All posts tagged brand

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Brands & Brains – The Emotion of Logos

The brain reacts in a unique way when it spots a famous brand name, according to scientific research.

Consumers reading a brand name do not treat it like any other word – instead they activate parts of the brain normally used to process emotions, the study claims.

Research in the journal “Brain and Language”, published on New, used computer testing to check the reactions of 48 students at the University of California in Los Angeles.

A brand’s power is that it conjures up a whole range of associations and ideas, which are primarily emotional

Dr Eran Zeidel, who led the study, suggests that the arrival of the “brand” in the past century has prompted brain evolution.

The students were told to watch a computer screen, and various words were flashed up, either on the left hand side or right hand side, and in capitals or lower case letters.

The words displayed were either common nouns such as “river” or “tree”, brand names such as Sony or Compaq, or “non-words” such as “beash” and “noerds”.

The students were asked to hit a button as soon as they recognised the word as real.

Noun recognition

They spotted the common nouns most quickly, followed by the brand names and then the non-words.

The common nouns were identified more quickly when displayed on the right hand side of the screen.

This suggests, as expected, that the left hand side of the brain is highly involved in processing them.

However, the reverse was true when the brand names were displayed, with the subjects spotting them more quickly when they were displayed on the left.

This probably means that the right hand side of the brain – more commonly associated with the processing of emotions – was more heavily involved.

Dr Zaidel said: “It is surprising.

The rules that apply to word recognition in general do not necessarily apply here.

A brand’s power is that it conjures up a whole range of associations and ideas, which are primarily emotional.

An fMRI study was conducted with unfamiliar and familiar (strong and weak) brands to assess linguistic encoding and retrieval processes, and the use of declarative and experiential information, in brand evaluations.

As expected, activations in brain areas associated with linguistic encoding were higher for unfamiliar brands, but activations in brain areas associated with information retrieval were higher for strong brands. Interestingly, weak brands were engaged simultaneously in both processes.

Most importantly, activations of the pallidum, associated with positive emotions, for strong brands and activations of the insula, associated with negative emotions, for weak and unfamiliar brands suggested that consumers use experienced emotions rather than declarative information to evaluate brands.

As a result, brand experiences should be considered a key driver of brand equity in addition to brand awareness and cognitive associations.

Neuromarketing 101

To start to understand the premise of Neuro CX, it’s worth giving you a quick overview of NeuroMarketing so you get a sense of how marketing and utilities are evolving.

The vast majority of advertising campaigns, media experiences, online content and political propaganda these days directly target the instinctive, reptilian part of the brain that handles ‘instinct’. Fight or Flight. I believe this is why a lot of modern marketing (and I’m sorry to say NeuroMarketing as a whole field) is flawed because it only creates short term bursts of engagement rather than long-term ongoing stimulus. You took the Pepsi Challenge once & after that there was no surprise, right?

Associating good feelings with a specific product makes us more likely to choose that brand over the competition’s. Neuromarketing is based on sensory stimulation, in the hopes of awakening good feelings about a product or image. It does so, however, with solid scientific evidence from brain studies. Harvard psychologists developed NeuroMarketing in 1990 based on the concept of “meme” created by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

Memes are beliefs or behaviors that spread from one person to the next naturally within a culture. With the concept of meme, the belief or behavior is self-replicating, at least while it lasts. Examples of memes are catchphrases people in a particular region use, conspiracy theories, urban legends, Internet slang and even fashions. Memes, or memetics, are used in viral marketing to hopefully catch on and spread from person to person or through the Web. An example is the current use of pink to represent breast cancer. Even if it didn’t start out with that intent, the use of pink in products now associates with advocacy for the disease. The smell of freshly baked bread usually equates to coziness and a loving home. It’s automatic in people’s brains, so marketers can use the smell or image of baked bread to sell a product they want people to associate with comfort and home.

The Zaltman metaphor elicitation technique (ZMET) is a neuromarketing technique designed to entice a response using neuromarketing. ZMET is about image-only ads. Absolut vodka, for example, has run a campaign for years using a picture of the product’s bottle disguised as something else. To understand the ad, viewers need to pause for at least a few seconds and look closely. This affects the reward center of your brain (more about this later!) as you think to yourself: “I solved the puzzle!” and it also forces you to pay attention to the product. A single image can transmit a number of emotions if used correctly. Images also can reach people of different ages and cultural backgrounds, because some pictures can mean different things to different groups. Words, on the other hand, would have to be modified for each group.

