In Brand Seduction, Daryl reveals the latest psychological and neuroscientific discoveries about how our minds process brand information and make decisions, and the important roles our emotions and unconscious play in our selections.
Welcome to the new world of neuromarketing.
Through simple language, engaging stories, and real-world examples, Brand Seduction shows you how to decode, build, and use these hidden brand fantasies to grow your brand and business. You'll learn:
Everyone seems to have a different idea of what brands are, how they work, and how they are built. Brand Seduction digs deeper into the nature of brands, how they exist and behave in the mind, and how marketers and business leaders can use this understanding to "seduce" customers and grow their businesses.
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About the Author
Daryl Weber is a branding consultant whose work has influenced many of the best and biggest brands in the world, including Coca-Cola, Nike, Johnnie Walker, Gatorade, Pampers, and many more. He was formerly Global Director of Creative Strategy at The Coca-Cola Company, where he oversaw brand and communication strategy for many of the company's billion-dollar brands. Prior to that, he was a Director of Strategy at the consultancy Redscout, where he advised Fortune 500 companies on new product innovation and brand positioning. Weber has a BA in psychology from Columbia University. He resides in Atlanta with his wife, Jennifer, and son, Avi. You can follow him on Twitter @BrandedCortex.
Read an Excerpt
Beauty is in the Brain of the Beholder
How Brands Enter the Mind
Our perception of the world is a fantasy that coincides with reality.
— Chris Frith
Oh, the brain, one of the greatest frontiers in science today. Although we have come a long way in understanding many of its basic processes and functions, there is still so much we don't know. Some philosophers believe we can't use our brains to ever fully understand the brain (how can the brain ever really know itself?), but I believe in the coming decades we'll continue to chip away at this vastly complex and aweinspiring organ, and that our understanding of it will begin to influence many aspects of life, from education, to economics, to law, and yes, marketing.
This chapter will serve as a brief introduction to the amazing wonder inside our heads. For the science-phobes among you, I hope you find it fascinating and somewhat illuminating. And don't worry, there won't be a test.
Let's peek under the microscope
Try this: make fists with both of your hands and put them together in front of you (you may have to put this book down, but that's okay, I'll wait). That double fist is roughly the size of your brain. There it is. That's it. It even has two hemispheres like your brain.
Within that small space exists everything about your very being. It's who you are, how you sense the world, how you move, how you breathe, and how you feel. Everything you've ever learned and everything you've ever experienced, and so much more, are all in that little three-pound lump that's about the same size as an average cauliflower.
Inside that lump we have a mix of brain cells, mainly neurons and their supporting structures called glial cells. Though glial cells greatly outnumber neurons, the real action happens in the neurons, so let's get to know them.
A single neuron looks a bit like a tiny tree — it has a long trunk and many branches that extend out. Now, we have a lot of neurons in our brains; the latest estimates say about 86–100 billion of them. For context, that's close to half of the stars in our Milky Way galaxy. But amazingly, that's only the start of it.
Neurons connect to their neighboring neurons at intersections called synapses. And it's in these connection points where the numbers get really, really big.
Every one of those 100 billion neurons can have thousands of synapses with other neurons. If we assume each neuron has 1000 synapses (a conservative estimate, given that many have 10,000 connections or more), we can see that 86 billion multiplied by 1000 is going to have a lot of zeros. It would be a 10 with 14 zeros after it, in fact. Many estimates put the number of synaptic connections in the average human brain in the hundreds of trillions, and up to one thousand trillion unique, individual connection points. One. Thousand. Trillion.
It's hard for us to fathom numbers so big. That's why news reporters will often use metaphors like football fields for distances, or the amount of times something can wrap around the earth. So let's try one here. If we use our Milky Way galaxy again, which astronomers estimate to have around 400 billion stars, we see that the cerebral cortex alone (just the outermost layer of the brain) has more synaptic connections than the number of stars in 1,500 Milky Way galaxies. In fact, just one cubic centimeter of brain has more connections than stars in our galaxy, and the total length of the neuronal "wires" in the brain has been estimated to be in the millions of miles.
