Branding and the Brain: 5 Facts about Neuromarketing

Kelly Duval
Apr 6, 2018 · 4 min read

Having studied the rhetoric of advertisements in grad school, I’ve always been intrigued by the ways we interact with ads. Now working as a content writer for a marketing agency, I’m still fascinated by the connection between neuroscience and marketing — or “neuromarketing,” which looks at how the brain responds to marketing stimuli.

To feed this obsession, I recently read the book Brand Seduction: How Neuroscience Can Help Marketers Build Memorable Brands by brand consultant Daryl Weber. He helps us understand how our brains really work (in a readable way), then outlines how we can put these complex neuroscience concepts into practice.

Inspired by Weber’s wisdom on science and marketing, here are five fascinating neuromarketing facts:

1. 90% of Buying Decisions Are Made in the Unconscious Mind

Many of us like to think we’re immune to ads — especially if we work in marketing. But we’re less in control than we think we are. We’re not always rational with our buying decisions, and we regularly fall prey to influences outside of our awareness.

In reality, all advertising is subliminal, and Weber invites us to “embrace the unconscious mind of the consumer in all its scariness, messiness, and irrationality.”

Thinking of branding this way might be a stretch from the measurable tactics we’re used to. But it’s necessary since many of the purchases we make are largely driven by our unconscious minds.

2. It Takes People 50 Milliseconds to Form an Impression of a Brand

Consumers make up their minds about your company before even finding out what you do. How can you shape the right first impression?

The key is to focus on appealing visuals, design, and organization. People use 50% of their brains’ processing power for visuals. So, high-quality visuals and design aesthetics are crucial to ensure people want to engage with your brand.

The design you choose doesn’t just communicate your brand — it becomes your brand.

3. Our Average Attention Span Is Just 8 Seconds

Our attention spans have decreased to help us consume information quickly. There’s a lot of emphasis on winning consumer attention today when everyone’s suffering from information overload. But with all the content out there, how can we get our message to stand out?

This might actually be the wrong question to ask.

Fighting for consumer attention is overrated. Consumers don’t like being sold to, and we process most advertisements with little interest and engagement. Taking in stimuli around us without giving it our full attention is called low involvement processing. In this state, what we do remember from advertisements is the look and feel of the brand.

4. Emotions Guide Our Decision Making In Subtle Ways

Emotions are key to marketing. When we feel a certain way, we’re motivated to act. In fact, the word “emotion” and “motivate” share the same Latin root movere meaning “to move.”

But using emotions in marketing shouldn’t be about telling consumers how to feel. Rather, emotions guide buying behaviour in more subtle and unconscious ways.

Everything we see automatically gets encoded with memories and emotions. When we’re shopping for something, we don’t just see the physical attributes of products, but what the products mean to us.

We usually have a gut feeling for whether we want something or not based on how it makes us feel. It’s not a rational decision we spend much time considering, but an automatic one. We trust our instincts rather than spend hours considering every single purchase we make.

These automatic decisions are based on a culmination of feelings and emotions over time. By catering to how the human brain functions when making buying decisions, we can work on shaping our brands’ personalities and promoting the right associations.

5. Humans Are Hardwired to Perceive Meta-Communication

We don’t always say what we mean. Nonverbal cues like body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice can carry more meaning than the actual words we use.

This secondary communication — or meta-communication — is an essential part of human interaction. It can either be congruent with or contradict what we say.

In other words, how we say something is more important than what we say.

The same rule of meta-communication applies to branding. Every choice you make — or don’t make — about your brand communicates something. Every detail — the colours and fonts on your website, the emails you send, your company name, the look of your office — shapes how your audience views your brand.

Meta-communication may seem less important than the actual message and content you craft, but it’s in fact central to your brand. Just as in human interaction, meta-communication can either support or contradict your message.

Weber urges marketers to ensure everything they do tells the same story about their brand — every element should build on a central theme and contribute to the same image and feeling.

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