Neuromarketers have been using new techniques to measure what happens in the brain during marketing to test the effects of ZMET. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a type of MRI scan that analyzes the response of the brain to different stimuli by measuring minute metabolic changes that occur in active parts of the brain. An increase in heart rate or respiration intensity can also indicate a feeling of excitement, a positive response to the marketing ad.

It’s also been proven that people decide within the first second the ad airs, or more accurately, the first fraction of a second. This is why images are so important in neuromarketing. If marketers know what to show first in an ad, they can grab a potential customer’s attention and hold it. This is the first major difference

Humans are visual animals, and 65 percent of any message has visual cues as its basis. First impressions or opinions about a product are heavily connected to whether we like the “look” of the product. It’s also one of the reasons why a recognizable brand or logo is important.

NeuroMarketing is about a rush of blood to the head or the goose bumps we get when we are moved by great design and advertising… That’s NOT Neuro CXNeuro CX is something very very very different.

CX and Design Principles – The basics

Design principles aren’t a new concept, but they do seem to be unpinning a lot of conversations I’m having with clients at the moment. It’s a simple premise – You develop them at the start of a project, or even at a digital brand level and use them when you plan your web, app, store-kiosk, mobile interfaces to always ensure that your design and development choices live up to a baseline standard and create a consistent experience across all interfaces. Simple to say, very difficult to police.

It’s about engineering the experience to be complete, thorough, and polished at every stage. Devoting time and energy to small things that principles denote gives you instant credibility because it’s the small things that are often picked up by users. I love the Microsoft App guidelines;

  • Sweat the details.
  • Make using apps safe and reliable.
  • Use balance, symmetry, and hierarchy.
  • Align your app layout to the grid, the new layout for apps.
  • Make your app accessible to the widest possible audience, including people who have impairments or disabilities.

Fluffy. But simple. SWEAT THE DETAILS – Don’t scrimp. Go sell that one to the PM!

As with any design led organisation, there are certain beliefs we should hold true, certain qualities that we strive for in our work. It’s what enables us to debate whether something “Right” or “Wrong,” it’s what allows us to evaluate whether anything we’re designing could be improved.

In Jared Spool’s article Creating Great Design Principles: 6 Counter-intuitive Tests he has 6 tests that he says you should run your principles through to test their robustness;

  1. Does It Come Directly From Research?
  2. Does It Help You Say ‘No’ Most Of The Time?
  3. Does It Distinguish Your Design From Your Competitors’?
  4. Is it Something You Might Reverse In A Future Release?
  5. Have You Evaluated It For This Project?
  6. Is Its Meaning Constantly Tested?

It’s hugely important to not only have them, but to adhere religiously too them. Here’s 11 great examples of principles courtesy of;

How Do Consumers Engage With Brands In An Increasingly Digital World?

Marketers have never thought of digital as a wonderful place to build a brand, but they should:

  • 65% of consumers have had a digital experience change their opinion about a brand
  • 97% of them report that experience influencing whether or not they purchased a product or service from that brand

Actions Speak Louder Than Advertising

Branded experience is the new advertising. And consumers are increasingly hungry for them, sometimes ravenously so:

  • 97% have searched for a brand online
  • 77% have watched a commercial on YouTube
  • 69% have read a corporate blog
  • 65% have played a branded, browser-based game.
  • 73% have posted a product or brand review on a site like Amazon, Facebook or Twitter

Brand Culture Or Fan Culture?

Conventional wisdom holds that consumers don’t want brands encroaching on their social lives – but that’s just not true:

  • 76% of consumers welcomed brand advertising on social networks (FEED, 2008)
  • 40% of consumers “friended” a brand on Facebook and/or MySpace
  • 26% of consumers have “followed” a brand on Twitter

The Outlet Malls Of Tomorrow? Facebook, MySpace & Twitter

Marketers shouldn’t assume that consumers are as passionate about their brands as they are: Consumers don’t want a conversation with brands – they want deals.

