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Brand Judgement in a Blink of an Eye

You are probably familiar with the expression; You only get one chance to make a good first impression.  But can people really create an accurate perception of your brand in a blink of an eye? And what does that flash view of your brand mean for your online brand image?  
In today's smartphone era, this is the dilemma that brands are facing. People have shorter attention spans than goldfish. Human attention span has lowered to 8 seconds due to digital technology. Most of the consumer interaction with brands happens through social apps. People engage with brands as they scroll through Facebook, look at pictures on Instagram, and watch Snapchat videos - which last for just a few seconds. This poses the question; how fast can brands make an impression with consumers? 

Individuals can make accurate judgments with surprising speed and sensitivity. A balancing view of social perception is that, in regards to time, on one hand we are influenced by context and past experiences, and on the other hand, we operate with surprising efficiency. 

In 2011, a remarkable study, published by Nalini Ambady, asked people to rate college yearbook photos in a variety of dimensions. Some of these dimensions affected in how powerful the people in the pictures seem to be. The photos were all cropped, so only the person's face was visible. All of the photos were the same size. The main finding from the research was that social judgment based on how powerful the person looked in college was related to how successful that person was 20 to 50 years later. That's an astonishing degree of precision based on a social judgment made from one black and white photo. 

Let me give you another example, John Gotman, a relationship researcher at the University of Washington invited 120 newlywed couples to visit his laboratory and be videotaped while discussing an ongoing issue in their marriage. Strangers rated these videos on how many positive or negative emotions the couple displayed in the first couple of minutes in the lab. The social judgment result of the 3-minute marital interaction predicted which couple ended up being divorced six years later. 

This is known in psychology as a thin slide of behavior. A brief sample of behavior can provide accurate judgment with surprising speed and sensitivity. In fact, other studies have shown that people can predict the outcome of an election when viewing photos of the candidates for a quarter of a second. Even when we only showed people headshots, they still predicted the winner 62% of the time. 

There are many reasons as to why we think this might happen. One view is that we know how we feel before we are aware of why we feel. In other words, we are wired to process emotions faster than cognitions. Regardless of the situation, social judgment can happen with precise accuracy and speed. And once we form an opinion, we tend to lock in and look for confirming evidence rather than challenging the judgment we already made. 

In summary, brand judgment can happen in a blink of an eye. A two-second exposure to a social media profile or video on Facebook can determine someone's perception of a brand, from the very first encounter. In today's digital world, every touch point matters, even if it is for a quarter of a second because you might never get a second chance to create a first impression.


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