"Brands aren't people, consumers know that, they get you're out to make a buck.” So says marketeer Clinton Duncan from Down Under. Hmmm. Nothing new about that idea. Yes, perhaps, but it’s not quite right.
Ironically, Duncan’s agency recently created a campaign for a new Scandinavian furniture wholesaler operation in Australia that very much cast the new brand in anthropomorphic terms. You might want to call the campaign’s success dumb luck given Duncan’s apparent defective understanding of how people mentally process brands. (You can read about it at Fast Company.)
From a left brain perspective, Duncan is right. People know that brands’ aren’t people. However, the left brain is not the only side of the brain that weighs in on decisions customers make.
All information picked up by the senses is processed in the right brain before the left brain – the analytical, reasoning language speaking left brain gets much of a crack at it. But unlike the left brain, the emotional right brain perceives reality in sensual terms. Only the left brain with its highly developed language abilities can reduce reality to abstract terms.
But something else about the right brain must be understood to know why Duncan’s view that people know that brands aren’t people is a flawed and oversimplified version of reality. The right brain cannot process any information that is not rendered in the context of living things (conceptually or actually). If something cannot be connected to life in some way the right brain ignores it. Not so with the left brain. It has the power to see anything in any form it chooses because it organizes abstract representations of reality. It can create its own reality in any form it is inclined to. Not so the right brain.
The right brain sticks to reality as configured by the senses. It cannot remake reality. And, as already said, the right bran’s reality is rooted in connections with life.
A brand must not simply connect with life to be a strong brand, it must be perceived as the equivalent of a life form to the deeper processing centers of the brain. The goofy looking Michelin Man is a life form to the right brain -- something more than just a cartoon character.
I am not talking theory here. The right brain's cognitive connection to life is is validated by recent brain research. All this boils down to the fact that if you fail to cognitively connect your brand with the right brain on its nonverbal terms, the brand has no chance of getting off the ground. If speaking the sensory language of the right brain puzzles you, then need to find someone how to talk to the right brain. Truly, you are not going to get your message very deeply into the mills of reasoning in the left brain without employing the wordless language of the right brain. Without doing this any successes you have will likely be more a matter of dumb luck.