  • 44% of consumers who follow a brand on Twitter do so for deals
  • 37% of consumers who “friended” a brand on Facebook and/or MySpace do so for deals

Bottom Line: Digital Brand Experiences Create Customers

Digital is not simply an “awareness” or CRM play, it’s a customer-creation play. The overwhelming majority of consumers who engage with a brand online move from passive “receivers” to advocates almost instantly:

  • 97% report increased brand awareness
  • 98% show increased consideration
  • 97% will more likely purchase a product
  • 96% may recommend the brand to their friends

Consumers Turning First, Foremost To Digital

According to Forrester consumers now spend nearly as much time online as they do watching TV*. We found that their technical fluency is far greater than most believe:

  • 57% of consumers actively customize their homepages
  • 84% share links or bookmarks
  • 55% subscribe to RSS feeds
  • 33% get their news from Facebook
  • 20% get their news from Twitter

*Forrester 2009 Technographics Survey

Mobile Internet Service Use Skyrocketing

Mobile Internet services are being consumed broadly. Majority of consumers own a smartphone and;

  • 57% access the Internet from their phone
  • 50% have downloaded an app for their phone
  • 30% have interacted with an ad banner on their phone

Connected Consumers Are The New Mainstream

Are Consumers Really In Control? Conventional wisdom says that every generation of consumer grows smarter, shrewder and more immune to marketing. But that’s not true – consumers are actively choosing to engage with brands, everywhere.

  • 40% have “friended” a brand on Facebook and/or MySpace
  • 26% have “followed” a brand on Twitter
  • 77% have watch an advert on YouTube
  • 69% have read a corporate blog post
  • 73% have posted a review of a brand on a site like Amazon or Yelp
  • 52% have blogged about brand’s product or service

Facebook And Twitter Creating Fan Culture For Brands

After deals, the main reason consumers “friend” a brand? Because they *really* are a fan (or a customer, at least). Social media platforms are proving to be customer service platforms.

  • 33% friend a brand on Facebook/ MySpace because they are a customer
  • 24% follow a brand on Twitter because they are a current customer
  • 23% follow a brand on Twitter for “interesting or engaging” content, which shows promise for a new type of relationship

Fans And The Future Of The Marketing Funnel

Brand culture and fan culture are dramatically reshaping the traditional funnel as consumers leap from experience to advocacy (or the inverse) almost instantly.

  • 70% have participated in a brand-sponsored contest
  • 24% have produced content to participate in a contest
  • 26% have attended a brand sponsored event, such as Nike’s Human Race
  • 24% have downloaded a branded application for their mobile phone

Experiences Not Only Build Brands, They Make Or Break Them

Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple and Nike are all experiential brands that know consumer preference isn’t formed in reaction to a message, but to a series of experiences over time. There’s good reason. Of consumers who interact:

  • 97% report increased brand awareness
  • 98% show increased consideration
  • 97% will more likely purchase a product
  • 96% may recommend the brand to their friends

Getting To The Bottom Of Brand Engagement

Everyone is chasing after a metric to define brand engagement. Millward Brown says “digital consumers” have 15% stronger relationships with brands. The Altimeter Group attempts to correlate social media activity to financial performance, citing Dell, Starbucks and eBay as leaders.

We took a different tack: we simply wanted to know if there was any direct correlation between a consumer’s digital interaction with a brand and their likelihood to purchase a specific product or service. 

Digital Experience Create Customers

The answer was a resounding “yes”. Experiences have a much greater influence over brand affinity and consumer purchasing than even we anticipated:

  • 65%of consumers have had a digital experience change their opinion about a brand.
  • 97%of those report that experience influencing whether or not they purchased a product or service from that brand.
  • 64% of consumer report making a first purchase from a brand because of digital experience (e.g. website, banner, etc.)

