Visual cues dominate our decision making, according to Elina Halonen of Irrational Agency. “It’s often the first sense to activate especially when buying something - we see it before any other sense activates.” Brands therefore need to consider carefully what imagery they are using, not least because “signs and symbols are visual heuristics” - the mental shortcuts the brain takes in decision making to avoid having to think too hard.

At Qual360 (Berlin, February 2018), Halonen offered some instances from her work in cognitive semiotics, a relatively new discipline which, she explained, uncovers the mental architecture of meaning through the examination of these shortcuts and the unveiling of associative networks.

So, for example, consumers had very different views on a juice when the labelling featured a couple of orange wedges — “that’s cheap and sharp” — compared to labels with two fruit halves, which were seen as being much more premium. And the addition of a leaf to the two halves produced an even more positive response.