since our discussion, I have spoken with a number of women, some who have and others who haven’t actually read my book, and their first and foremost comment was "We need more books like this offering hope and support, that there is life after cancer." They were either family members of survivors or survivors themselves and they unanimously vetoed the idea of repeated photos of bald and scarfed women in a video. One woman said, "No way, what we want to see are survivors like you who show us that there is light and beauty at the end of the tunnel." The fact is the market is inundated with books and media with bald women, women with scarves, etc. The public is tired of those stereotypical images. They want something fresh, new and inspiring to push them forward to the next phase of their lives. What you have to understand is my book is different. It is a wry, compassionate book offering hope. In fact, one established reviewer said she was reluctant to read the book because a friend died of cancer, but she was happy she accepted and was thankful and honored to share her thoughts on the wonderful book. Furthermore, she says, “Healing with Words” is a powerful book and I feel the message contained within its pages will help many in the generations to come. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone with a cancer diagnosis as well as to that person’s family members and friends. As a final note, the author proceeds from this book will be donated to the Mayo Clinic and I applaud Raab for her generosity.

  9. Part of the problem is indeed "cookie cutter" software offered by Amazon, Createspace, Smashwords, and others who cater to self-publishers. The choices are limited. My opinion is that a cover must not only be cooL looking, but needs an emotive human face or human activity to interest a potential Buyer. A third party drag & drop, mix & match cover-utility would be…well…cooL 🙂

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