Our Visual Culture

Grayson Lindau

Let’s face it. Visuals dominate the modern world. Photos, videos, graphics, logos and countless other forms of visuals constantly influence our everyday lives. From billboard advertisements to TV commercials and even memes on social media these visuals demand our attention. Unless we live our lives with our eyes closed there is no escaping the influence of our global visual culture, so we might as well try to understand how it works.

"Whether we’re talking about a TV commercial encouraging us to buy a new cleaning product, or an infographic imploring us to ignite social change, every visual we see is specifically designed to elicit a certain response or action from the viewer." — Grayson Lindau

Regardless of the underlying intention of particular visual, a visual plants a seed in your head -- a seed that grows into an idea, a desire, an opinion, or even an understanding that affects how you interact with the world around you. However, in a widely capitalistic global economy it would be fair to argue that the majority of visuals we see on a daily basis are ads trying to get consumers to, “Buy, Buy, Buy!” With thousands upon thousands of companies producing ads by the minute, we find ourselves as prey in a corporate jungle; each predator competing against one another to entice their prey (the consumer) to fall into their trap and buy their product.

In the video below we have a wonderfully comedic example of this corporate competition. Apple and Samsung act as the main corporate predators while the wedding guests act as their consuming prey. Towards the end of the video, however, Nokia comes roaring in to make their stand as a corporate predator and steal Apple and Samsung’s consumers. Throughout the video there are several rhetorical decisions made by its creators to not only make a comedic statement about the absurdity of corporate competition, but also to influence consumers to ditch Apple and Samsung and to buy Nokia’s product instead.

Cell phone’s, like cars and even sports teams, are products with which people tend to identify themselves. In this video, Nokia demonstrates their knowledge of this sort of consumer affiliation, and they use this knowledge to influence consumers to disband their affiliation to either Apple or Samsung and to theoretically identify with Nokia instead. One instance of this comes towards the end of the video when a man rips open his shirt to reveal the Apple logo tattooed on his chest, clearly showing his pride to be an Apple consumer. He is almost immediately clubbed in the back by what would appear to be a Samsung consumer. This is a hilarious, yet effective, way to show how companies target their consumers’ loyalty to get them to keep buying their product. In this case, Nokia points out this targeting strategy as a way to force Apple and Samsung consumers to realize that their loyalty to a brand may very well result in buying an inadequate product.

Rhetorical decisions like the ones made by the creators of this video can be found in every visual that comes before our eyes. Whether it’s a cell phone advertisement or a commercial advocating social change, every visual we see has been carefully, strategically, and intentionally designed to influence consumers. As businesses looking to prosper, as consumers deciding what to buy, or as human beings hoping to change the world, it is imperative we understand exactly how a visual can plant a seed in our head and know how it’s going to grow.

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