Some estimates say the amount of synaptic connections translates to anywhere from 1–100 terabytes of computer data. For comparison, the entire content of the Library of Congress has about 10 terabytes of data.
Okay, Okay, you get it. The connections and information processing in the brain is insanely vast.
I'm emphasizing the incredible epicness here for a reason: it's in this vast array of connections that the magic of the brain happens. We don't know for sure, but a leading theory is that our experience of consciousness arises out of this massive connectivity between neurons. These single cells, by turning each other on and off in enormous networks, seem to be the basis for learning, memory, and conscious thought — much like how a computer turns strings of 1s and 0s into complex software programs. Amazing, right?
Dr. Sebastian Seung, a brilliant professor of computational neuroscience at MIT, has coined the term "connectome" to refer to how this array of neural networks makes us who we are. In his words, "I am my connectome." This means that all of your memories and everything that makes you, you, is embedded as information within your connectome. He believes that our genome may determine physical attributes, like eye color, and even aspects of our personality, but that the biological basis for our identity lies in our connectome.
There are now groups of researchers working on actually mapping this connectome, much like how the human genome has now been mapped. This is an extraordinarily immense undertaking; remember, thousands of trillions of connections have to be mapped, neuron by neuron, and synapse by synapse. But if and when they succeed, it could show us the inner workings of our personality, memory, intelligence, and mental disorders. It even hints at a science fiction future where we can "upload" our consciousness to computers.
It's also important to note that the connectome is not a static, fixed thing. It is living, breathing, and dynamic. Your experiences change your connectome. As we grow and learn, it changes with us. Even just thinking changes it. This is indeed what learning is — the strengthening and rewiring of neuronal connections.
The classic phrase from Psych 101 classes is that neurons that "fire together, wire together." Meaning, the more we repeat a particular action or thought, the stronger those neural connections are, and the easier the action becomes. This seems to be the biological basis for learning and memory. It's why practicing something makes you better and why you get rusty when you stop. In a way, it's like working a muscle.
Your brain was built for survival, not for Walmart
What are brains for? Why do we have them at all?
You might think they're for thinking, reasoning, and feeling. We use them for that now, and those abilities seemed to have evolved to help our ancestors survive in their hostile world (coordinating hunts, social skills, learning what's dangerous, planning ahead, and so on). But it seems brains evolved in the animal kingdom for one purpose: movement.
Only animals that move have brains. Take the humble (and unfortunately named) sea squirt, an aquatic animal that starts life as a swimming tadpole-like creature. But once it finds a suitable place to attach itself, it stays there for life and actually then digests its own brain and spinal cord, as they're no longer needed.
* * *
Our brains exist for one purpose: to move us. We're now using this ancient machinery for entirely different purposes than what evolution intended.
* * *
As neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert says, "To understand movement is to understand the whole brain." He believes all of the functions of the brain — memory, cognition, sensory processing — are there for the specific reason of taking action. All the amazing things we can now do with our brains originally evolved to help us do something in the real world.
This means you can't think of the brain as a solitary unit, separate from the body. The brain is intimately connected to the body in everything it does. We work as one complete system.
It also means that most things we do in today's world — reading, driving, doing math, and shopping for brands and products — are all ways we have repurposed our ancestral neural machinery to do something it was not originally intended to do.
For example, we humans are notoriously bad at statistics. We don't have good judgment or feel for things that deal with large numbers. So we tend to fear flying and not driving, when statistically driving is much more dangerous. Or we fall victim to the "gambler's fallacy" at casinos when we think surely the next hand will be a good one because our previous five hands were so bad (of course, your current hand doesn't know or care about your last hand). It's also why we like to make pretty charts rather than look at spreadsheets of numbers. The same numbers from a spreadsheet suddenly make more sense to us when put into a chart, as that fits with how our brains have evolved.
