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Unconscious Branding, by Douglas Van Praet is about the effects neuroscience can have on marketing. Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system and is used with experimental psychology to find out why brand affinity and product purchasing are determined mainly by subconscious influences within the brain. The subtitle of the book intrigues the reader as to how neuroscience can actually empower and inspire marketing.
The book is broken down into two sections. The first section tells us about why we behave the way we do as consumers and the second section explains the steps required for behavior change. The first point Van Praet makes is the explanation behind the myths of marketing. This is a good way to start a book as it eliminates the nonsense surrounding past and present marketing stratgies. The first myth is subliminal advertising. This occurred when short messages appeared at 1/3000th of a second during movies, stating to buy more popcorn and Coca-Cola. Sales in popcorn increased by 57.5 percent as well as Coca-Cola sales increasing by 18.1 percent. This increase could be due to the increase in people attending the theatre over the polio scares in public swimming pools. After the public found out about subliminal messaging there was outrage. The government and CIA later put a ban on this as they thought certain people could be influenced to do wrong. A year after, it all came out that the experiment was a hoax, the amount of data concluded was too small to be meaningful in anyway. To this day the legend lives on and people still believe that subliminal messages exist in advertisement. Van Praet makes a great point on the whole controversy by saying “And while we were so worried that others might be controlling our minds, what we really should be wondering about is whether we ourselves are ever in control.” This point exemplifies that we really do make a lot of choices subconsciously. The next point that really stood out in the first section of the book is how Van Praet explains the promises and downfalls of neuromarketing. Neuromarketing companies have grown a lot in recent years, growing from only a few companies to nearly one hundred today. As neuromarking companies try to get into the heads of consumers to see what they’re really thinking when it comes to purchasing goods, it doesn’t always work out in their favor. There are many instances where successful adverts don’t turn into sales and unlikeable adverts work exceptionally well. The chapter later goes on to say that “The brain is far too complex to find a magic bullet.” This doesn’t eliminate the possibility of testing marketing materials with science but suggests that neuromarketing offers possibilities, promise and should be approached with optimism.
The second part of the book then goes onto explain the seven steps to behavior change, how the minds of consumers process information, structure their experiences and motivation that drives their behaviors. The first step to behavior change is interrupt the pattern. This step is about interrupting the consumer’s pattern recognition. When advertising your brand you need something that gets the consumers attention and takes them away from the norm. This is seen a lot during Super Bowl advertisements. One in particular that is discussed in the book is the Darth Vader advert for the 2012 Passat car. This advertisement struck as one of the most memorable Super Bowl advertisements. It launched Volkswagon back into the public eye and made them over 100 million through the media. The second step is to create comfort. A lot of consumers don’t like to move out of their comfort zones when it comes to goods. We tend to follow the familiar patterns when purchasing products instead of daring to try something new. The third step is to lead the imagination. This is a very important step as is helps us imagine the benefits of a better life and anticipate the consequences of our actions. The next step that is discussed in the book is to shift the feeling. This step ties under how our decisions are influenced by how we feel. Van Praet makes the point on this that “emotions influence our thinking more than our thinking more than our thinking influences our emotions.” This is a great example as it shows the unconscious decision making we take when affected by our emotions. The fifth step in the book is satisfy the critical mind. This step is to rationally reject an idea if it does not make sense to us based on our past experiences. Such as purchasing a certain brand of car that you had trouble with previously. The sixth step is to change the associations. If you want to change your perception of a product you have to change the associations that follow it. Consumers’ minds work by association, so if they see a product at a high end store they’ll associate it as a luxury for wealthy people. The seventh and final step is to take action. Physical actions attract more consumers than just imagining an idea. For example if you taste a sample of free food you are more inclined to purchase it than if you just visualize the food through the window. The same is said for advertisement, consumers want to see the results of the product they are purchasing. They don’t want descriptions of a burger they want to visualize the item they are buying.
A lot of the book ties in with our class discussions. We recently discussed a Ted Talks video which featured Joseph Pine Speaking about what consumers want. The point being made in the video is that consumers are experiencing a fake reality. This is very similar to the point that Van Praet makes that “Brands are subjective not objective, experiences”. In the Ted Talks video Pine is speaking about the fake reality created when people visit Disneyland. When you are there it feels like you’re in a movie. All the characters act accordingly to their movie rolls and all the stores replicate the Disney feel but when it comes down to it Disney World is a business. The people who dress up are paid for their service of acting and when it comes down to it the people who visit are paying for a fake reality. This fake reality ties in with Van Praet’s point that Disneyland (the brand being discussed) is subjective to how people feel about visiting the park not a general experience for all its visitors. Another point that is discussed in Pine’s video that ties into Unconscious Branding is how consumers only stick to brands they know. Pine speaks about how consumers will pay more money for a coffee from Starbucks because of the brand. Starbucks is a known brand, so consumers understand what they’re getting for their money rather than taking a chance on a less expensive brand which could hinder their experience. This is also the first step of the seven that are mentioned in the book to change behavior. If less known coffee brands/stores want to compete with the likes of Starbucks they must interrupt the pattern of coffee consumers. This could be done through promotions and clever marketing towards people who are tired with paying a lot of money for brand coffee.
I took a lot from reading Unconscious Branding by Douglas Van Praet. I understand marketing and the purpose of it at a deeper level now. Van Praet explains how to appeal to consumers who are not willing to try new products through his seven steps. I believe neuromarketing will gain more popularity in coming years and this book gives the guidelines as to why it will.
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