The Warc Blog

Decoding brand identity: The hidden truth behind brand love

Posted by: David Penn, Managing Director, Conquest

Blog author

Over a century ago, William James argued that the self includes many things outside of one's self, including social relationships and material things.  More recently, cognitive science has shown that we do indeed subsume the personality and values of the people we feel close to.  The result is self-other overlap, whereby the mental representations of our own identity begin to merge with our perceptions of someone else.

And so, inevitably, to the Donald. Amid the furore surrounding his election, I've yet to come across a completely compelling explanation of why he won. Socio economic status doesn't hack it – Hillary actually polled better among the least advantaged groups.  Nor does gender - a surprisingly high percentage of women voted for a man who many regard as misogynist. Race was a stronger indicator, although Republican candidates have a woeful record among African Americans and Hispanics, and Trump fared no worse than other recent presidential hopefuls.

06 March 2017, 00:00
Are we missing the point about System 1 and System 2?

Posted by: David Penn, Managing Director, Conquest

Blog author

Brand owners are in danger of being confused by an either/or approach to understanding their brands. Some put all their faith in emotional appeal, others in rational persuasion. But increasingly brand owners realise that they need to understand both. Research currently is not serving them well because rational and emotional/implicit are often looked at in isolation, with clients left in doubt as to the relative importance of each, and what they should do about it.

Research needs to break out of this either/or dichotomy and help brand owners see the whole picture. Binet & Field (2013) demonstrated that brands work at both a System 1 (emotional/implicit) level and a System 2 (rational) level, so looking at either one in isolation misses the point. Our response to this challenge is a multivariate approach called mind modelling that encompasses all rational, implicit and emotional beliefs about a brand and attaches predictive values to each.

05 December 2016, 00:00
Emotion, Metaphor and Brexit

Posted by: David Penn, Managing Director, Conquest

Blog author

"Avoid politics and religion" is normally good advice when talking to clients or colleagues, but in the fall-out from the EU referendum, I feel impelled to break that rule. Yet, despite a rash of resignations and three party leadership contests, it's not the political effect that most interests me; it's actually the impact on our culture and values.

I've written extensively about the importance of emotion in both marketing and political campaigning, and one obvious conclusion about the Brexit victory is that, once again, emotion came up trumps. Much has been made of the (emotional) negativity of Remain's 'Project Fear' strategy, but less of the emotional appeal of the Leave campaign – built largely around Nigel Farage's rallying cry, "We want our country back".

18 July 2016, 14:34
System 1 or System 2? The Answer: Mind Modelling!

Posted by: David Penn, Managing Director, Conquest

Blog author

Does implicit research predict customer behaviour better than conventional (rational) research? Often it does, but this is probably asking the wrong question. Because brands work at both a System 1 (emotional/implicit) level and a System 2 (rational) level, no brand can be fully explained by emotion alone.

Think of the great work done by Binet and Field (The Long and Short of It, 2013) quantifying the commercial benefits of non- rational advertising (aimed at the implicit/emotional mind) vs. rational advertising, designed to communicate a rational benefit. Each targets a different part of our brain, and both work - but in their own way. Non rational/emotional campaigns aim at System 1 and build brands over time by building positive implicit beliefs and emotional engagement; rational advertising seeks to engage our System 2, persuading us of product benefit and prompting us to buy.

14 June 2016, 09:27
Is Self Brand Overlap the Secret of Brand Love?

Posted by: David Penn, Managing Director, Conquest

Blog author

For some years now, marketers have grappled with the challenge of how to explain 'brand love' – that intangible sense of attachment that makes Coke 'taste better' than Pepsi and may even lead us to overlook a product's shortcomings (think Apple). The 'roots' of brand love have generally been sought in the irrational, in emotions, yet this creates circularity: we love brands that create emotion; emotion creates loved brands, and so on…

Could it be, however, that the explanation lies in the relationship between our self and brands such that loved brands are those that somehow become subsumed in our personality? In other words, is a loved brand one that becomes part of us?

