How neuroscience can help build your brand

I first posted on how people buy on "autopilot" back in 2007, here.  Then in 2011 I posted on the work of Professor Byron Sharp on "How brands grow" and the importance of creating "distinctive memory structure" to tap into this autopilot behaviour, also called "system 1".

In 2015 these concepts are going mainstream, and there was a good piece in Marketing here, by Vicky Bullen, CEO of design agency Coley Porter Bell (subscription needed).

1. Tap into cultural codes

One way to tap into intuitive system 1 thinking is to tap into existing cultural codes to make your brand distinctive. Here, what you can do is use "borrowed memory structure" from something which already has meaning. A great example Vicky uses in  upmarket jam brand Bonne Maman. As she says, "It unlocks the associations of homemade with its gingham lids and simple black-and-white labels." 

We posted here on how the Bonne Maman brand has stretched beyond the core using these distinctive brand properties to help create "fresh consistency".

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2. Keep up with the times

Culture changes over time, as do visual trends. Vicky uses the example of the healthy food category. In the past this used a lot of blue and white, with a simple almost stark look focused on being "lighter" or "lower fat". New attitudes to "holistic" healthy living have led to new visual codes that are richer and more vibrant and focusing on having more good stuff. An example of this is Sainsbury's My Goodness range of healthier meals.

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3. Bring your strategy to life

Vicky makes a good point about most strategic tools being complex, wordy and so biased toward rational System 2 thinking. This has been the subject of many posts on the blog and my "Where's the Sausage?" book. It does continue to amaze me how companies and consultancies can come up with ever more complex brand positioning tools with increasing numbers of boxes to fill in.

A few things we use on projects to get round this:

– Visual exercises, for example to bring to life in pictures what the brand is and isn't

– Bring to life the vision first as a visual story ("the cake") and only after show the brand vision in box-like format ("the recipe")

– Use videos and brand books to share the vision internally. Never, ever show a brand onion/key/pyramid to a wider audience inside the business

In conclusion, some new ideas on how to tap into system 1, autopilot thinking.