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Strengthening the brain and brand connection

As a PR agency, we know that building a great brand is about much more than just sending out press releases and posting on Twitter – although that’s part of it.

For, as Gustave Flaubert said, ‘There is no truth, only perception’; PR is all about shaping these perceptions.

In reality, there is no such thing as a brand; it is merely a collection of all the memories, feelings and emotions that its audience has formed over the years, and that are now embedded deep in their unconscious.

However, our unconscious plays a major part in every decision we make, so if as a brand you can firmly plant yourself in your audience’s subconscious – positively, of course – then you’re ahead of the game.

Take a tin of Heinz Beanz for example; it’s so much more than the sum of its parts. Not only do you see a turquoise tin with orange ovals on it, you maybe think of family dinners, or university days when your grant was long gone… This phenomenon is known as gestalt. Of course, Heinz has decades of experience inveigling its way into the subconscious of hungry children and students; so how does a brand strengthen that all-important neurological connection – something we like to call neuro PR?

Generating attention

This is your first job; you’re never going to stick in someone’s brain if they don’t even know you exist.

However, before you go all in, there’s something you need to know – there are two types of attention, and they’re not created equal.

Human beings have two ways of processing information; high and low involvement. High is what you’d (hopefully) use in a formal learning environment such as school or a seminar, where you give it your full attention and actively participate in taking information on board.

On the other hand, low involvement is what we spend a lot of our time doing; scrolling through emails while on the phone or waiting for the YouTube video we actually want to watch to start.

In theory, the first option may seem more valuable in terms of brand-building than the second, that’s not necessarily the case.

Because while we may not be actively reading our emails or watching the ads before the video, we are still noticing them, developing unconscious feelings towards the information we’re consuming.

In fact, most brand association is built this way, and once it’s in, it’s very hard to get out.

Attaching emotions

So, once you’ve attracted that attention, you need to make your audience feel something, because ultimately, that’s what will made them do something.

Did you know, the word ‘emotion’ originally comes from the Latin movere, meaning to move, which is also the root of the word motivation?

Because while we may think we lead with our brains, science tells a different story. Research shows that we feel first and think later, making the majority of our major decisions are based on emotional reactions.

To think, we must feel first – whether we notice it or not. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio coined the phrase ‘somatic markers’ to describe the physical sensations, such as butterflies in our stomach or sweaty palms, that happen as a result of the emotions we’re feeling.

However, the human mind will then go one step further and use rational thought to justify these feelings. Think of when you fancy a takeaway, or a new pair of shoes catches your eyes; your brain will turn itself inside out coming up with reasons why you need, rather than want, them.

Another way to build the emotional connection is to cultivate your very own Key Person of Influence.

As humans, we relate to other humans, so we need a person to look up to – although some are more relatable than others.

Don’t let your key person hide behind the business, make them a clear figurehead, someone like Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook is a great example.

Becoming memorable

This is the part where your brand really sets up shop in your audience’s subconscious and refuses to leave.

Memories are made through forming neural connections, and these networks of connections are called engrams – a permanent record of changes in the brain in response to an event or feeling.

However, it would be too simplistic to just think of memories as lists; they form a large part of who we are and how we react to any given situation or stimulus.

Memories also influence opinions and behaviours, which is what makes them such a vital part of PR.

Our brain perceives the brand, assigns an emotion and meaning to it and then files it away within one of those networks that have similar associations.

PR works by building and strengthening these connections, or even starting from scratch and rebuilding if needed. That’s why it’s so important to decide what you want your brand to be known for – and stick to it, as it can be hard to shake off those first impressions. However, as we touched on above, not all memories are conscious.

Think about a brand you love; when did you first hear about them? Why did you start to like them? Chances are, you won’t be able to clearly pinpoint the exact moment; they slowly entered your consciousness, where they’ve remained ever since.

If you try the above exercise, you may also find yourself distracted in a web of other associations, which is known as priming – and is also a vital brand-building tool.

KitKat is the master of this, with its famous tagline; it’s a safe bet that when anyone mentions having a break, most people will immediately think of that famous red wrapper – and maybe a rollerskating panda.

There go those engrams again…


This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Harvey & Hugo .

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