The Branded Mind: What neuroscience really tells us about the puzzle of the brain and the brand by Erik du Plessis

The Branded Mind by Erik du Plessis

As a little kid growing up I never wondered why my favorite soft drink was Coca Cola (Coke). All I knew was that this drink was sweet, had bubbles and after drinking it, it made me go aaaaaaahhhhhhh, of course a burp here and there was also normal. And as I remember I was allowed to drink it only on special occasions, like birthdays, for holidays and when we were on vacation. It’s not that we couldn’t afford it, we could, it was just that for me as a little kid growing up Coke was a drink I got as a reward. And to think about it the commercials and other ads were all in the same context – special family occasions. Untill this day I think this is one of the strongest positive images the Coca Cola brand has. In my life time I have tried a lot of other soft drinks and some I could say I enjoyed more then Coke, but still my first choice in the store if I am having friend over, for holidays, vacation time and other friend / family events Coke will find a way into my home. When I buy it I know what I am getting, and by now after reading about how our brains and we as people function I understand why I always pick Coke, and why I don’t give any other soft drink the opportunity to find “it’s way into my life.” And looking back about my other favorite brands for example clothes and other personal stuff I have, I see a pattern. It all has to do with my emotions and feelings. It is all connected to how “my chosen” brands were presented to me the very first time, how I feel having them, what kind of memories I created using them,  and who else also uses them. One of the most important factors was not the repetitive exposure to the brand, but the need of that feeling the brand was promising it would deliver. I strongly agree and believe that the brands we choose, we do so because of the feelings and emotions we feel using them. If you show me a brand and it does not evoke any emotions or feelings or I don’t have any memories about it, I could care less about it no matter how many times I see it. If I see a new product by a brand I don’t know I might not want to use the product, but when one of my favorite brands (companies) launches the “same product” (product with the same functions) it is more likely I will be interested in it. How about you… have you ever wondered which brands and products have your attention, why is it so and since when? For a simple exercise try and remember when did you “fall in love” with your favorite 3 brands. Now let’s take a look at my notes from the book By Erik du Plessis: The Branded Mind.

My notes from the book:

