Brands- Buzz- Brains

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Strong brands prompt strong brain reactions. Radiologists are proving what marketers have been preaching for decades.

Dr. Christine Born, a radiologist at the Ludwig-Maximillians University in Munich conducted a series of MRIs exposing 20 adults (upscale for income and education) to logos of strong and weak German brands. The results, reported in the Wall Street Journal, were that bigger brands make bigger brain waves. This comes on top of previous data indicating that shopping can alter blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rates.

Apparently well-known brands fire synapses associated with positive emotions, self-identification and rewards. Weak brands either don’t register or provoke activity in parts of the brain associated with negative emotion.

The surprising conclusion was that the big brand buzz exists regardless of the category. Dr. Born found that the reaction to an automotive brand like Volkswagen that has significantly greater media weight and probably stronger creative executions was as strong as the reaction to Allianz, an insurance brand. Both leading brands prompted much bigger reactions than the logos of smaller, less-known competitors.

The implication is that investing in building a strong, memorable brand pays off. What isn’t clear is how to do it and which components of branding give you the best bang for the buck.

The other, not-so-surprising, evidence was that strong brand recognition did not stimulate the decision-making centers in the brain. So now we have scientific evidence that awareness and purchase motivation are two separate things andthat buying is a hybrid of rational and emotional processing.

And even though the sample is small and skewed, its comforting to have data that validates our experiences. Now the debate about how to move customers from awareness to desire to purchase to loyalty can continue with new ammunition.

Danny Flamberg is a veteran marketing consultant and
author of the blog.

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