We're all barely conscious
Looking at it from this evolutionary perspective helps us see why the brain works the way it does. And it shows that our experience of consciousness — seeing, feeling, moving our way through the world — is really only a tiny fraction of what our brains do.
Think about it; at any given moment, your brain is doing countless actions to keep you alive. Right now, it's keeping you breathing, balanced and upright, your heart pumping, monitoring the world around you, building and repairing tissue, fighting off diseases, and on and on. My brain doesn't trust me to keep track of all that, and who can blame it? I wouldn't trust myself either.
Evolution programmed our bodies to run on autopilot for everything that it possibly can. A pregnant woman even creates an entire new human being without any blueprints or directions. Her body does it on its own.
* * *
We assume we're in conscious control of our actions, but this is the misleading story our brains tell us. In reality, we're driven by unconscious, irrational drivers far more than we realize.
* * *
So, in a way, we're mostly unconscious creatures. We move through the world with a sense of complete control over who we are and what we do, but how much of that is an illusion created by the brain? We assume our conscious experience in our daily lives tells us the whole story, but it's not even close. It actually tells us a misleading story.
As you will see throughout Part I, much of our conscious experience of reality is flawed — it's an illusion our mind creates to keep us functioning. We may think we have a clear sense of how our perceptions, attention, memory, emotions, and decisions work and behave the way they do, but in reality, we don't.
As you can see, this two-fist sized, three-pound lump in your head is pretty complex, and we've barely scratched the surface. Somehow, in ways we are just beginning to understand, our experience of consciousness arises out of this complexity. All of our feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and everything else we experience is somehow tied to the processes of those neurons, working together in neural networks that together form the different structures of the brain. It's a wonderful and amazing system, and for the most part it works incredibly well.
In the next few chapters, we will dive into different aspects of the mysterious and surprising ways in which the brain works. These will give you a better understanding for how brands enter the mind, are stored in our memory, and ultimately influence our decisions and behaviors.
How the brain takes in the world
Put down this book for a second, and take a moment to look around you. Actually, don't just look, really take in the entire scene. What do you hear, smell, and feel? (I hope you're not reading this in a bathroom.)
In that quick second, and really, before you even did it, your mind created a complete mental picture of the world around you. Even if you're not paying attention to it, your brain knows where you are, it's monitoring the sounds around you for any potential dangers, and you can see, with great detail and clarity, everything in your vicinity. You do it without thinking or exerting any effort at all. It just happens.
But how does it happen? How does scattered light bouncing all over get from objects in the world to a clear image in your mind? How do undulating sound waves in the air become the sounds of music, of approaching footsteps, or even the words of language?
These are no easy feats. And yet we do them every second of every day, without even trying. In general, we take our senses for granted, unless something goes wrong.
In the rest of this chapter we'll explore how our brains make sense of, and navigate through, the world around us. We will look at how human perception doesn't work the way it seems to, how much of what we experience is really a mental illusion, and how our beliefs and expectations shape what we perceive.
As marketers, we craft communications intended to reach consumers, touch them emotionally, and ultimately influence their purchasing behavior. But before any of that can happen, it must first find a path into the mind. Let's explore that path.
We see with our brains, not with our eyes
We see with our eyes, right? It would certainly seem that way. After all, that's where the light enters, and when I put on glasses my vision improves.
Although the eye is an amazing piece of evolutionary engineering, it is only the beginning. We see in what appears to be great precision and clarity, with rich detail and color. But this is not even close to what your eye "sees."
The raw image from light hitting the retina on the back of your eye is, to put it nicely, a total mess. The image appears upside down, backward, blurry, two dimensional, and even includes a pretty large blind spot smack in the middle of it (reminds me of some nights in college). But unless we've had way too much to drink, that's not at all what we see when we look out into the world.
