Know Your VisualDNA? Research Gets Social-Net Bug

Imagini Uses Visual Test Questions to Discover Users' True Motivations

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YORK, Pa. ( -- If you ask 100 people to define art, you'll get 100 answers -- and that's just what Imagini is hoping. The social-networking site, which offers esoteric test questions to develop personality profiles for users and link them with others who match, has had more than 2.3 million people answer its quiz to determine their "VisualDNA."
Imagini CEO Alex Wilcock
Imagini CEO Alex Wilcock

But the test, in which visitors click on beautifully arranged photographs to answer the questions, seeks to discover more than users' moods, habits and love leanings. It also captures marketing information from a much more emotional direction, and that could have wider applications than traditional market research.

"It's like a visual, social-networking Myers-Briggs test," said Nielsen BuzzMetrics Chief Marketing Officer Pete Blackshaw. "I think we're going to see a lot more of this kind of thing. Research techniques have to adapt to the new context. ... Research needs to move from the buggy whip to the car, and some element of visualization could be the bridge to get there."

"This trends away from traditional market research that asks questions where people give verbal answers or check them off of a written list," Cymfony CMO Jim Nail said. "Working with words is a rational process. And we know brand [association is] not a rational process."

Theoretical rewards
There are no overt applications for marketers on Imagini, which has quickly picked up blog buzz and users since its March launch. But there is plenty of potential. At the close of its quiz, Imagini refers users to websites, and a gift-finder service in the U.K. recommends based on personality type.

Imagini CEO Alex Willcock said future plans include creating a community of Imagini users, plus new widgets, modules and services like the just-launched private-messaging service. He said Imagini will add more commerce which could offer prime target-marketing opportunities for advertisers.

And while he does not actively hawk Imagini's database of profiles to marketers, he has done specialized visual-survey research on other brands' websites, including MSN. He said such information can be valuable in marketing -- for example, in affinity search. "Think of AdWords as it currently stands. What we're going to enable is finding things according to your Visual-DNA code," he said.

But does putting one person together with another who has the same code kill off the potential for diversity? And for marketers, does razor-sharp targeting limit the potential audience? A sports-car marketer could be talking only to auto enthusiasts while ignoring an out-of-market, middle-age mother of three.

"If you can absolutely target 10 people, and 10 people will absolutely buy your product," the sales bump for all the effort is minimal, Mr. Nail said. Marketers need to win mass audiences, not speak to only a few. That's "one of the oxymorons of targeted marketing."

But Mr. Willcock said Imagini creates opportunities for commerce. "The same thing that motivates a 15-year-old in Chicago might motivate a 40-year-old guy in London," he said. "It's much more about understanding the innate motivations of people."
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