Picture this ... a country where happiness is a Covid-19 vaccination

A communication company wants to encourage South Africans to be vaccinated against Covid-19 with the help of artfully choreographed images.

BreadCrumbs has created free stock images which it hopes will help to persuade  people to be vaccinated when their time comes.

Tegan Crymble, head of behavioural insights, said they came up with the idea after seeing negative imagery related to Covid-19 vaccination.

“When Covid-19 hit and we were in the middle of the pandemic, we thought of ways to add, in a very pro-social way, to fighting the pandemic and to help South Africans,” she told TimesLIVE.

Crymble said their research showed behavioural science was being used worldwide to help with the pandemic.

“One of the elements that we picked up was that there was a lot of vaccine hesitancy globally, and there was also this perception from surveys and quantitative analysis that there was quite a hesitancy for South Africans as well.

“There were a lot of people who said, 'I’m not sure if I want to do this, let someone else do it to get herd immunity'.”

Crymble said images of vaccination that included hazmat suits and grimacing created a perception “that this is a very difficult thing — it was painful, it was scary. We wanted to add a free accessible resource out there that could help people nudge the behaviour.”

Communication company BreadCrumbs has compiled positive Covid-19 vaccine imagery to encourage more people to consider vaccinating.
Communication company BreadCrumbs has compiled positive Covid-19 vaccine imagery to encourage more people to consider vaccinating.
Image: BreadCrumbs

Brains are designed to process visual information faster and more efficiently than any other form of information, she said.

“This means that imagery is a powerful tool for capturing attention and evoking emotion — which can help drive action.”

In their research on vaccine hesitancy and behavioural initiatives to offset this uncertainty, Crymble said they explored the role subliminal visual language plays in nudging vaccine acceptance.

Below are some of the behavioural principles they considered:

Representative demographics

The people shown should be representative of the population in terms of age, gender, race and lifestyle. This allows the audience to identify and relate to the imagery better and leverages the “social proof” bias which is the likelihood of us doing something when “others like me” are also doing it.

Smiling and smizing

Smiling is the universal sign of happiness. Showing images of people smiling (not grimacing) helps to portray the vaccine process as easy and painless. Where smiling pictures are not possible (due to the mandatory wearing of masks), images should show people smizing (smiling with their eyes) and/or wearing masks that have smiles or happy images or linguistic cues printed on them.


Colour plays a vitally important role in cognitive psychology. Colour has been shown to sway thinking, change moods, and drive actions. It’s therefore important to focus on the clothing colours used in vaccine imagery. Calming and trust colours such as soft blues, greens, pinks, whites, greys, and even purples encourage peace of mind when we see them. Try to avoid colours that represent urgency or danger and which can trigger negative emotions, such as the warmer tones of red, dark orange and black.

Safety and professionalism

With the concern linked to the Covid-19 vaccination, it’s important to continually emphasise safety and professionalism, both verbally and visually. Use imagery that shows the correct medical setting by including visual cues such as health-care uniforms, surgical gloves, a stethoscope, masks and face visors, a digital thermometer and a sanitised environment. Don’t focus too much on the needle or the syringe as this makes some people uncomfortable and fearful, which means they may link the experience to pain or discomfort. Focus on the human element where possible.

Unity and patriotism

Getting the Covid-19 vaccination is not just about keeping yourself safe, but also about protecting the country as a whole. Leverage this sense of unity and ubuntu by including patriotic elements in your images. This can be the SA flag, a framed picture of the late former president Nelson Mandela or President Cyril Ramaphosa in the background of the image, or a visual of our national flower, the protea. These work best as subtle, background elements.


Our eyes are the “windows to the soul”. They can portray feelings, connection, and empathy and should be shown in your imagery. There is also the “watching-eye effect” which signifies that our actions are being watched and paid attention to. Psychological research continues to show that the visible presence of images depicting eyes nudges people towards slightly, but measurably, more honest, altruistic and pro-social behaviour.


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