So it's up to the brain to make up the difference. It takes this incomplete and shoddy image, and turns it into the beautiful world we see. It fills in the gaps. Your eyes take this raw visual mess hitting your retina and converts it into neuronal (electrical) signals that can be sent to your brain. There, things can come into focus.
A German doctor and physicist named Hermann von Helmholtz first made the realization that the eye's image quality was so poor, it seemed to make vision impossible. To make up for this low quality image, he theorized that our brain must be making a set of assumptions — what he called "unconscious inferences" — that are basically educated guesses on what is out in the world based on our prior experience. For example, if a ball appears to be getting smaller and smaller, the brain will assume that it is moving further away, not getting smaller, as that is more likely to be true in the world.
Scientists call this idea "top-down processing." It means that our perceptions come more down from the brain than they come up from the eyes (or any sensory organ). Our brain uses these inferences and systems of understanding the world to fill in the incomplete information we get from our senses. These systems are called schemas and we begin creating them as infants. They typically come in very handy, as we don't want to see the world totally fresh every time we look out, but should use our prior knowledge about how the world works to interpret what we see, not just see it.
So really, our brain is doing the seeing and most of what we think we are seeing in the world is actually an interpretation — or really an illusion — created by our brains.
Take the clichéd philosophy question, "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" If we look at it from this neuroscience point of view, the answer becomes clear: no. The tree may push out waves of air as it falls, but it takes a brain to turn those airwaves into the sound of a tree falling. Without a brain, they are just lost, wandering waves of air, not a sound. Sorry tree.
The same is true for our perception of color. We hold a deep belief that things in the world are a color. It is in their very nature to be that color. Bananas are yellow. Leaves are green. But what if colors are creations of the mind and don't exist out in the world? In fact, leaves absorb every color except green. They reflect that one wavelength of light and our brains interpret that to be green.
And just because we see something a certain way, that doesn't mean that accurately reflects what it is. Humans can only see across a narrow band of light, what we call the visible spectrum. Bees, for example, can see infrared light, so many flowers that look one way to us, often look very different to bees. Who's to say whose interpretation is correct?
Your brain does all this instantaneously. It takes that messy image on the retina and makes it make sense. It fills in the large blind spot near the center of your visual field (caused by the optic nerve in each eye), fills in color in your peripheral vision (you actually have no real color perception in your peripheral vision!), adjusts for the movements of the eye itself, recognizes objects and gives them meaning, scans for faces, and much more. Oh, and it makes the whole thing three dimensional. That's pretty amazing, right?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Brand Seduction"
Copyright © 2016 Daryl Weber.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Mental Underworld of Brands 11
Part I The Brain-Brand Connection 29
Introduction to Part 1: The Brain-Brand Connection 31
Chapter 1 Beauty is in the Brain of the Beholder: How Brands Enter the Mind 35
Chapter 2 Do I Have Your Attention? Why it May Not Matter As Much As You Think 59
Chapter 3 Remember That? How Brands Live in Our Memory 77
Chapter 4 Getting Emotional: The Real Role of Emotions in Branding 95
Chapter 5 Decisions, Decisions: The Truth Behind How Consumers Decide 113
Part II A New Model for Brands 135
Introduction to Part II: A New Model for Brands 137
Chapter 6 Capturing Cool: Why We Need a New Way of Thinking About Brands 139
Chapter 7 The Brand Fantasy Model: Making the Intangible (Somewhat) Tangible 153
Chapter 8 The Brand Fantasy in Action: A Few Case Studies 175
Part III Building Brands That Seduce 195
Introduction to Part III: Building Brands That Seduce 197
Chapter 9 Filling Your Brand Bucket: Aligning Every Piece of Your Brand to the Same Fantasy 201
Chapter 10 Advertising to the Unconscious: Building Your Brand's Fantasy Through Communications 221
Chapter 11 Researching the Unconscious: Market Research that Actually Works 241
Chapter 12 Innovating for the Unconscious: Developing New Products that Last 257
Chapter Notes 273
About the Author 287