Why Images Make Us Click

Lascaux Cave PaintingA century ago, iconic newspaperman Arthur Brisbane first told readers that a picture is worth a thousand words. Dear old Arthur didn’t know just how right he was. But the folks at Curalate do.

We all know that images are powerful. They have a singular ability to excite and engage. They start conversations. They spark friendships (and sometimes end them.) What we don’t quite know is why. To find out just what kind of images move us most, Curalate — a visual marketing and analytics firm — studied 500,000 Pinterest images to identify the visual elements that drove the most re-pins. Here’s what they learned.

  • Red/orange images get 2X the re-pins of blue images
  • Multi-colored images are re-pinned 3.23X more than pictures with just a single dominant color
  • Images with medium lighting get 20X re-pins over darker images
  • Images with less than 30% white space are re-pinned the most
  • Images that are 50% saturated get 10X more re-pins
  • Vertical images with an aspect ratio of 2.3 – 4.5 are re-pinned 60X more than others
  • Pictures where the background makes up less than 10% earn 2-4X more re-pins
  • Pictures with smooth textures get re-pinned 17X more than those with rough textures
  • Brand images without faces get 23% more re-pins than those with faces

Curalate’s findings provide a unique window into the recesses of our brains. They’re also a reflection of how we have been visually trained by media since childhood. The lack of interest in seeing people is distinctly counter-intuitive, especially when you consider that the underlying psychology revealed in this study suggests that warm, clear, proportional, colorful, and familiar images are the things that draw us in, capture our imaginations, and motivate us to share. The study raises as many questions as it answers, but it’s still a giant step toward a visual formula for increased engagement.

Check out some of Danny’s other work on creatives, advertising, and innovation. 

Managing Creatives: An Owner’s Manual

3 Convenient Illusions: The Frustrating State of Agency Innovation

Big Data in AdLand: Lip Service Galore, but Little Execution

About this Gun

Danny Flamberg

Danny Flamberg

is Managing Director for Digital & CRM Strategy at the Kaplan Thaler Group. A veteran marketing strategist, he was previously Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, Senior Vice President at Digitas and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide. Follow @flamster.