The “3 Fs”: How fame, fluency and feeling drive brand growth

Fame, fluency and feeling are the three key drivers of brand growth, according to extensive research shared with us by one of our insight agency partners, System 1, at our global brandgym Partner Retreat last week. Importantly, there is a good correlation between in-market brand performance and a blend of scores on the 3 Fs, called a ‘star rating’ (see below).

Below I explore these 3 Fs and how they work together to drive brand preference by tapping into our intuitive system 1 way of choosing things, as opposed to our more rational system 2 thinking process.

Source: System 1 book


The first driver of brand choice is fame: how well known a brand is in its given category. Fame helps create ‘mental availability’, meaning a brand is easily recalled at the moment of choice. This choice decision could  be “What beer shall I have in the pub?”. But it could also be “What brand consultancies shall we put on our pitch list?” Mental availability is crucial in business-to-business marketing, not just consumer marketing.

For fame, ‘top-of-mind’ awareness is critical: the first brand that comes to mind. The challenge for many big brands we work with is that they have high promoted awareness, but only a small proportion of this is top-of-mind. I liken this to a nice old building you pass on the way to work every day, but no longer notice.


Fluency is one of the key ways you can build fame for your brand. It relates to the speed and ease with which people process information about your brand. And this is closely linked to how distinctive the brand is, a topic we have regularly posted on. Distinctiveness is built over time by creating and amplifying distinctive brand properties, such as colours, symbols, slogans and sounds.

Santander have used fluency to great effect in the UK banking market. The brand won 1 in 4 of all current account “switchers” between 2013 and 2015, more than trebling current account balances, from £13 billion to £41 billion. Santander consistently and clearly use a red colour in all of their marketing. System 1 research shows just how effective this was. When put under time pressure, forced to use system 1 processing, people strongly link the colour red to Santander (see below). Interestingly, this linkage to red is much stronger than it is for HSBC, who have used red for much longer, but less effectively.

Source: System 1 book

In addition, the brand also created a distinctive product called the 123 Account to build fluency, as I posted on here. The 123 account brought some welcome simplicity to complex market, offering cashback and interest at 1, 2 or 3% depending on the type of spending and amount of savings.


Feeling is the emotions people feel about a brand. Emotions are important, as we use them to make quick decisions about which brand to buy. “If you feel good about it it, it’s a good choice,” say System 1 say in their book. The power of emotions is shown by IPA research. Advertising that relied on rational product messaging led to major profit gains in 16% of campaigns researched. Adding emotional ‘sizzle’ improved the chances of achieving large gains significantly, to 26%.

The Guinness Made of More campaign is a good example of using emotional feeling, wining a Gold IPA Advertising award based on growing share in both the UK and Ireland. The campaign builds on a product truth about the beer itself being made of more, with its distinctive black and white colour and rich taste. Made of More also talks about the character of the Guinness drinker. One of the most effective executions, Basketball, shows a group of men playing a highly competitive and intense game of wheelchair basketball. As the game ends, the players shake hands and the twist in the tale is revealed: all but one of the men stand up, heading for the bar for a Guinness with their wheelchair-bound mate. System 1 testing showed how emotional feelings built during the execution, peaking during the finale at the end.

In conclusion, to quote System 1, “Brands should come readily to mind (Fame), feel good (Feeling) and be recognisable (Fluency). The 3 Fs drive current market share, future share gain, and value perception: they are the keys to profitable growth.”

We explore system 1 thinking in depth on our brandgym Mastering Brand Growth program. If you’d like more info on the program, simply pop your name and email in the form below (we’ll also send you the weekly brandgym blog email and brandgym Academy news, but you can opt out at any time).