Neuroscience - How it can assist branding and design | ...Gasp!


How it can assist branding and design

The Blogfather lifts the bonnet of your barnet to see why you like stuff (who said the Blogfather can’t write proper medical journal copy?)

“Our belief [is] that brands need to seduce the subconscious and convince the conscious.” - Vicky Bullen

I read a great article in The Drum this week, by Vicky Bullen, on neuroaesthetics; the neuroscience behind some of the world’s biggest design successes. Please take a read yourself via this linkage. She has been collaborating with some eminent neuroscientists to investigate and understand what motivates people in the deep recesses of the brain, and how this can help people create brands and experiences that resonate with consumers on a subconscious level.

It all centres around system 1 and system 2 thinking. System 1 is where our decision-making is automatic, intuitive and instinctive, the ‘rapid-response’ part of our brains, if you will, and system 2 is where we rationalize those decisions, with reflection and logic.

A key element to all of this is that a person’s reason for being attracted to something often goes beyond what they might rationally state as their motivations and preferences. Not many people will admit that they bought something just because they thought it looked nice, like an expensive sport car, for example. You will regale your friends with a car’s impressive spec, but in reality you just want to look good at a set of lights in a built up urban area. I imagine it is within system 2 where all your social self-awareness is, and no one wants to be termed materialistic or shallow.

The way we perceive the world rests on our prior knowledge of it. Our existentially acquired knowledge continuously drips into system 1, allowing for instinctive reactions that help us communicate complex concepts quickly.

It’s all very interesting. So I thought I would delve deeper into a print ad that I have liked from the past, and try and understand why I liked it so much. I’ve gone with this one from Faber–Castell.

Firstly, it has aesthetically attractive natural forms, such as the smooth, shiny skin of the aubergine and the fine wood grain of the pencil. It’s the kind of ad on which people will say; ‘that’s clever’. Yet why? Being a dabbler in art myself, the achieving of genuine, natural colour and tone is one of the fundamentally important things in art. The artist’s struggle of transferring this authentic colour and tone from the still life object to paper, via the medium, is all conveyed in one image. It therefore portrays Faber-Castell as effortless experts in creating natural hues.

The only thing that soils this ad for me is the recent prevalence of people using the aubergine emoji as a phallic digital representation of their member. Although, in fairness, I’ve had a few saucy Whatsapp chats when I may have succumbed to this, so my system 2 hypocrisy warning light has just come on.

The crux, as Vicky states succinctly, is: “Our belief [is] that brands need to seduce the subconscious and convince the conscious.” This is exactly what happened to me with this ad.

Seducing the subconscious. I like the sound of that. We’re not talking brain washing, just simply great design that has subtlety and human empathy.

As the great Bill Bernbach says; “Nothing is so powerful as an insight into human nature… what compulsions drive a man, what instincts dominate his action… if you know these things about a man you can touch him at the core of his being.”

One of the rules that Vicky and her colleagues drew up is ‘The Power of Humanity’, the idea that we are attracted to our own species and anything resembling it. We attribute human characteristics to things that aren’t human but have human like qualities, something called Attribution Theory. In my recent blog on instant messaging apps the importance of retaining the genuine human touch cropped up, and here it is again.

I had a quick flick through our portfolio to find a piece of work that may be relevant to the blog, and found our branding work we did for Energy Kidz, a provider of out of school childcare.

We took the initials of the company name to create ‘Erik’ as the brand badge. Its success lies in its ability to both symbolize a playful, friendly and positive engagement with the brand (a cheery stickman whom any of the children in Energy Kidz’s care could have doodled), whilst also encapsulating Energy Kidz’s important, professional values. We associate stickmen with our earliest forays into learning. We place the endearing early attempts at art by our children on the fridge. The branding thus entwines child like imagination with education, which is the very essence of the brand.

Not everyone notices the E and K in the logo on first viewing, but we like that there’s some subtlety in the piece, and some of the great logos of the world have hidden depth.

So, if you are just pumping money into a PPC campaign that’s achieving ‘impressions’ in the analytics yet in reality is not really impressing or resonating with anyone, then maybe it’s time to have a change of direction and a fresh, unshackled way of thinking.

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