Unconscious: consciously conceived

human head illustration

Marketing books frequently favour hyperbole about intellectual rigour, driven largely for reasons of self promotion. Research agencies continually espouse the latest ‘patented’ methodology, which on closer examination the mechanics of which are far from transparent.

From the 1920s the principal of the subconscious have been influencing the thinking of marketeers. But the general approach of equating the subconscious with the irrational is simplistic and wrong. The dichotomy between being rationally driven and subconsciously driven is a false one.

We behave in a rational but subconscious way. The brain’s subconscious brand choices are strongly biased towards optimising reward, based on our personal goals. Our brain’s search engine pulls out from our vast memory the brand that can best and most reliably satisfy our goals in the given situation. Goals are highly situation and category-specific and can change from moment to moment. End result is the brain behaves in a rational and goal-optimising way.

“The brain uses a fixed set of rules or criteria to decide which brand best satisfies its needs in a given time, place and context” – Branding with Brains, 2010.

For this task it integrates a wide ranges of available information, both from our long-term memory and from our senses.

This process is set in motion by a subconscious goal or need, a thirst or hunger, or perhaps to buy a present. Brands we might say, fight out a ‘battle of awareness’ under the rules of the algorithm.

The brain’s brand-choice algorithm is based on the brand that best fits our present purpose and has signalled this to us this most frequently and intensely in the past.

We cannot significantly influence this algorithm, but must accept it as a given. To develop marketing that has the best chance of achieving this algorithm, three principles should therefore be the guide:

Principle 1 – Relevance

Is it relevant to the target group and distinct from competitors?

Relevant brands are better linked to the dopamine or reward system in the brain, which strongly influences our behaviour. Brands that are not distinctive tend to repress each other in the battle for awareness.

Principle 2 – Coherence

Is it coherent and credible given the history of the brand?

Principle 3 – Participation

Is it conveyed in the most participatory way possible?

Adhere to these principles. The unconscious is always at some-point consciously conceived.

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