What is Intuitive Branding?
Intuitive branding is a better way to connect brands to customers. Traditional marketing is about communicating features and benefits to the rational side of the mind. Intuitive branding focuses on creating brand experiences that make emotional connections deep within the intuitive mind.
Why are Intuitive & Emotional Connections the Most Important?
While the intuitive and rational mind work together, it’s important to understand that it is the intuitive mind and not the rational mind that drives decision-making and purchase behavior. Research in behavioral economics (Daniel Khaneman. “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publishers, 2013) reveals there are two thinking systems inside the brain.
- System One is “Fast Thinking”. This is the Intuitive Mind which represents 90% of the processing power of the brain and is responsible for making quick decisions and judgments. It also controls sub-conscious activities like breathing, heartbeat and reflexes as well as our instinctive reactions and habits. This intuitive mind stores and processes our emotions and feelings and connects these together billions of times a day as we experience everyday life.
- System Two is “Slow Thinking”. This is our Rational Mind where we use logic and analysis and it accounts for 10% of our brain’s processing power. Our critical reasoning side kicks in after System One has already set the stage by quickly making important decisions judgments based on instincts and intuition. For this reason, most of our daily reactions and decision-making is driven by the sub-conscious, “auto-pilot” responses generated by System One. System Two activates later and typically rationalizes the decision already made. Some circumstances such as fear, gravity or pressure can intervene and cause the rational mind to take a more deliberate and controlling role.
This model of fast and slow thinking can help explain consumer behavior and why consumers with strong loyalty to a particular brand like Apple, Nike, Disney, Coke or Starbucks are unlikely to switch brands no matter how many features or benefits of a competitive product you show them. It also helps explain why some politicians and celebrities seem to be able to get away with mistakes while other cannot. Simply put, when our intuitive mind makes a strong positive connection with a brand or a person this is the compass that drives feelings and behavior.
When someone tries to convince us to change a habit or buy a different brand, System One immediately gathers up all the sub-conscious positive emotions and feelings we have for the brand we are loyal to. Before our conscious mind has a chance to listen to the first word, our intuitive nature, our instincts and our pre-existing habits have kicked-in and greatly influenced the decision-making process. At this point, since decisions are largely driven by the intuitive mind, it is very hard for a traditional message of features and benefits to change behavior.
The Key to Creating New Behaviors
Instead of fighting against nature by using more logic or stronger proof of your product benefits, it’s more effective to go with the force of nature. Make an emotional connection to open the door to the Intuitive Mind. First, try to find a key to breaking the existing habit they have with their current product. Try to uncover negative associations they may have and use that as a Trigger Point to open the door for them to consider a new option. Then, present the positive associations people have when they experience your brand. This is best done with pictures, images and sensory experiences as these connect directly with the Intuitive Mind.
How to Create Positive Brand Experiences
There is a process and method to creating the desired brand experiences.
- Define the emotions you want to evoke.
- Develop “Brand Experiences” that will create the desired emotion and connect people with it.
- Define the images, sensory experiences and words that will trigger the emotion.
- Identify windows of opportunity to present the brand experiences.
- Build a tactical plan that will present the brand experiences across all customer touchpoints:
- Marketing and Advertising
- Products and new product development
- Customer service
- Operations, invoicing and all other
Examples of Creating Brand Experiences
The Starbucks Brand Experience
Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee. They sell an escape; a brief sanctuary from a busy, hectic world. When you deserve some “me time”, step into a Starbucks and a barista will hand-craft a premium coffee product that will make you feel special. There are dozens of overt and subtle brand experiences that make the Starbucks experience hard to replicate:
- Design and branding of the building
- The open effect of the glass windows
- The feeling of connected community within the store
- Design of the coffee cups
- Smell the instant you open the door
- Sound of the steaming of the milk and the activity in the store
- Quality of the furniture and the look and feel of the leather chairs
- Availability of WiFi and the type and nature of people that go their
- The type of food products they sell
- Corporate responsibility and positions on social issues
The Disney Brand Experience
Walt Disney World is not an amusement park. They create magical experiences. Everything they do is crafted around the creation of magical experiences for their guests. Here are just a few of the many areas of focus that create a unique and magical experience at Disney:
- Visitors are not referred to as visitors, but as “guests”. Because, after all, a visitor is just a…well, visitor. But a guest deserves to be treated special.
- Employees are not called employees, but “Cast Members” and they are truly expected to behave as if they are on stage and performing while they work.
- All cast members go through rigorous training on how to every aspect of how to behave and how to make the guests feel special. Even the people who clean the bathrooms and the grounds wear costumes are must be “in character” at all times.
- Every detail is considered. Ask a Cast Member where Cinderella’s Castle is and they will not “point” with their finger because this can be considered inappropriate or rude. Rather they “direct” you by gesturing in the direction of the castle using their entire arm with an open palm or by using an open palm with two or three fingers and the thumb over the pinky finger.
- Keeping the park immaculately clean. If you drop a gum wrapper on Main Street USA it will be inconspicuously pickup within a couple minutes.
- