Science behind Creativity: Neuro Design - Fastest way to consumer's mind

Science behind Creativity: Neuro Design - Fastest way to consumer's mind

Branding, one could say is the fine art of crafting a holistic environment for companies or products so they can be presented in the best possible light and attract customers. This can be through a logo, colors, a message, even employee behavior (Hello Southwest Airlines!). But is there more to it than analyzing a situation and throwing in creative ideas to deliver a solution? How can we deliver an idea that sticks? How can we create a message that cuts through the noise and goes viral?

It’s all in our DNA, a subtle but powerful approach that plays into our human evolution. The concept was born out of relatively new research studying techniques to persuade, motivate, convince or excite others to action. And it’s gaining traction as a powerful tool in brand development.


Attack The Lizard: The Three-Brains Approach

From fMRI brain research we know today that information is processed and categorized in various ways inside the human brain. We call it the “Three-Brains Approach”. Put it in a simplified way, effective design appeals to all three levels of cognitive awareness: The Limbic Brain, the Neocortex and the Basal Ganglia, the “Reptilian” or “Lizard” brain, our oldest tool in the arsenal of information processing. The illustration below shows how a logo can be designed so it stimulates all three brain areas: intellect, emotion and survival instinct.



Why? Because according to leading neuroscientists, as much as 95% of our decisions are controlled by our subconscious mind. In particular, the oldest and most primitive part of our three-part brain, the “Lizard” Brain actually manages much of how we humans behave. This brain only cares about our survival. It’s a reflex that acts viscerally responding by fight or flight; ruled by triggers like hunger and fear, and is solely interested in the “What’s in it for me?”

As much as we want to think, as educated people we are in control of our decisions, it’s often the subconscious mind that calls the shots. The “Lizard” Brain has the power to overrule input from the more evolved feeling and thinking parts of our brain and override how we might act and react.

According to brain scan studies, the “Reptilian Brain” makes decisions in about two milliseconds, far faster than the 500 milliseconds than your rationale brain requires (or 5 seconds when multi-tasking).


A New Field of Branding Research

Neurobranding is a new field of branding research that studies consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. Researchers use technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure changes in activity in parts of the brain, electroencephalography (EEG) and steady-state topography (SST) to measure activity in specific regional spectra of the brain response, and/or sensors to measure changes in one’s physiological state, also known as biometrics, including (heart rate and respiratory rate, galvanic skin response) to learn why consumers make the decisions they do, and which brain areas are responsible.

Neurobranding, following Neuromarketing research, is expanding rapidly in both the academic and business sectors. In fact, many companies, particularly those with large-scale ambitions to predict consumer behavior, have invested in their own laboratories, science personnel and/or partnerships with academia. Companies such as Google, Facebook, and Netflix amongst others have used Neurobranding research services to measure consumer thoughts on their advertisements or products.


System 1 and System 2

Based on the Neuromarketing concept of decision processing, consumer buying decisions rely on either what researchers call “System 1” or “System 2” processing. System 1 thinking is intuitive, unconscious, effortless, fast and emotional. It’s that impulse buy, the new Tshirt or sneakers, we enjoy when browsing a mall. In contrast, decisions driven by system 2 are deliberate, conscious reasoning, slow and effortful. Think car-buying or house hunting. In consumer behavior, these processes guide everyday purchasing decisions. Nevertheless, we have learned that buying decisions are driven by one’s mood and emotions; concluding that compulsive and or spontaneous purchases are driven by system 1.


The Neuromarketing Concept

The Neuromarketing Concept was developed by psychologists at Harvard University in 1990. The technology is based on a model whereby the major thinking part of human activity (over 90%), including emotion, takes place in the subconscious area that is below the levels of controlled awareness. For this reason, the perception technologists of the market are very tempted to learn the techniques of effective manipulation of the subconscious brain activity. The main reason is to inspire the desired reaction in a person’s perception as deeply as possible.

“As you might imagine, our brains are adept at filtering out irrelevant information. Emotion gets out attention through our senses-which then influence out decision-making processes. Brands that create an emotional connection to consumers are much stronger than those that don’t- it’s as simple (and complicated) as that.”― Martin Lindstrom, Brand Sense


Neuromarketing Study: Coke vs. Pepsi

In a study from the group of Read Montague published in 2004 in Neuron, 67 people had their brains scanned while being given the “Pepsi Challenge”, a blind taste test of Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Half the subjects chose Pepsi since Pepsi tended to produce a stronger response than Coke in their brain’s ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a region thought to process feelings of reward.

But when the subjects were told they were drinking Coke three-quarters said that Coke tasted better. Their brain activity had also changed. The lateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that scientists say governs high-level cognitive powers, and the hippocampus, an area related to memory, were now being used, indicating that the consumers were thinking about Coke and relating it to memories and other impressions.

The results demonstrated that Pepsi should have half the market share, but in reality, consumers are buying Coke for reasons related less to their taste preferences and more to their experience with the Coke brand. (Source:


How to Apply Neurobranding to Brand Building

So if you want your audience to respond to your brand and act on your call to action, offer them the strongest appeal to their self-interest, not yours. You must be interested in what’s in it for them, rather than trying to be interesting yourself. This means not just intellectually, but emotionally as well. But don’t just take my word for it, here’s the great Walter Landor, founder of Landor Associates:

“Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” — Walter Landor

Facts and features are important, but not necessarily the driving factors for making a buying decision. Have you ever bought a car just from a specs sheet?

Success is in the DNA. Play it right and you will have a powerful partner in the Lizard when launching a new tech brand.

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