During the course of my career, I have heard marketing departments and agencies referred to as ‘the colouring in department’. Whilst this is mostly said in jest, sometimes it does make you stop & wonder if this is all marketing really is. Is this ever-growing, constantly evolving sector dependent on people’s gut feel & on-the-job experience, or is there more science to building brands?

In our line of marketing, we build our strategies and campaigns with ‘the consumer’ at the heart. This is not ground breaking of course, but it’s always good to remind yourself that ‘the consumer’ is a human too – making conscious & unconscious decisions, driven by emotions and past experiences. So, time for me to get my science hat on and explore how the brain processes & understands brands and marketing activity.

First and foremost, it is important to understand that consumer behaviour is formed in two ways: functional & neuropsychological goals. Functional goals really take things literally: you buy a drink to quench your thirst, for example. Neuropsychological goals are driven by your emotions towards that drink: do you like the flavour, what health benefits does it offer etc. etc.? To develop successful brand communications, both of these goals must be met, but it can be very much argued that the neuropsychological goal is the one that opens the door for a wild success.

The way to achieve a functional goal is simple – communicate to consumers what your brand is, and what it does. Nevertheless, whilst this is a seemingly obvious point, there are other aspects of this to consider; for example, studies have shown that consumers are able to make a shopping decision in 0.3 seconds, purely based on a brand’s distinctive assets. These distinctive assets cover everything from colour, bottle shape to brand mark – things always at the front of a marketer’s mind when developing packaging. These have become so deeply engrained in consumers’ minds, that there’s even a board game based on well-known logos – from which I emerged victorious one family Christmas. However, whilst I was humbly celebrating my glory, I felt a slightly unnerving reality settle over me – I’ve been so overloaded with brands over the years that I slammed the other team to a rather shameful defeat (so maybe not so humble in the victory). This realisation brings me on to my next point: whilst we all may recognise a brand through its distinctive assets & as such understand its function, we all have associations with this brand – and this is the main factor in purchase decisions – our neuropsychological goal.

Throughout my experience in various aspects of marketing, I have heard different terminology relating to neuropsychological goals, but nothing quite as scientific; terms such as ‘winning the hearts and minds’, ‘building brand loyalty’, ‘delivering authenticity’ and so on and so forth. The scientific term encompasses all of these, neatly wrapping it up in one little box: if people only shopped to achieve their functional goals, there would be only one brand of whisky for example. However, consumers need more from their brands – something that will make their task easier, their party better, their drink healthier…and this is where emotions come in to play. Research has demonstrated that consumers primarily use their emotions to make purchase decisions. Whilst our brains respond to visual stimuli almost instantaneously, stories build our emotional connections to brands and remain in our subconscious for a longer period of time. This is why, in terms of reaching neuropsychological goals, it is vital for a brand to identify their consumers’ emotional drivers and build a narrative around this. It is equally as important to understand that these must differ across your range of brands – each product or brand must build its own narrative based off of its own attributes and consumer. The perfect example here is Coca Cola; a brand that successfully sold two essentially identical products (Diet Coke and Coke Zero) to different consumer groups by tapping into their emotional drivers.

So what I have learnt in the process of researching this insight piece? Most importantly, that whilst the ‘Moment of Wonder’ as we Wonderworkers like to call it, may be seen as marketing fluff by clients or people we don’t work directly with, it is actually scientifically proven! Never have I understood our proposition more than now, with the clarity of the defined link between emotions and brand worlds to help us achieve the ‘Woo-Hoo’ with all of our clients.

Now of course I didn't just know all of this stuff - I had to do a little bit of research. The links to the sources are below (and are very interesting reads!):