  • The human brain is all about survival. To do this efficiently the brain has to learn from experiences so that when it encounters something in the environment it has memories with which to interpret the object.
  • When we have experiences we lay down memories not only of the events, but also how we felt when we experienced the event. So when we interpret events, we recal not only memories of the event but also how we felt about it (this is Damasio’s somatic marker).
  • People give attention to things they like, and attention creates memories.
  • Without attention and memory nothing happens. Without a memory you cannot interpret and without interpretations you cannot decide.
  • The structures of the brain are made up out neurons and synapses. Everyone’s brain is made up of the same structures, and each of these structures, when activated, will lead to something similar happening in each brain. In this sense our brains are biologically hard wired and are the same. However, the synapses and even the connections between neurons will differ for each of us based on our experiences (memories).
  • Neurons are electrically excitable cells in the nervous system that process and transmit information. A neuron has an axon along which electrical impulses are transmitted and up to 10.000 dendrites that receive impulses from the axon of other neurons.
  • Neurons themselves do not do that much in the brain, what really matters is the synapses (connecting points between the neurons). This is where the memories are stored.
  • Each neuron is connected to up to 10.000 other neurons. A neuron has no intelligence of its own, and does not even remember anything. All a neuron does is pings all the neurons that it is connected to.
  • The synapses are where an axon from one neuron meets the dendrites of another neuron. The state of the chemicals  (limens) inside the synapse determines a threshold, and if the incoming impulses are above this threshold the receiving neuron will fire. Every time two neurons fire simultaneously the state of the chemicals in the synapse will change in such a way that the threshold decreases, thus increasing the likelihood that the receiving neuron will fire when there is a future impulse.
  • All humans have mainly the same brains biologically, and we all use the same parts of the brain for the same survival reason. However different things in the environment will make the different areas in the brain respond differently between different people. Factors that will create different responses among consumers will include their cultures and their personalities.
  • Moods, personality and culture are neuroscience issues, and they have a big impact on brand marketing and decision-making.
  • It is the anticipation of how much pleasure we will get from consuming one brand versus another that determines which one we buy.
  • Consumers are going to react to your brand based on their classification and what they think that class of products does, even if they are wrong.
  • If something in the environment changes and it is important to our survival, we will experience an emotion. This emotion will cause us to react appropriately to the change in the environment.
  • A decision is really just making a choice between alternatives. The best indication of which alternative would be best for you is your past experience. The system that exists in the brain to do this is called the pleasure system, and is mostly operated by dopamine and serotonin. As a marketer you have to find a way for the brain to release more dopamine when people see your brand or ads.
  • The more emotional the moment is the stronger are the memories.
  • The dopamine system is the most important system as far as brand marketing is concerned. All you have to do is make sure that your brand releases more dopamine when the consumer thinks about your brand than any other competing brand.
  • Personality has a major influence on brand choice, and is a major variable for marketers when they position brands.
  • People’s choices depend on their memories (experiences).
  • All our social interactions begin with prejudice. The content of these prejudices has been acquired through our interactions with friends and acquaintances and through hearsay. Our prejudices begin with stereotypes.
  • People’s feelings are strongly determined by their culture. And what might appear as a rational behavior for one person might appear to be very irrational to another.
  • In stressful situations men have increased blood flow to the left orbifrontal cortex – suggested activation of the “fight or flight”responses. While in women, stress activates the limbic system which is associated with emotional responses (research done with magnetic resonance imaging).
  • Men have two and a half times the brain space devoted to the sexual drive in their hypothalamus than women. Sexual thoughts flicker in the background of a man’s visual cortex all day and night, making him always ready for seizing sexual opportunities.
  • Men also have larger brain centers for muscular action and aggression.
  • Pecking order and hierarchy matter more deeply to men than most women realize.
  • When men are faced with a loved one’s emotional distress, their brain area for solving and fixing the situation will immediately spark.
  • One important implication is that the sheer size of brain structures may change with specific experiences.
  • Neuroscience-based methods do not reveal the inner truth, rather they provide additional perspective on consumers’ responses to brands and marketing, which needs interpretation in the light of other information. Neuroscience techniques on their own can’t fully explain consumers’ responses.
  • A subliminal message is a signal or message embedded in another object, designed to pass below the normal limits of perception. These messages are indiscernible by the conscious mind, but allegedly affect the subconscious or deeper mind.
  • Smell is the only sense that goes directly to the limbic system and is therefore the sense that can raise very strong emotions.
  • Advertisement can have an effect without it being given attention, but only if the advertisement has been previously “cognized” – otherwise it cannot be recognized. If no memory has been formed, then there is nothing to refresh. Re-cognition is a good thing because it lowers the limens of the advertisement’s memories.
  • Using a fast-forward function while viewing TV or other media during ads increases ad awareness because of more attention given to the viewed media, so the user does not skip his program because he forwarded to far.
  • The way that a brand becomes the one with the lowest limens will be by way of being the brand mostly used, or the one that has made you aware of it most over recent time.
  • You cannot expect your brand to sell itself just based on what it does when people use it. The expectation of how you would feel when you use it has to be created.
  • With brand its suggested that the anticipation of a future dopamine moment is what is used in decision-making.
  • It is possible to create memories in people of events that did not really occur – as long as they are reasonable.
  • The question asked for every brand decision has to be: “If we do this, or that, to the brand, how will it make the consumers feel about using the brands?”

With every book I read about neuroscience and neuromarketing I learn more and more about our brains, how and why we think the way we do, and by what “formula” (character, culture, previous experiences,…) we make decisions. I find this information very important for each and every entrepreneur, not just marketers or people in sales. As Erik states in the book we are and we shape ourselves by where we give our attention, because where our attention lies, there the connections between our neurons strengthen, and memories are build. And we make most choices based on our memories and emotions. That was something I didn’t learn much about in college, or in the first couple of jobs I worked at. What I also liked about the book and the author is that Erik tells it like it is. Neuromarketing and neuroscience add value to the professions of marketing and sales, and are not the holy grail of it. Neuromarketing with the combination of psychology and philosophy will evolve branding and sales (not just neuromarketing). Erik also makes a strong point that when making market segmentation, the segmentation has to include much more than just demographic information, it also need to include culture, emotions, personalities,… The number one takeaway from this book is: make strong and lasting emotion packed experiences for your customers or potential customers so they have good memories of your brand. How to do that… now that is a “story” for another time.

The book was not an easy read, sometimes it was like a textbook, and I was hoping for more insight for marketing to men and to women and differently defined focused groups, or at least about their biological tendencies and examples on how to use that information for getting people’s attention, and then creating positive and memorable experiences. But if you are interested in neuromarketing you should read it. Just be prepared to read a lot about how the brain functions.

Feel free to comment about the book. I would also appreciate your input about the post and the blog. If you have any suggestions what you found good, what you would like to see different, or simply any advice on what would you like to read as a review of a book let me know.

Thank you for your time. I hope you have found this post helpful. Talk to you in the comment section.



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