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Brand Management

Reframing Brand Problems For A Bigger Future

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Reframing Brand Problems For A Bigger Future

When Steve Jobs met Robert Friedland in 1972, Robert was the spiritual seeking proprietor of an apple farm commune. He introduced Steve Jobs to a principle called the ‘reality distortion field’. In his 2011 biography Steve Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson, ‘Friedland…turned me on to a different level of consciousness’.

The ‘reality distortion field’ is an extreme version of what the psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls a ‘pervasive optimistic bias’ in his book: ‘Most of us view the world as more benign than it really is, our own attributes as more favorable than they truly are, and the goals we adopt as more achievable than they are likely to be’.

By creating a ‘reality distortion field’ you reframe a problem in such a way that others are more likely to accept your way of thinking. Steve Jobs was very good at reframing issues, and as such he was able to encourage people to look at old problems from a new angle and gain new insights and approaches to help find a solution.

This distortion of reality and reframing the problem has been used many times in politics. Martin Luther King reframed the political battle for civil rights as a dream that could be realized. President Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon within a decade reframed the problem of the Cold War with the Soviets even as it captured the imagination of those who heard it.

By reframing the problem, you give yourself the chance to bring about major changes in the way people think.

The Brand Algorithm In The Brain

In his book, Branding with Brains: The science of getting customers to choose your company, Tjaco Walvis from the Netherlands formulated what he calls the ‘algorithm in the brain’ that makes the brand choices, in much the same way Google uses an algorithm to search the Web.

This brain algorithm has three criteria that guide consumer choices of one brand over another. These are:

1. Relevance. The more distinctive and uniquely relevant a product or service is, the greater the chance it will be chosen by the customer. Relevant brands are better linked to the dopamine, or reward, system in the brain (part of the limbic systems), which strongly influences our behavior.

2. Coherence. The more coordinated the branding efforts are over time and space, the greater the chance the brand will be chosen. Coherent branding means repeating the same message over the years and across all customer touch-points. This makes it easier for the brain to retrieve the brand and make it a winner in competition with others.

3. Participation. The more interactive the branding environment created for customers is, the more likely it is that the brand will be selected by the brain’s algorithm. The brain forms numerous new cell connections in response to interactive environment, improving the memorability of a brand.

As an example, Tjaco Walvis notes that the Adidas brand’s long-lasting campaign ‘Impossible is nothing’ demonstrates how all these factors come together to create an extraordinarily attractive and successful brand that many customers choose over competitors such as, for instance, Nike. He also shows these factors succeed in avoiding a number of traps. Distinctive relevance avoids the ‘identity loss trap’, coherence avoids the ‘authenticity trap’ and participation avoids the ‘brand dilution trap’.

Managing Non-Conscious Customer Minds

We are just in the infancy of what neurological research and modern updated psychology can do for a better customer experience brand outcome. The interest in the brain, and how people use their brains to make decisions between different brands, is not new. Obviously, it has always been a very attractive goal for any marketer to be able to go beyond the surface, deeper into people’s minds, to find the secret of preferences and brand choices.

Now that new technology is giving us a map of the processes in our brains, we can turn this knowledge into a toolbox for today’s brand builders. Within this new toolbox, we have access to an ability to focus on the dominant, non-conscious brain that is stimulated by patterns rather than details. We have access to the knowledge that the brain is always looking for the new and the unexpected – a tool we can use to create surprises that satisfy this craving and ensure our brand stands out from those of our competitors who don’t use this tool. Through studying innovative people like Steve Jobs, we can see the powerful ability ‘reality distortion fields’ can have in changing people’s mind-sets by reframing a problem (or possibility) in a new way.

Noble prize winners have helped show us how we can use the opportunity of securing initial information as a mental anchor in people’s decision making. We know how the whole body and the least intellectual parts of the brain (the limbic systems) are more important for decisions than the more intellectual part of the brain (the neo-cortex). And how mirror neurons allow us to read other people’s minds, change feelings or introducing new behavior without using one single word of  communication, not least in the areas of involvement, participation and the increasing of visual social networking. This new knowledge of the brain shows us a reason to do things differently.

Still, until recently the general approach has remained quite rational and based on the idea that consumers make conscious and deliberate decisions and brand choices. It has been assumed that choices are based more on the functionality of the branded products, rather than their social, mental or spiritual dimensions. We now know that the functionality of the products is less important for branding than the social, mental or spiritual brand dimensions. This has led to a move away from the idea that consumer decisions are rational, and that branding is the same as advertising.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Thomas Gad, excerpted from his book Customer Experience Branding, with permission from Kogan Page publishing.

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