Branding in a blink of the eye

Two books in recent years have changed the way we think about how we think. In ‘Blink’, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about choices that we make in an instant, literally in the blink of an eye. He asserted that ‘Blink’, characterized by fast & frugal thinking, almost always trumps the more rational but ploddy alternative, ‘Think’. More recently, Daniel Kahnemaan’s ‘Thinking Fast & Slow’ popularized the idea of ‘System1’ thinking that is intuitive, fast & based on simple heuristics and overrides the more logical and deliberate ‘System 2’ thinking.

But how to build on this understanding of how we really think, whether you call it blink or System 1? Below we explore three ways to engage with your brand’s audiences.

1. Connect emotionally

Invoking emotions allows us to engage consumers effectively and tap into System 1 thinking. If we can create a strong emotional connection with consumers we have a chance of winning a stronger place in their long-term memories. While this is an infinitely vast area, psychologist Paul Ekman’s seminal work makes it easier for us. He identified 7 universal emotions that are recognized & expressed in the same way across cultures. These are uncannily similar to the ‘Navarasas’ (or Nine Emotions) that have been part of Indian classical dance for centuries.

 Paul Ekman’s Global EmotionsIndian Navarasas
1HappinessHaasyam (happiness/laughter)
2SurpriseAdbutham (surprise/wonder)
3SadnessKarunyam (sadness/compassion)
4AngerRaudram (anger)
5FearBhayanakam (fear/terror)
6DisgustBhibatsyam (disgust/contempt)
7ContemptVeeram (heroism/courage)
8Shringaram (love/beauty)
9Shantam (peace/tranquility)

2. Be distinctive

Many brands have understood the importance of emotion. Happiness in particular is an overcrowded space, not surprising given that it is the only one of the seven emotions that is universally positive. This is why smart brands find a distinctive ‘angle’ to take on happiness. For example, Dove is about helping women ‘be happy in their own skin’ through building self esteem. Cadbury’s, on the other hand, has defined its take on happiness as being about ‘freeing the joy’ in a way that is spontaneous and exuberant.

A recent exploration for a food client created a ‘happiness mind-map’ that identified different dimensions of happiness to explore. This helped pin down a specific angle for the brand to own and anchor on.

Of course, marketing does not need to restrict itself only to happiness; and can explore other emotions too, such as sadness or fear. But as a recent blog here suggested, advertisers need to resolve these negative emotions positively within the ad itself.

3. Build brand properties

We humans are pattern-making machines, constantly scanning our environment for patterns, to help us quickly make choices. This is where brand properties come in. They are distinctive ways of evoking patterns by reminding consumers explicitly (or implicitly) about our brand. Executed consistently, they create patterns that ‘seal the deal’ in favour of our brands.

Summing Up

Knowing that our audiences blink (and not think), we can engineer our brand mix elements to invoke their System1 thinking in our favour. But this is the ‘science’. To create work of any consequence, brands need to blend this with the art and craft of creativity to produce marketing that is distinctive and emotionally resonant.