16 March 2016, 09:51
Why some ideas are so hard to resist

Posted by: David Penn, Managing Director, Conquest

Blog author

I recently read The Evolution of Everything: How Ideas Emerge, by Matt Ridley, and was struck by the following passage:

"Evolution is far more common and far more influential than most people recognise. It is not confined to genetic systems, but explains the way that virtually all of human culture changes…The ways in which these streams of human culture flow is … undirected, emergent and driven by natural selection among competing ideas" (my italics)

01 October 2015, 14:29
Ask a Silly Question: Why the UK Polls Got it Wrong

Posted by: David Penn, Managing Director, Conquest

Blog author

The UK polling industry is currently tearing itself apart over its failure to predict last week’s general election result. Basically, the (mainly online) polls showed both main parties – the Conservatives, led by David Cameron and Labour, led by Ed Miliband – polling at around 34%, yet it was Cameron who won by a margin (37% to 31%) too great to be explained by statistical error. There have already been plenty of theories advanced, including differential turnout figures, and ‘late swings’ (a convenient myth in my view). Instead I want to focus on an issue that has been a hot topic in the commercial MR world for at least a decade now: Are we asking the right questions?

Mark Earls (author of Herd and most recently, Copy Copy Copy) once challenged the market research industry to ‘stop asking silly questions of unreliable witnesses…or at least stop listening to the answers’. Ouch! I thought this harsh because some of us in MR twigged some time ago that people do not always answer the question we think we’re asking them.

11 May 2015, 14:55
Are marketers just too timid to embrace System1?

Posted by: David Penn, Managing Director, Conquest

Blog author

Are the traditional tools of market research – surveys with explicit, direct questions –still up to the job of measuring brands in the new era? The explosion of new understanding about how the mind works could not have been foreseen by the founders of market research, back in the 50s, but modern practitioners have less excuse for still using more or less the same approaches. Traditional (System 2) methods still dominate: researchers still ask direct questions (and people still answer them), but any marketer or MR professional with even a smattering of knowledge of recent developments in mind science would surely ask: Is that all there is?

The fact is, direct questions measure what they can measure and miss what they cannot. In other words we often measure what people can and will tell us rather than what they can't and won't tell us. What we capture is often thought-through or deliberative, while what we miss is emotional and implicit.

23 April 2015, 10:49
System 1 good; System 2 bad? Baah! Baah!

Posted by: David Penn, Managing Director, Conquest

Blog author

One of the most powerful insights from cognitive science is the System 1/System 2 dichotomy, coined by Stanovich and West as shorthand for two types of thinking - one fast, resource-efficient and automatic (System 1); the other slow, deliberative and effortful (System 2) . Many in marketing and MR now accept that, because consumer decision making is dominated by System 1, many of our buying decisions are fast, flawed and emotional, rather than slow, logical and consistent. So far so good, but I’m worried that a sheep-like acceptance that System 1 is somehow  ‘good’ for marketing, whereas System 2 is  ‘bad’ might lead us  into some ‘woolly’ thinking about how to measure consumer response.  

There’s a couple of views (I’ve recently heard expressed at conferences) that I’d like to challenge:

05 March 2015, 10:23
Mind Over Matter: Why Brands Transcend Products

Posted by: David Penn, Managing Director, Conquest

Blog author

Back in the day, market research seemed to have all the answers about brands. Indeed, the scientific apparatus of quantitative research - segmentation, clustering, modelling etc. - seemed so sophisticated compared with its slightly prosaic subject matter: soap, toothpaste, biscuits and the like. Yet now the reverse seems true: brands are so central to our culture and so deeply rooted in our psyche that it is the traditional tools of measurement which seem unequal to the task. Why?

The rise of market research coincided with the rise of mid-20th century cognitive science, which gave us the metaphor of the mind as a machine. Market research thus started as a quasi-scientific endeavour to discover the objective facts about consumer attitudes and behaviour - the underlying assumption being that attitudes and behaviour can be objectively measured – mainly though verbal self-reporting.

02 September 2014, 13:04
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