Should brands recruit psychologists?

By Karan Kumar , Fabindia, Mumbai | In Marketing
Last updated : June 06, 2018 05:13 AM
A seasoned marketer presents his arguments.

A survey conducted by Meaningful Brands in 2017 surely caused many a-marketer to lose sleep. It said that most people would not care if 74 per cent of the brands they used every day, disappeared. It was a telling comment - not just on brands and their relevance but even more so on the vanity of the brand marketer's ego and how completely unfounded it has more often than not been the case.

Karan Kumar Karan Kumar

If you dig just a couple of levels deeper, it is actually quite simple to understand why so many supposedly "powerful" brands mean so little to their consumers, quite on the contrary to the worldview their marketers hold of them. And the reason for that is honestly quite straight-forward: brand marketers have long-forgotten that while consumers love to buy, they hate being sold to. As a result, while the conventional sales pitch-led communication, highlighting product features and functionality, may get consumers to try out a brand, it does not assure consumers investing themselves in a meaningful long-term relationship with the brand.

While you don't need a degree in psychology to understand how and why so many brands get this wrong, I believe it would help if there was a psychologist inside every brand marketer. Brand choices are strongly driven by emotions and not rationale. Yet I am equally surprised to see the lack of appreciation of this fundamental understanding across most brand marketers I interact with, all too often. While I admit that there is science involved in the execution of many a-marketing plan, creating brands that are truly "loved", I believe, is a process anchored in understanding the consumer and his psyche and not about solving a mathematical equation. One in chemistry (pun intended), however, maybe...

You see, there is enough material to suggest that brand choices are often made 7-seconds before our conscious mind even becomes aware of them. That most brand marketers don't even realize this phenomenon is actually a true travesty and, if I may add, their biggest failing. A failing, second only to consumers' own beliefs that it is them and their rational minds that are actually and truly in control of their decisions; choosing "winner brands" from amongst the sea of options available.

But for this piece, let us stick to failings of the brand marketer and how we can remedy that.

The task begins with a deep understanding of exactly what the brand's targeted consumer actually "wants" - what is it that he truly seeks, above and beyond the actual product that he is buying. This understanding is extremely revealing because, for the marketer, the product delivers certain value and performance; for the consumer, the reasons that dictate purchase could be many beyond just those.

Let me give you a couple of examples:- Is it possible that the real reason(s) motivating brand choice is one that facilitates the consumer in gaining access to certain privileges and or societal memberships? Or could it also be that the real reason behind a brand preference is simply the fact that the consumer sees one brand mirroring more values and belief systems that are closest to his own?

This understanding of unstated reasons is critical and could very well hold the key for brands to form healthy and long-lasting relationships with its consumers which ultimately drive preference. But to obtain this understanding, the brand marketer must painstakingly explore multiple layers of the consumer's mind before finally discovering that true "kernel" or stimulus, if you like, around which he must weave the brand's stories - stories that would engineer "brand love" anchored in Trust. Trust, which ultimately is one of the most important ingredients that drive "Intention-to-Purchase".

But how do you actually create stories that tug at human emotions and drive this intention-to-purchase?

For starters, stories must deliver on two key aspects - first, they must be sincere, educative and consistent in their messaging. These kinds of stories help build trust which is very important for brand adoption, as I mentioned above. Second, stories must always be told in as creatively evocative a manner as possible. This is important as evocative stories stir the right (read positive) emotions and, especially important, it is always emotions that precede action.

Let me give you an example - remember how the sight of that beautiful lady sashaying down the stadium stands after her partner hits a ball out of the park, off the cricket pitch, made you feel warm and instantly identify with a chocolate brand? That, my friends, is a fine example of a creatively evocative story, well told and one which made you feel warm and fuzzy, leading you into buying into the brand (and the product).

But behind all that warmth and fuzziness, there is also a science. It is called 'Neuropsychology' which, in a nutshell, explains the concept of 'Mirror Neurons'. How we experience the same emotion that we think is being experienced by the person whom we see performing the act. In other words, it helps us "connect" with the protagonist, forming a bond with the brand that is championing it through shared feelings.

And that takes me back to where I began; if building powerful brands that stand the test of generations and time is so heavily pivoted on the brand's ability to understand consumer psychology and create evocatively compelling communication, is it time for brands to employ psychologists? I suspect this question was not asked untill now because of the assumption that in every successful brand marketer, there was always a psychologist hidden somewhere. But that assumption, in the light of the Meaningful Brands Survey, is up for debate. What is not is the fact that only painstakingly deep consumer understanding is the real key that separates successful brands from the 'also-rans'.

(The author is head of brand and marketing at Fabindia)

For feedback/comments, please write to

First Published : June 01, 2018 05:12 AM


Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates

We respect your privacy.

Search Tags

© 2018 afaqs!