Using science and psychology to connect with your audience on an emotional level.
Science and psychology have a huge part to play in how brands connect with their audience.
Have you ever wondered why Apple does so well and has dominated the tech market?
They’ve created avid brand advocates over the years, people camp outside stores to be the first to get the latest iphone… so why is that?
It’s because they do 2 things really well:
Simplicity – They keep everything really simple, from the tech itself, to advertising and packaging
Emotions – They evoke emotions rather than use facts in brand communication.
Simplicity increases understanding and emotions create the attraction.
So let’s break this down and look at how we can harness these principles for your brand.
1. How the brain filters information and makes decisions
The Triune brain has 3 layers of grouped areas; the neocortex, the limbic system and the reptilian complex.
Each area of the brain is responsible for different functions that work together to help us make informed decisions, or impulsive decisions in the situation of anger and other emotional responses.
These areas are:
Responsible for basic survival functions like hunger, heart rate, breathing and fight or flight. It’s a primitive structure we share with fish and reptiles.
The emotional parts of the brain, which has the function of processing our feelings like fear, excitement, sadness and anger. It’s also responsible for memory formation and recall.
Neo meaning new, so this is the last part of the brain to develop fully throughout our lives and into adulthood. It’s responsible for speech, logic, planning and perception.
In today’s world of advanced technology and social media, we are exposed to 1000’s of messages each day. If our entire brain had to process these messages fully it would deplete our energy reserves, which is why our subconscious reptilian complex steps in to filters out these messages.
The Reptilian Complex helps us to detect things that are familiar or not – familiar things are seen as safe, whilst unfamiliar things are treated with caution.
If you can prove you are worthy of attention, then and only then, will the other parts of the brain want to get involved. - neurosciencemarketing.com
This is one of the reasons it’s so important to define your audience and create messaging to resonate with that audience. When you can speak directly to them, it sounds familiar and your brand is much more likely to be considered and not filtered out.
Once your brand message gets past the reptilian filtering process, it’s then down to the teamwork of the Limbic System and Neocortex to define if it’s relevant or not.
Studies have shown that these areas cannot work independently, they need each other to help us make a decision…
Neurologist Antonio Damasio studied brain-damaged patients with isolated damage to the central portion of their frontal lobes. Experiments showed the injured parts of their brains in the prefrontal cortex seemed unable to process the emotional signals that guide decision making. Without this emotion interpreter pushing them in the right direction, these patients were unable to act on what they knew. They couldn’t decide, apparently, what was in their own best interest. - Decisions and Desire - Harvard Business Review
Logical features and benefits speak to the neocortex and bypass the limbic system, straight to the reptilian defences which deem the information as unnecessary.
Over complicated messages will also trigger the Reptilian Complex to protect energy reserves in this way and will be ignored.
So in order to trigger the emotional limbic system to help with the decision making, we must use simple and emotive brand messaging that speaks directly to your audience.
2. How to create a brand that connects with your audience
So now we understand how your audience makes decisions about the messages they are exposed to, we can look at how we can manage the way in which our brands show up.
Going back to how familiarity helps the Reptilian Complex decide if things are safe or not – we need to create a brand that feels safe to our audience.
In order to to this we create what’s called a Brand Persona and work to humanise our brand to become familiar to our audience, so they can connect with it on a personal level.
Think about the friends in your life – when you met for the first time you must have connected with them on such a level, that they became part of your life.
This is down to their characteristics appealing to you on an emotional level and vice versa. Your personality and theirs are in alignment so you become life long friends, or enter into a romantic relationship.
To create a brand persona we use an archetype framework, created by a psychologist called Carl Jung and dates back to the early 1900’s.
His theory was that archetypes are subconscious characters present in all of us which influence behaviour and personality.
So for branding, an archetype is a type of genre, based upon symbolism. The idea behind using brand archetypes is to anchor the brand against an icon already embedded within our conscience and subconscious. Aligning with a brand archetype makes the brand easier to identify and connect with.
Jung’s archetype framework defined 12 characters that encompass different characteristics and desires.
“Archetypes are the heartbeat of a brand because they convey a meaning that makes customers relate to a product as if it were actually alive in some way, they have a relationship with it and care about it” Margaret Mark & Carol S. Pearson
3. How to identify your Brand Archetype
To define our brand archetype we must define the role your brand plays in your audience’s life.
Understanding your audience archetype is important, but it’s not as straight forward as matching like for like when choosing an archetype to resonate with them.
You need to tap into what your audience desires and their frame of mind when searching for a solution, in order to position your brand to resonate and assist.
Aspirations are key to understanding what the bigger picture is for your audience. When you can define their aspirations and what they want to achieve, you can align your brand personality and communications to help them reach those aspirations.
This will help to resonate on a deeper, more human level with your audience and help to influence the buying decision.
4. The Archetypal Mix Formula
To help to further resonate we use an archetypal mix formula to create your brand persona.
Brand Archetypes can be a percentage split of 2 types, which adds another dimension and depth to the persona.
Your core archetype will be a minimum of 70% and the secondary ‘influencer’ archetype will be a maximum of 30%.
Defining the archetypal mix will help to bring your brand to life and connect with more of your audiences desires.
For example, beauty brand Dove has values which are about celebrating beauty inside and out. They communicate that mental health and feeling beautiful goes hand in hand, and with a focus on such a delicate subject as women’s mental health, they know they need to position their core archetype as the ‘Innocent’, whose role is honesty and purity.
To compliment this and to reach more of their audience's needs and desires they also use a percentage of the 'Everyone' archetype, which communicates a sense of down to earth, supportiveness and connection.
In order to attract more customers you must know who they are, the fears and desires they have and create a human persona to resonate with them on an emotional level. All your messaging – wether it’s on your website, social media or email campaigns – can then communicate from this persona consistently and become familiar to your audience, which in turn will make them more likely to buy from your brand.
About the Author
Gemma is a Branding specialist at Emotion Brands and enjoys working across strategy and design. She's been a print designer for 20 years and has worked with global brands, such as Davines, Secret Escapes, Wella Professionals and L'Oréal. She's constantly evolving her skills as a brand strategist and enjoys taking a holistic approach to branding, with a particular interest in sustainability and eco print practices.