For over a decade and in some instances longer, the way in which human memory and decision making work have been modelled and understood. Within reason you understand, the human mind is profound and unknowable but we have some broad sweep concepts that seem to hold true the majority of the time based on the available research.
If this information is out there – about how we remember things and how we make decisions – then you would imagine that it would be the food of the gods to people working in branding. In the end, branding is about creating memory structures in the mind of your customer which encourage the decision to purchase your products. There are lots of bits and pieces involved but that is the nut in the nutshell.
So why do so many seem to ignore it?
You can’t remember what you don’t know
In this instance I am referring to those who support other people with their branding. It seems that most of those in branding aren’t aware or interested in how the brain works. At least, they don’t talk about it or refer to it much if at all. I’ve completed some pretty high level training on branding and marketing and read around the subject extensively and I’ve only found a very small number of references in this direction. Why is it important? Well, it’s quite easy to get your branding wrong if you don’t know what you are doing. This can make things worse. While I don’t like to focus on the negative here are some examples to help illustrate the point…
You many know who Axa are and what they sell. They are pretty big I think and I know the name but didn’t, until I looked it up, know what they sell. Perhaps if I’d really dug into my brain I could have recalled what they sell but we can’t assume people will do that for you and in fact the research points to the fact that they won’t. I’m not in the market for insurance very often and have other things I prefer to think about. I did however notice Axa recently, but not for a good reason. I saw a TV advert they ran and having reached the end of it I was none the wiser as to what they sell. It’s easy to argue about the importance of brand purpose and and get tangled in knots about getting across said purpose, however if there is no attribution to the brand and associated memory about what they sell then it renders an advert or any touch point well, pointless. TV adverts cost a lot. They take time and energy to make. If you are investing this much then it is clearly best to get it as right as possible. Tell people who you are, what you sell and do it in a way that they will remember in the right parts of their brain.
Axa needed to nail that in their 30 seconds or so and they didn’t. Perhaps Apple or McDonalds could get away with not showing their product in an advert due to decades of expert brand building but have you noticed they never do? Their adverts are always heavily branded. Always. Maybe Axa overestimated their brand awareness and fell foul of it in this instance. Maybe they felt communicating a broader and more emotional message about an unusual add-on to their offer was more important than sharing their actual offer.
Let’s just settle on the fact that I was unable to place Axa in the part of my long term memory network that relates to insurance and that I won’t think of them when I need insurance in the future. I have placed them in the frustrating marketing communications and poor understanding of branding part of my memory however. At least where this advert is concerned.
Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way? Do people even want counselling from their insurance company? Wonder if they checked first.
Here is the offending TV advert – extended You Tube version.
If you are still with me then you’ll be interested to hear of another example of a very similar thing but in a different context.
I hear a knock on the door. It’s 5:30pm. I’m distracted from cooking the tea while at the same time helping my daughter with homework. Oh and I’m lining up the other jobs I need to do in my head. Laundry. Feeding the pets etc. Not the best time for a distraction. I answer the door and a smiley chap launches into a 60 second monologue about how his company can help, the fact he’d spoken to lots of my neighbours and whether I’d consider their services if he left a price list. With no sign of slowing down I had to actually stop him at around the 60 second mark and ask him what he was selling so that I could even begin to assess what he was on about.
Now, he did a lot of things right and was pleasant and did I mention smiley? However in not declaring his product at any point or even referring to the kind of problem it might solve, his charms were wasted and it fell to me, as the customer, to help him close the loop. Not a role I believe I should fill. He did have a small company logo on his coat which I can only assume he was hoping I’d spot and make the links myself. Well, I did spot it but I couldn’t recall the logo, offer or even product category while my mind was filled with a list of chores and his dulcet and insistent tones. Maybe he assumed that I would. Maybe he was just having an off day and trying his best.
Apparently Safestyle UK sell PVCu windows etc. Again, I probably did know that but I couldn’t recall at that time. I didn’t buy any. The conversation ended abruptly but at least all of my neighbours were happy and about to purchase new windows. Apparently.
Memory and focus
It is a hard enough challenge to help your customers remember your brand in a part of their memory network that links it with your products and to reinforce that as it degrades over time. If you forget that is what you should be doing it only makes it harder. Getting distracted with other objectives like giving your brand deeper (and ultimately unnecessary) purpose or getting complacent and assuming you don’t need to do something as basic as actually mentioning what you are selling or in fact your brand, you are getting lost in your own world. Add into that the fact that your customers are busy getting on with their lives and at best only vaguely interested in marketing communications and it’s clear you have to be on your game to have even the smallest chance of being remembered.
Branding is a wonderful and powerful tool for your organisation. So much is possible and there is so much to think about. I mentioned that it is easy to get it wrong, imagine however how right you can get it if you do think about memory, decision making and the aim of branding. Your customers must remember your brand and associate it with the products you sell in order to buy it. Learn about memory and decision making. Execute the basics first and consistently. That is where the magic lies.
Get in touch and we can talk about your organisation and brand in more detail.