How do consumers choose a brand?

Brands exist only in the brain. People choose a brand based on how they feel about it. Find out how this works in the brain. Also, don't forget the 3 tips at the end for building an effective brand.

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Consumers choose a brand based on how they feel about it


In learning 1, you have discovered that brands activate emotions in the brain which influence consumer behavior. But, how are these emotions activated and why do they matter?

People's choices for a certain brands strongly depends on how they feel about the brand. At the same time, people are not always aware of how they feel, as it happens quickly and automatically. 

We also call this quick and automatic process System 1 Thinking. It requires little brain energy as it doesn't require deliberate consideration. The brain likes and prefers System 1 Thinking. On the other hand, System 2 Thinking is exactly the opposite: well-considered, conscious, slow and deliberate choices are made through this process. The brain prefers to avoid this, because it consumes more energy.

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Link your brand to relevant associations

Strong brands capitalize on System 1 by linking their brand to relevant associations. These associations are stored in consumers' brain and they activate emotions which influence consumer behavior. When consumers see the brand, the brand leads to associations which make them feel good. Therefore, choosing the brand becomes easier as it feels good.

The study done by Michael Koenigs and Daniel Tranel of the University of Iowa. They confirmed that System 1 Thinking is important when choosing a brand. 

The researchers repeated a well-known study on brand preference for Pepsi or Coca-Cola with respondents who had damage to the ventro-medial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC); a key area in our brain that is sensitive to marketing and branding.

The researchers showed that participants who have damage to the VMPFC were less sensitive to branding - seeing the Coca-Cola brand didn't change their preference, contrary to participants who don't have a damaged VMPFC. 

Therefore, people with a damaged VMPFC find it difficult to make choices, because the brand doesn't generate good or bad emotions. They lack relevant brand associations and emotions which allow them choose quickly and unconsciously. 

3 tips for building an effective brand

An effective brand is linked to relevant associations which activate emotions influencing consumer behavior. What do you need to pay attention to?

  1. Make sure your brand is linked to the relevant associations.
  2. Investigate which associations best fit your brand.
  3. Find associations important for creating a good feeling about your brand to increase brand preference. 

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