Five Brands That Are Excelling In An Experience-Driven World…

  1. UNIQLO: Japanese Retailer Surprises And Delights Audiences With Every Interaction
  2. Red Bull: Pioneered Experiential Marketing With Subversive Events And Sponsorships
  3. Barbie: Reinvented An American Icon For The Pop Sugar Set And Broke Sales Records
    “We’re not in the business of keeping the media companies alive. We’re in the business of connecting with consumers.” – Trevor Edwards, Nike
  4. Nike: Human Race. Chalkbot. Nike Is Setting A New Standard For Experiential Marketing
  5. Virgin America: Brand Built By Breakthrough Experiences – And The Marketing Of Them
  6. Microsoft’s Bing: Accomplishing The Impossible By Putting Experience First And In Every Ad

Competitor Benchmarking

We’re not supposed to give secrets away are we? Oh well… let’s break the rules & throw caution to the wind… I’m going to give you a leg-up on competitor benchmarking because it’s one of the most important tasks we perform in UX.

The term “benchmarking” is relatively new but the concept is as old as competition itself. Whether in industry, sport or in other aspects of our daily lives, we continually need to reference our own performance against others.

All of us benchmark most of the time without realizing it. At one time the concept was known as ‘interfirm comparisons’ because in an industrial sense, that is what it is.

As a task it’s important to make it very clear that this is ‘subjective analysis’ not ‘objective research’. You can of course go through stats if you have them and look at two or three websites against each other, but the chances of your having that kind of data are almost non-existent, so assume this is you as a UX person or intern looking at lots of different sites, following some rules & guidelines & grading them based on observation. Subjective observation. Doesn’t make it wrong, it does however make it someones opinion for a lot of things.

The criteria

So here’s a start for ten… if I was going to look at four sites and compare them against each other I’d take the the following areas & give each site a score out of 3. 1 being dreadful and 3 being top of the class. Scoring is of course entirely a decision you can make for yourself. I just like to keep it simple.

1 Findability

  1. Site was easy to find using Google
    • Search for brand found main site quickly
    • Search for “SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE INDUSTRY” directed me to this brand
  2. Search results were helpful

2 First Impressions

  1. Website was well branded
  2. Clarity of next steps was obvious (you found what you were looking for)
  3. The site is very product led
  4. The site is very campaign led
  5. The site has offers and incentives up front
  6. The site has clear data-capture opportunities up front

3 CTA effectiveness

  1. Visibility
  2. Clarity
  3. Simplicity
  4. Page position
  5. Competition from other messages

4 Ease of use

  1. Navigation
    • Simplicity
    • Contextual signposting
  2. Major headings on pages are clear & descriptive
  3. Styles & colors are consistent
  4. Emphasis (bold, etc.) is used sparingly
  5. Main copy is concise & explanatory
  6. URLs are meaningful & user‐friendly
  7. HTML page titles are explanatory

5 Content

  1. Emotional connection
  2. Commerce
  3. Tools

6 Accessibility

  1. Site load‐time is reasonable
  2. Adequate text‐to‐background contrast
  3. Font size/spacing is easy to read
  4. Flash & add‐ons are used sparingly

7 Personalisation

  1. Website can be personalised
  2. User can choose what content they are shown
  3. The experience can be customised to interest

As I mentioned… this isn’t an exhaustive list of criteria, it’s just the list I use and from time to time I change it on an ad-hoc basis dependent on the client I’m doing the benchmarking for. You’ve got to keep it flexible & play to the audience.

It’s actually what you do with the data that can be useful.

Analyzing and using the benchmark

Using something like Excel to do the benchmark I’d recommend giving each point on the list a score and then a final ‘average’ for each section (you’ll see what I mean on the sample spreadsheet I’ve attached). It’s the average score that you can then use to generate the chart(s) you’ll want to share with the client. I recommend using a ‘Radar’ chart for the visualisation. Simply because it overlays everything on top of each other in a way that lets you see exactly what the lay of the land is. They look fun too.

What I look for in a visualisation like this is not just where your client is performing well against it’s competitors, there’s a chance because of marketing etc that it always has and always will compete heavily in some areas more than others (like SEO / findability) what this shows us very quickly is where opportunities to disrupt the marketplace are. Take the example on the right, there’s clearly nobody in the area of personalisation. Move into that space before someone else & you can grab the point of don-displacement first.


A benchmark is a quick, simple way of hitting a client with some insight that will conceivably justify decisions you want to make as an agency. It also gives you an opportunity to go back to a client after you’ve done some work and say “You’re score in the area of XXXX was XX, it is now XX therefore we’ve improved usability”.

