‘Infobesity’, The Power of Imagery and Temptation

Martin Oxley

I am an avid reader of the impact of technology on consumer’s lives. I read, listen and watch blogs, newsfeeds, Twitter, TV, podcasts and even ‘old style’ books and magazines (Imagine that?!). The issue for me is that with all of this input I am finding that there are times when I find the information overwhelming. I think I am suffering from the symptoms of ‘infobesity’. (I am not a fan of these concatenated words but I think this expression captures the ‘illness’ precisely.)

There is an increasing amount of evidence for ‘infobesity’. Its origins are according to some biologists derived from our evolutionary development.  Humans haven’t (yet?) evolved to cope with the amount of sensory input that we are now exposed to. Robin Dunbar – a British anthropologist – has found a “correlation between primate brain size and average social group size. By using the average human brain size and extrapolating from the results of primates, he proposed that humans can only comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships”. No wonder I am struggling: I probably interact with that many people in a day!

An article in Fast Company helped me to connect ‘digital eating’ with real diets in a fascinating way. The article describes that restaurants found customers using touchscreens when ordering food typically order more food and spend more money. This holds true for at home customers ordering takeaway from their tablets as well as customers ordering from an in-store touchscreen menu.

The reason for this increase in spending is apparently due to having a visual image of all the food possibilities in front of them. This encouraged customers to try new items or add to their order as an impulse buy. Eat24 is an online food ordering service, and their CMO puts it, “When you’re going over the menu, you are exposed to all the options. You’ll try stuff you never thought about ordering over the phone.” So instead of picking up the phone and going with just their typical order, customers see all the different options available to them and add on to their lunch, whether it be extra toppings on their sandwich or impulsively deciding to try a couple side dishes.

This brings me back to the idea that our primate subconscious can be easily triggered and visual imagery is really powerful. When we see images of food, or a list of all food options available to us, we are appealing to our atavistic and inquisitive selves.  The ease of adding on an order is clearly too great an impulse to ignore. The ‘rules’ of the subconscious mind states that when there is a conflict between the conscious and subconscious minds, the subconscious mind typically always wins out. This is a good explanation of why Oscar Wilde said ‘I can resist everything but temptation.’

Overall, my take away (Excuse the pun) from this is that it is a good reminder of why images and pictures are so powerful. They are deep seated in our evolution and that’s why we use them in our work.

 

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