The building of empires

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If buyers of a brand do not think their brand is different or unique (Ehrenberg)…

And if what matters is the creation of ‘mental presence’ (Moran)…

Or ‘memory structures’ (Sharp)….

And if we define this as “The degree to which a given brand comes to consumers’ minds in the context of a particular purchase occasion or consumption occasion.” (Moran)…

Or as “The probability that a brand will be recalled early in a consumer’s consideration set, under a variety of situations and via a variety of stimuli, to the exclusion of competing brands” (Vieceli and Shaw)…

And if this is dependent on “The quantity (how many) and the quality (how fresh and relevant) of the network of brand information in memory, or the brand’s ‘share of mind’” (Romanuik and Sharp)…

And if the brain is not some rigid filing system in which memories reside as fully formed recordings but is something altogether more dynamic and malleable…

And if our brain’s networks of nerve cells or ‘neurons’ are not fixed entities, but are dynamic and continuously modified by experience…

And if thinking, learning, and behaviour all actually change the brain’s physical structure and organization, rewiring the brain, creating and eliminating new connections between neurons (Buonomano & Mezernich, Heilman & Nadeau, Schacter, Svoboda)…

Then perhaps is is not unreasonable to regard our task as the creation, expansion, maintenance, and defence of mental real estate.

And so perhaps it was Judith Williamson (Marxist and academic) who put it better than any brand expert, when she wrote that advertising’s purpose was to create

empires of the mind.”

And if she did put it better than anyone, then perhaps we struggle and jostle for memory.

And perhaps we shouldn’t be quite so shy about the language and metaphors of conquest and battle that have become so unfashionable and politically incorrect in adland.

And if we think of our task as some kind of (benign) synaptic imperialism, perhaps we’ll think beyond the mere act of contact or engagement, and think about what mental infrastructure we leave behind, maintain, and expand.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.

Just a thought.

***

Sources

Buonomano D.V, and Mezernich, MM, ‘Cortical plasticity: from synapses to maps’, Annual Review of Neuroscience, 1998;21:149-86.

Andrew Ehrenberg, Neil Barnard, John Scriven, ‘Differentiation or Salience’, Journal of Advertising Research, November/December 1997

Andrew Ehrenberg, ‘Repetitive advertising and the consumer’, Journal of Advertising Research, Vol. 40, No. 6, November/December 2000

Andrew Ehrenberg, ‘What Brand Loyalty Can Tell Us’, Admap, October 2004, Issue 454

Andrew Ehrenberg, Neil Barnard, Rachel Kennedy, Helen Bloom, ‘Brand Advertising As Creative Publicity’, Journal of Advertising Research: Vol. 42, No. 4, July/August 2002

Kenneth M Heilman, MD, Stephen E. Nadeau, MD, and David Q. Beversdorf, MD. “Creative Innovation: Possible Brain Mechanisms” Neurocase (2003)

William Moran, ‘Brand Presence And The Perceptual Frame’, Journal of Advertising Research, October/November 1990

Jenni Romanuik, Byron Sharp, Andrew Ehrenberg, ‘Evidence concerning the importance of perceived brand differentiation, Australasian Marketing Journal 15 92), 2007

Jenni Romanuik, Byron Sharp, ‘Where knowledge of your brand resides: the Pareto share of brand knowledge’, in Report 44 for Corporate Sponsors, 2008, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science

Jenni Romanuik, Byron Sharp, ‘Using known patterns in image data to determine brand positioning’, international journal of market research, Vol. 42, No.2, 2000

Jenni Romanuik, Andrew Ehrenberg, ‘Do brands lack personality?’ Report 14 for Corporate Members, March 2003

Jenni Romanuik, Byron Sharp, ‘Conceptualizing and measuring brand salience’, Marketing Theory, Volume 4(4), 2004

Daniel Schacter, The Seven Sins of Memory

Daniel Schacter, Searching for Memory

Byron Sharp, How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know

Julian Viecli, Robin Shaw, ‘A Model of Brand Salience’, in Mark Uncles, ed. Perspectives on Brand Management, 2011

Judith Williamson, Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising

4 comments

  1. Nick Barthram (@Plan_nerd)

    Very, very nicely put; totally agree. But I don’t hold out much hope for it getting through. The stats have been around for a while yet few people in our industry care because it’s not easy to measure synaptic real-estate, and it is easy to measure programmatic buying and all that.

    Viva the (second) creative revolution.

  2. Shann

    I’d go as far as saying most planning efforts are a waste. Everything I read, whether it’s marketing science or neuroscience, points to the fact we are here to affect memories (and that emotions are a much better way to do this). As a matter of fact, 80% to 90% of what we experience is a construction of our brain patching pre-existing memories (which is why someone who has never heard before cannot hear a melody in music, but just noise – the brain doesn’t have memory equivalents that make it possible to make sense of the stimulus). And memory is stored and retrieved in associative ways. In a way, even customer experience is a job that needs to understand memory associations.

    Yet, most creative planning is spent trying to uncover so called consumer truths (usually rational motives/needs or pseudo cultural trends) for narrow target groups. Not only does it rarely find any, but it deviates us from a key role of planning: defining what associations should be owned by the brand, looking at category relevance (is it salient?), cultural signification (what does it mean?), and emotional territories (how does it make us feel?).

    It is then the job of the creatives to find emotional, ideally share-worthy expressions of that association in distinctive ways (using images AND sounds, the latter being too often an afterthought, and yet so powerful for memories and associations).

    At the end of the day, a sexy worker can sell diet drinks without talking of calories or higher purpose, an aspiring Darth Vader can sell a car while only showing its undifferentiated remote lock, and an impatient child counting to Christmas can sell retail without ever stepping into a store.

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