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Show products or show people: an eye-tracking study of visual branding strategy on Instagram

Lijie Zhou (Department of Communication, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, USA)
Fei Xue (School of Communication, The University of Southern Mississippi, College of Arts and Sciences, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA)

Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing

ISSN: 2040-7122

Article publication date: 31 May 2021

Issue publication date: 15 October 2021




This paper aims to examine the effects of visual themes and view perspectives on users’ visual attention to brand posts on Instagram. The impact of visual attention on brand attitude and recognition is also explored.


The authors conducted a 4 (visual themes: customer-centric, employee-centric, product-centric and symbolic visuals) × 2 (view perspectives: first-person view vs third-person view) between-subject factorial eye-tracking experiment to explore their effects on viewers’ visual attention (fixation frequency and fixation duration), attitude toward the brand and brand recognition.


Results showed that, under a first-person view, participants spent the longest time viewing customer-centric images and paid the most attention to product-centric and customer-centric images. For images in the third-person view, product-centric images received the longest fixation duration and highest fixation frequency. Customer-centric image and product-centric image generated significantly higher amount of fixation duration and fixation frequency than the symbolic image, regardless of view perspective. Brand recognition was positively influenced by fixation frequency but not by fixation duration.


This study is an extended application of Aaker’s (1996) brand identity planning model in visual branding on Instagram. As the findings indicated, the effective use of visual strategies could lead to more positive responses toward the brand. By understanding how optical elements stimulate visual branding processing, marketing professionals will be able to improve information designing skills in visual-based social media platforms (such as Instagram).



Zhou, L. and Xue, F. (2021), "Show products or show people: an eye-tracking study of visual branding strategy on Instagram", Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 729-749.



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