We are hopelessly irrational: we need brands to construct self-esteem, to understand who we are in the social hierarchy and to decipher social messages from other people.
Lying in the tomograph in silence (so as not to lie), the participants of neurobiological experiments when evaluating brand logos, it turns out, turn on the “social” part of the brain to the fullest. They are trying to use trademarks to form their own identity in the world of people. And it is literally visible on the monitors…
Some advertising specialists have knowledge about the described phenomenon implicitly, implicitly. That is, they “know” something, but do not understand what they know and why. Specialists engaged in the advertising business most often act intuitively, only occasionally turning to psychological research.
In recent decades, psychologists have been able to prove that consumers treat brands like living people. But scientists, of course, have always wanted to objectively “feel” this relationship with the help of measuring equipment. And it turns out that in the last 10 years, some neuroscientists have succeeded – to the delight of the most rational advertisers, for whom their own intuitive knowledge is not enough.
For example, in 2012, researchers from the University of Porto (Portugal), the Hospital de Sao Joao (Portugal) and the University of Suffolk (UK) published the results of an experiment during which, using tomography, it turned out to track which areas of the brain are activated and work in the process of evaluating brands.
Moreover, not only the reactions of the participants of the experiment to the names and logos of brands, which they additionally pronounced verbally, were studied. Scientists conducted separate runs when the subjects were not given any tasks, and they had to be silent. In this way, the researchers were able to look at the process of implicit evaluation of brands by the human brain. This was important in order to exclude the “noisy” influence on the results of research communication of experimental subjects and experimenters. The scientists sought to remove all the factors that could force the study participants to “seem, not be.”
The patterns that allowed neuroscientists to state:
“We assume that brands are significant tools that each person collects and uses for “distribution” (in the original, “diffusion”, approx. the author’s) own identity, as well as for the perception and interpretation of messages coming from others… Brands are a culturally accepted social currency that allows a person to draw reliable conclusions about others.”
Simply put, the logic of the human brain is as follows: who uses prestigious (expensive, well–known, popular, economical, eco-friendly, etc.) pieces is the “good“, “successful“, “correct“. It’s worth hanging out with. And in order to be with me, I also need to use these things, and so that everyone around me can see…
During the experiments, the subjects were actively injected with brain regions that construct a person’s idea of himself, an idea of others and create “theories of mind” – modeling what another person thinks about himself and even “what the other thinks about me, and what he thinks about what I think about him?”
It would seem that only some logos familiar to the test subjects participated in the case (well–known brands were used in the experiment), what does self-esteem, evaluation of others and evaluation of how others evaluate you have to do with it? And here you go…
Also, in the course of the described study, neuroscientists obtained data suggesting that “…the emotional network of the human brain may be involved in the perception of brands, although the logos selected for the study were not subjected to targeted verification in accordance with their emotional content.”
- Conclusions from what has been said for advertisers: by promoting a brand, create the impression in the consumer that the use of a branded product or service will increase the evaluation of the consumer’s persona by other people.
Brands act even on children’s brains
Scientists are, of course, cynical guys in some ways. Some of them risk studying even the impact of branding on the brain of children (which is in the hands of advertisers). For example, in 2014, a group of neuroscientists, psychiatrists and psychologists from the University of Missouri (USA) and the University of Kansas (USA) conducted the world’s first study of neural responses to brands in physically and mentally healthy adolescents aged 10-14 years. And yes, they were also shoved into the tomograph, and then the logos of food and non-food brands were shown.
It turned out that food brands in children caused a more active reaction than brands not about food. And included “food motivation“. However, teenagers did not eat for four hours before the procedure, and the researchers do not exclude that they were just slightly hungry.
Scientists have seen that children’s brains tend to react to brands in much the same way as an adult. With one difference – “food” logos are perceived by teenagers brighter and more emotionally.
- Conclusion for advertisers: children are also consumers, and trademarks are just as important for them as for adults. But food brands are easier to attract them than non-food brands.
The brand should be remembered firmly
Alas, there are not as many studies of the influence of brands on the brain using tomography as we would like. They are expensive in the organization. And the use of neuroimaging when testing advertising creatives or new brands is a matter of the future. Now even large agencies can’t afford it.
However, there are three other methods that claim to be effective in measuring a person’s physiological response to advertising and brands: software and hardware tracking of eye movements (“eye tracking“), electroencephalography and measurement of skin conductivity (EDA technology used in polygraph tests).
In 2021, a group of Polish scientists from the Poznan University of Business and Technology published the results of a comparative study of all three technologies. It is called “Comparative analysis of neuromarketing methods for predicting brand purchases among young people.”
In the course of experiments, it turned out that marketers should rather trust the technology of measuring skin conductivity. This method has shown the best results. Moreover, in comparison with the control method, usually used in psychology – self-reports of participants in experiments with subsequent content and mathematical analysis.
The research participants were shown video ads of real-life familiar and unfamiliar brands of retail companies. A moderate emotional component was sewn into it, and brand logos appeared at the end of the videos.
The EDA method predicted the appearance of a desire in the subjects to buy something in a store under a particular brand statistically reliably. And, by the way, technology made it possible to see that research participants reacted to familiar brands by “turning on” associations, and to unfamiliar ones by mental efforts, which scientists interpret as an increase in attention and partly as a signal of misunderstanding of what is happening in advertising.
EDA indicators indicated that with the same genre of advertising and similar content, familiar brands more effectively push the test subjects to make a positive purchase decision. It also turned out that emotional arousal is an important predictor of product choice.
Interestingly, the authors of the scientific work warn that it is better not to advertise inside programs (on TV or on the Internet) that are very emotional (for example, broadcasts of significant sports). The fact is that the emotional excitement of the program itself can prevent the viewer from remembering the brands that he saw in the commercial breaks.
- Conclusion for advertisers: the importance of brand awareness is confirmed by physiological measurements. The brand name should be diligently hammered into the memory of consumers. They should also be emotionally shaken up with the help of advertising. Emotions help to make a positive purchase decision.
Brand awareness, its social prestige and the emotions associated with it are a great advertising triad
“What an unprecedented thing!” an experienced advertiser will say, “We already knew that.” And such a statement would be a cognitive distortion. We “knew” about the Great Advertising Triad intuitively, we only guessed something like that and often acted at random. Only many years of experience allowed us to guess what exactly should be pressed in our creatives.
And now we know it is proven. And we understand that it is not necessary to focus only on recognition, only on emotions or only on social prestige. The supposed ideal advertisement should include all three ingredients. If you like, we have before us the Holy Grail of Advertising, the “philosopher’s stone” of the advertiser.
Now almost any business – whether small, “on the knee”, or large – can hang a huge poster with infographics in its marketing department: they say, include three well-known elements in each of your messages. If one component is missing in it, then your advertising message is not effective enough.
And, perhaps, the main ingredient is to depict brand awareness on the poster. Its effectiveness intersects with the effectiveness of “social prestige”. What everyone has heard about becomes a part of the human mental and social cosmos, acquires a special psychological significance.
Apparently, for this reason, any business, marketing gestures should start with pumping brand awareness among the target audience. Recognition is already largely a “social prestige” or at least a springboard to it.