Unconscious Branding

So there have been a few books written about branding. And by a few I mean, a lot. And by a lot, I mean a lot. Why?
Well, advertising is an industry where anyone with a title feels they have a certain expertise they are all too eager to sell share their knowledge.

But this one, from a planning director from Deutsch, LA offers up a somewhat different opinion on the subject. Unlike all the previous books which have come before it, Doug Van Praet has launched a book called Unconscious Branding which posits the theory that apparently our branding decisions are unconscious and based more on neuroscience, and unconscious behaviorism, as opposed to alternate theories. Theories like, mom introduced me to Colgate, so I use Colgate because I grew up around it. Or I remember Fill it To The Rim With Brim because I was allowed to stay up late and watch tv when I was a kid and saw the Brim commercials. You know-- nurture vs. nature.

I would love to tell you more about the book they didn't send it to us to review, only to spread the word. But from what I can gather, the book's summation is that we need to ask more questions of our demographics before we can advertise to them.

It's an idea that has been offered up before. I'm not sure, but maybe the book even cites this study from two years ago, published in Neuroscience Marketing . it basically says when tested, people can't tell you why they like a brand, they just do. I didn't make that up, there is a Neuroscience Marketing magazine.

Take this summary from Science Daily which explains just one experiment which may or may not be in the book, since again, they didn't send it to us:

To create this effect, they (the scientists) used an evaluative conditioning task, where hundreds of images of several hypothetical brands, pictures, and words were randomly presented, individually and in pairs, on a computer screen. During the task, one target brand was paired with 20 negative images and words and the other target brand was paired with 20 positive images and words. "The participants were unable to recognize that a particular brand had been paired with either negative or positive images. Therefore, we were able to create an 'I like it, but I don't know why' effect," the authors write.

If this example (or if there are more examples like this) in Van Praet's book, then I think it's best if we should probably take it with a grain of salt. Like most studies of this sort, we aren't always told how many participants were in them, what kind of situation they were under, or if they were paid for the study or not, etc.

Example: Marketing research people used to stand at my local mall and ask if I wanted to earn five dollars participating in a survey that would only take ten minutes Hell yes, I said. Whatever you want me to say, for five bucks in ten minutes, you got it. How unconscious could my feeling be, if I'm consciously accepting payment for it?

I digress.

If you believe behavioral science can produce good work, this book is for you. if you believe it's a combination of sound strategy plus gut instinct and intuition, plus overcoming the fears of the client while simultaneously striving to meet their needs, then this book is probably not for you.

I fall into the 'advertising is not a science,' camp, mostly because my skepticism grows with the number of books on the shelf written by so-called experts. In the end, I use my own judgement which is fully conscious: if we could make it an exact science, there still wouldn't be shit advertising.

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