The Marriage of Art and Science

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Our business is a fascinating blend of art and science, where emotion and logic merge to create magic and to delight consumers. Sometimes, however, this balance can skew a bit too far in one direction and the effectiveness of our work can suffer.

According to Nir Wegrzyn, CEO of BrandOpus, and Dr. Itiel Dror, cognitive neuroscientist at University College London, relying too heavily on the rational side of this balance is clouding our judgment and getting in the way of creating more powerful brands. Their presentation, “Nailing Jelly to a Tree & Other Wild-Goose Chases,” was a fascinating look at where we go wrong as marketers, how creativity suffers and what we can learn from neuroscience to be more effective.

Take market research, for example. We sit people in a sterile room, surrounded by strangers, and ask them to explain—to rationalize—what they do when they shop for a product. We use what they say as the basis for how we go to market, yet nothing about this is normal or representative of real life, where choices are made much more emotionally.

We also tend to rely on facts, figures, claims and other rational attributes to promote our brands, but when it comes to consumer decision-making where it matters most—at the point of sale—what we’re doing could actually be detrimental.

This idea of striking the right balance between rational and emotional benefits isn’t a new one, but the ways Wegrzyn and Dror suggested to do it were quite interesting:

  1. Make messages into memories. It’s not enough for our messages to be present or seen—they need to be remembered. By recognizing how the human brain works (it’s not like a camera, it doesn’t record everything), we as marketers should design experiences that are quirky, different and visually unique to help people remember them.
  1. Encode in the appropriate parts of the brain. Emotional brand building creates context and frames what the mind thinks about a product. We choose based on how products (and their packaging) make us feel, not just what they say or have. For example, by creating a positive, emotional backstory, we can tap into the part of the brain that is active when instinct and emotion take over.
  1. Tell a relevant story and tell it well. To put it simply, actions are generated by emotion and context, not facts.

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