Neurons in the brain

Branding. Driven by neuroscience.

Brand strategy
Jon Scott
Leigh Prather

Our minds are amazing. Visualise your mind as the ultimate super-computer, with trillions of data files, all accessible within a fraction of a second. Just one cubic millimetre of our brain can hold the equivalent of two terabytes of image data – that’s the equivalent of all the data held by the Google Earth mapping system. Impressive huh!

Looking at how our minds work can provide useful insights into how we can build brands that work.

Our minds are goal orientated

The assumption that customers make conscious deliberate decisions is wrong. Subconscious decisions underpin our rational choices, in fact 95% of decisions are informed by our subconscious mind. Studies of brain activity have shown that our subconscious acts in advance of rational thought, with the ability to process 200,000 times more information than our conscious mind, selecting images without conscious recognition. Subconscious decisions are goal oriented, purposeful and rational. We all have goals to satisfy, but they might not be consciously acknowledged goals. We will tune-in to what’s around and we might do research for some purchases. For example, a Rolex watch seems irrational, but its purchase signals social status.

95% of decisions are informed by our subconscious mind.

Consistent messaging

Consistent messages travel along the same pathways in the brain will become more established – much like a well-trodden pathway. Inconsistent messages erase memories creating something known as ‘brand memory loss’. A brand should consistently remind customers of their relevance to their needs. Always making the same promise, always true to its values. Reliability breeds trust which leads to brand loyalty.  A good example of a brand component used consistently is a tagline, or strapline. Think Tesco’s ‘Every little helps’ or Nike’s ‘Just do it’. Imagine if Tesco changed their strapline every time they felt like it to ‘A little bit helps’ or ‘Small things help’ or ‘Every bit helps’. Each time a variant is used, it starts to create brand memory loss.

Make the complex simple

In a world of choice and information overload, without branding to simplify our choices, it would be almost impossible to quickly complete even the most seemingly easy tasks, like the weekly shopping. Within this environment, it is important to make your brand experience as simple as possible. Your customers will take note and appreciate this, creating a more memorable experience.

Create meaningful interactions

Meaningful interactions have a strong impact on memory, so the need to understand why customers want to interact with your brand is important. A brand needs to compliment a customer’s purpose. The subconscious mind will sift and evaluate messages based on how close they fit with their own purpose. Depending on their evaluation, the mind will either choose or reject them.

The higher your brand scores across these four areas the more likely your brand will come to mind and be favourable.

These principles inform a brand algorithm you can use to drive a brand that works.

The D.R.I.V.E. branding algorithm

A brand has to be distinctly different from its competitors, as needs can often be met by other means, so a brand needs a clear brand proposition.

Brands should to fit a customer’s needs. The subconscious mind will sift and evaluate messages and either choose or veto them based on their relevance. Only at this point, and only if it scores high, a brand will cross the awareness threshold to be accessible to the conscious brain.

A brand should consistently remind customers of its relevance to their needs. Always making the same promise, always true to its values. Reliability leads to trust, and trust leads to loyalty. This is a powerful process for building a brand that works.

Brands must be built with values, image, personality, colours, typefaces and symbols, all derived from a brand blueprint.

A brand has to entertain and encourage participation, to continually involve customers in two-way dialogue, and to understand and meet customers’ changing needs.

If you are interested in neuroscience and brand building, I’d recommend reading ‘Branding with Brains: The science of getting customers to choose your company’ by Tjaco Walvis.

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