I’ve included a sample spreadsheet so you can have a fiddle. Punch in numbers where the 1’s are on the first sheet and you’ll see the rest generated automatically. Please note I don’t do technical support… so if you break it that’s not my problem… it’s literally to give you a foot-up and show you the idea.

Download sample benchmark

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Advertising at the speed of culture

So this is still one of my favorite marketing presentations of all time from Colleen Decourcy the Chief Digital Officer for TBWA. Had the good fortune to work with her for a few days in L.A last year.

It’s a great little presentation that. I’ve been plagiarising bits of it for ages.

The rise of the Twinsumer

The proliferation of the use of digital marketing has led to significant growth in brands using social marketing campaigns to increase consumer engagement. Social channels facilitate the art of listening, learning and sharing, so consumers are now using online channels to find the exact product to match their tastes based on fellow consumers’ recommendations.

Moreover, they are not just listening to any old recommendation they find online but are listening to their taste ‘twins’. These are consumers who share the same opinions, whose purchase procedure, engagement and characteristics are very similar. Ultimately, by mimicking other users’ behaviour and purchase patterns these people are becoming ‘twinsumers’.

Before the digital marketing age, marketers were reliant on influencers who would spread their customer experience by word of mouth, to their ‘real-world’ friends, to encourage other shoppers to visit their stores. Although customer loyalty schemes did help to track the customer journey, they still did not allow marketers to see the full consumer journey and to track shoppers at every touchpoint. Without this information marketers would struggle to see exactly who their customer was and at what point they were being turned off by the brand. The explosion of e-commerce brought many opportunities for marketers to track customer insight and recommendations online but all too often it came without in-depth analysis of what was making the customer engage with the product in the first place.

So why should marketers be interested in these twinsumers? Firstly, as the online environment is now a hotbed for social interaction, buzz around a brand can have longevity as audiences continue to engage in dialogue about it. It really cannot be underestimated how much consumers are relying on peer opinion over advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions; most importantly, consumers are increasingly looking at opinions that have been posted online to inform their choices. The twinsumer phenomenon turns millions of reviews, ratings and recommendations into truly valuable results that can exactly match one person’s particular preferences to another.

This is crucial for businesses as the nature of these well-linked and related recommendations often leads to impulse and surprise buys, as well as generating more sales. Statistics also show that click-through and conversion rates of recommendations based on collaborative filtering are much higher than untargeted content such as banner advertisements or top-seller lists. Consumers respect the opinion of others, and twinsumers respect the opinions of those who share their characteristics. You can’t impress them with traditional marketing and advertising alone any more.

Marketers need to consider if their brand can exploit this new wave of twinsumerism and adapt their websites accordingly. Do they already provide a review, opinion or recommendation area on the site? If so, then consider adding the functionality for personal profiles to allow real twinsumerism to blossom. This should include everything from your customer’s age, appearance, occupation, favourite websites, hobbies, interests and musical taste to entire biographies. In fact, anything that allows other consumers to grasp a better feel for how compatible they are with the brand.

While many twinsumers bond over a niche market such as travel, books or reading, marketers must not ignore the impact of the ‘Master Consumer’: a leading twinsumer and a mass influencer. These are certain reviewers, bloggers or consumer experts who have become so popular that they appeal to large numbers of other consumers who will trust and follow their recommendations even if their profiles do not match the usual narrowly defined twinsumer matches. By identifying which of these master consumers are relevant to a brand, marketers can look to initiate twinsumerism by specifically targeting these influencers.

Twinsumers are an important part of the process of how we make purchasing decisions online. The digital generation emerging is the first group of consumers to grow up with all these new tools and peer-to-peer options through which they are ready to contribute. There are already millions of personal profile, blogs and homepages up and running exchanging this information. With online sales continuing to increase, marketers need to leverage every opportunity to ensure they can achieve the most cut-through. While twinsumers are an emerging phenomenon, as a purchasing group they are perpetually growing and it is imperative for any marketer to consider these consumers within existing and future digital strategies.

Published by Figaro Digital – 01/10/2009

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