Visual Persuasion: An Exploration of the Relation between the Visual Attributes of Thumbnails and the View-Through of Videos

43 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2020 Last revised: 19 May 2021

Date Written: May 27, 2020

Abstract

As more businesses become aware of the advantages of video marketing, the competition in online
video platforms is becoming fierce. For video content, it is becoming more challenging to stand
out from the crowd. Industry experts and anecdotal evidence have highlighted the importance of
thumbnails for the view-through of videos. Thumbnails are usually the first thing that potential
viewers see when they browse through an online video platform. While browsing through the
platform, they decide which videos to click and watch based on the information and impression
they obtain from thumbnails. Therefore, a thumbnail needs to be able to tell potential viewers what
the video is about (i.e., be informative). At the same time, a thumbnail needs to grab potential
viewers’ attention (i.e., be visually appealing). Drawing from the elaboration likelihood model
(ELM), we take the visual attributes that are relevant to the informativeness of thumbnails (e.g.,
the element complexity and object complexity of thumbnails) as central route cues, take the visual
attributes that are relevant to the aesthetics of thumbnails (e.g., the celebrity endorsement,
colorfulness, brightness, and image quality of thumbnails) as peripheral route cues, and explore
the relation between these visual attributes and the view-through of videos using 3,745 marketing
videos posted by 38 top brands across 4 industries – the automobile, beverage, restaurant, and toy
industries – on YouTube. We construct our variables by extracting features from thumbnails using
image mining techniques. Thus, our measures are reasonably scalable and, more importantly, not
subjective. This study contributes to the literature on information systems and marketing by
enhancing our understanding of the role of visual attributes in persuading viewers in the context
of video content marketing. Finally, our results provide useful guidelines for optimizing
thumbnails to grab potential viewers’ attention and yield more video views.

Keywords: Thumbnails, video view-through, video content marketing, branded video content, elaboration likelihood model, visual persuasion, image mining.

Suggested Citation

Koh, Byungwan and Cui, Fuquan, Visual Persuasion: An Exploration of the Relation between the Visual Attributes of Thumbnails and the View-Through of Videos (May 27, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3611735 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3611735

Byungwan Koh (Contact Author)

Korea University ( email )

Anam-Dong, Seongbuk-Gu
Seoul 136-701, 136701
Korea

Fuquan Cui

bilibili ( email )

Guozheng Center, 485 Zhengli Rd, Yangpu District
Shanghai, 200433
China

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