Olesia Nikulina

PhD researcher in visual storytelling

I combine my art background, consulting experience, and research passion to study how visual marketing affects consumer behavior

About me

I combine methods from computer science (e.g., image and text mining) with theories from psychology and marketing to study how image design elements affect consumer behavior and decision-making.I have a systematic review published in the Journal of Advertising and an empirical paper submitted to the Journal of Marketing.Before starting my PhD (joint project of Hasselt University and Maastricht University), I worked as a consultant at EY, as an overseas marketing manager (MENA countries) at a large IT company, and as a research project manager (text mining for business schools impact) at Maastricht University SBE.

But outside of work, I am also a:

PhD council member

Certified yoga teacher · YTT200

Twitter writer

About my research

My research explores how image design elements affect consumer behavior, with a special focus on social media images. I use computer vision to quantify various image design elements (e.g., color, composition, texture) and empirical modeling to predict consumer behavior. My research projects are aligned to create a theory-informed and data-driven visual theory of digital media.

I have independently secured my doctoral research funding from the Research Foundation Flanders (Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, FWO), Special Research Fund of the University of Hasselt (Bijzonder Onderzoeksfonds, BOF), and other funding agencies.

I am passionate about storytelling, unstructured data, branding, social media, visual marketing, and consumer psychology. Get in touch with me if you'd like to collaborate.

About my teaching

I teach marketing and management courses, both in PBL (problem-based learning) and traditional lecture-based approaches. Students value course interactivity, my involvement, and continuous feedback. I am passionate about teaching Master's students and executives, especially using case studies, for which I was awarded Paul R. Lawrence Fellowship from Case Research Foundation 2023.Currently, I'm completing University Teaching Qualification (UTQ) at Maastricht University with modules focused on course development, teaching delivery, student assessment, educational vision, and quality assurance.

University teaching

Introduction to Business Management 2020-2023 · Hasselt University (Belgium)
Market Research Methodology 2020 · Hasselt University (Belgium)
Master's Theses Supervision (15 students in total, average grade: 8.4/10) 2019-2024 · Maastricht University, Hasselt University (the Netherlands & Belgium)

Extracurricular teaching

EY Workshops for ExCom representatives
International Case Teams Coaching 2019-2023 · Hasselt University (Belgium), Higher School of Economics (Russia)
CBS Case Competition Global Ambassador 2021 · Copenhagen Business School (Denmark)
CV Workshop for Students 2022 · Hasselt University (Belgium)


Read the selected testimonials from my students below or check my LinkedIn page for more.

completed research

Nikulina, O., Grewal, D., van Riel., A., Lemmink, J., Wetzels, M. Narrate, Act, and Resonate to Tell a Visual Story: A Systematic Review of How Images Transport Viewers, Journal of Advertising. https://doi.org/10.1080/00913367.2024.2309921The systematic review focuses on visual storytelling through the lens of narrative transportation theory. It proposes the NAR framework of visual narrativity (narrate, act, and resonate) and specific image design elements that marketers can use to tell a compelling story. Future research directions for visually-driven studies are suggested.

Nikulina, O., Grewal, D., van Riel., A., Lemmink, J., Wetzels, M. "Getting in (Visual) Touch with Consumers: Effect of Visual texture on Image Perception and Engagement". Submitted to the Journal of MarketingIn this paper, we leverage unstructured visual data sourced from Instagram and Facebook to demonstrate that: (1) the visual texture of an image can impact the number of likes and comments it receives; (2) visual texture helps brands craft their visual narrative, with images exhibiting congruence in visual texture with the brand's social media profile eliciting higher levels of engagement.

working papers

My working papers combine unstructured visual data with consumer behavior literature, focusing, among others, on visual confidence, emotional resonance, brand activism versus woke-washing, and virtual influencers' impact.

conferences & invited talks

Throughout my consulting career, I've given more than 300 presentations and designed over 10 000 slides. I'm passionate about presenting and advocate for simplifying academic presentations

Conference talks

1Interantional Marketing Trends Conference, Venice, Italty · How do Visuals Convey Meaning?
2Marketing and the Creator Economy Conference at Columbia Business School, New York, NY · Getting in (Visual) Touch with Consumers: Effect of Visual texture on Image Perception and Engagement
3North American Case Research Association Conference, San Antonio, TX · Marketing to Sporadic Travelers
4American Academy of Advertising 2023, Denver, CO · Narrate, Act, and Resonate to Tell a Story: Systematic Review of Visual Narrative Transportation
5ACR 2022, Denver, CO · Visual Storytelling: How Images Transport Us Into the Narrative World
6AMA Winter Academic Conference 2022, Las Vegas, NV · Keep It Simple? Mining Social Media Images to Reveal the Optimal Visual Complexity Level
710th AIM-AMA Sheth Foundation Doctoral Consortium 2022, online
8Interactive Marketing Research Conference 2021, online · Visual Storytelling: How Images Transport Us Into the Narrative World
97th RME Research Conference 2020, online · A Road Through the Sustainability Assessment Jungle: Text Mining Social Media Communications of Business Schools

Invited talks

1Maastricht University SBE 2022 · Brown bag seminar "Visual Storytelling: How Images Transport Us Into the Narrative World"
2Maastricht University SBE 2023 · Guest lecture at Unstructured Data Analysis course (technical applications of image mining and their practical relevance)