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Why Visuals? The Opportunity Cortex is After

Brennan White
December 15, 2021

Let’s face it: visual content marketing is growing by the second. Although the success of marketing campaigns includes other factors that aren’t visual - such as text - visualization makes it easier to stand out from the crowd and build a strong online presence. With that said, why are image and video content analyses our main focus? 

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Why visuals? Why not text too?

To clarify upfront - Cortex does have basic text analysis and data. But it's supporting, not core. Cortex addresses text as it relates to visual content, not text-as-content, e.g. captions on a visual or text in an image, not blog posts or Google search text ads. Cortex provides data on text as it impacts the visuals, but not beyond that. 

The Cortex Team's effort is focused on visuals and not text. To jump right into the MANY reasons we're taking this approach:


First, the Cortex Leadership Team believes focusing delivers the best results. In the case of visual recognition and text analysis, these technologies are only tangentially related. As such, focusing on both paths risks Cortex not being a leader in either path. So we choose to focus on one.

Open space

Secondly, text analysis technology has been around for over a decade longer and the market is more established. Companies like Persado and MarketMuse already provide deep text analytics and direction. Focusing there would make us a less-funded latecomer to the party.

Image and video content analysis is newer technology and a much wider-open space - Cortex is the leader in the rapidly-growing, larger, new market for visual content analytics. This is an ideal setup to build and rapidly scale an iconic business.

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Unaddressed need

Due to the above, for Cortex customers, text is a mostly-solved problem. Visuals are not-at-all solved and are consistently reported as one of their most painful problems. When trying to build a solution for Cortex's customers, we want to alleviate the biggest pain first. This provides the most value to them and makes Cortex indispensable.

Humans are visual-first

Perhaps most importantly, visuals have primacy over text in the brain - Humans are "visual-first". Visuals act first in decision-making and visuals almost always have the largest impact.

Humans use text in purchase decisions, but only after the object in focus got their attention visually first and passed that initial visual "sniff test". Some examples:

  • When walking down the aisle in a store, you read the detail on the packaging of a product only AFTER the product enticed you to walk over and choose it over the others nearby. The visual elements got your attention and caused you to walk over.
  • When reading an ad on social media, like Instagram, you only read the detail AFTER you've stopped scrolling. The visual got your attention and caused you to switch from scrolling to paying attention to one thing.
  • When visiting a website of a potential product or vendor, you dive into the details of price, features, et cetera only AFTER you've decided whether the website "looks right".

Humans have to be told "don't judge a book by its cover" because the human default is exactly that. We use visuals to make decisions. As you may have seen, Netflix has proved that the thumbnail artwork is "the biggest" influencer to watch content on their platform. 

In nearly all cases, text consideration comes second, visual consideration comes first. As such, mastering the FIRST decision has the highest opportunity for impact.

Visuals are language agnostic

Any software helping companies master text needs to rebuild the technology for every language. This makes it expensive to build a technology that scales to the global market and works with the world’s biggest brands (who create content for dozens of languages).

Also, because language evolves, a text-focused technology must be continually updated for each language just to maintain the level of service. This is expensive and hard to staff due to needing local nuance in languages and dialects. This also makes ensuring a perfect user experience nearly impossible.

Visuals, on the other hand, are universal - A phone is a phone, FireBrick is the same color everywhere (#b22222), a lipstick container is a lipstick container, etc. Regardless of what the local language calls it, once Cortex learns what lipstick looks like, it can continually understand that concept in any visual, anywhere. If the presence of lipstick, or FireBrick, or anything visual has an impact on performance, Cortex can see that impact, whether that image is from Japan, Germany, the US, or any other geography - no translation or additional development is needed.

Visuals are a MUCH larger market

Almost everything you buy can be seen in either the physical realm, the digital realm, or both. Not everything has text on it.  And because visuals are language agnostic and are the primary way humans begin the decision-making process, the addressable market is much larger for a technology optimizing visuals than for optimizing text.

In the digital world, the trend is clear - visuals win. Facebook's early dominance was replaced by the richer visual platform - Instagram. Instagram's dominance is currently being challenged by the even richer visual platform - TikTok. Humans prefer visuals - and ad budgets follow the humans.

Beyond digital, visuals are even more important. Billboards are visual-first, consumer product packaging is visual-first, consumer products themselves are visual-first, entertainment is visual-first. Being the iconic software that enables businesses to optimize visuals is one of the largest markets we're aware of.

Visuals are expensive to get wrong

Another big reason why we focus on visuals is another detail in the content-making process that is well-known among content creators - the opportunity cost of getting visuals wrong is huge, especially when compared to text.

If the text on your Google ad is poor-performing, you can fix that in seconds or minutes after you've discovered the issue. If your photoshoot of a family playing on a beach with a dog is poor-performing you need to plan another photoshoot: decide what you're going to shoot, re-write the shot list and/or script, re-hire the actors (or new actors) and photographer, get the permits for the location, edit the videos/photos, etc. Fixing a mistake with visuals takes days at best, and more often takes weeks or months. Getting visuals wrong is a massive problem compared to getting text wrong.

This has the critical downstream effect of increasing the optimization cycle time for visuals.

With text, you can publish an initial ad, see performance data an hour or two later, make a tweak to the text, publish the new text, and see the impact of your tweak an hour or two after that. In half a day, you've made a step toward finding something that works. When the time between optimization cycles is hours or days, you can optimize your way to success in a business-relevant timescale. After a week or two, you should be performing better than your initial effort.

With visuals taking weeks or months between versions, you lose the ability to optimize. You effectively can't stumble your way to success with visuals. Having data that enables you to know what works BEFORE you make the first piece of content is the only way to solve this. Cortex provides that data.

Solving this uniquely massive problem makes Cortex's customers happier and more successful and is the bedrock on which the Cortex Team is building the iconic company for visual analytics.

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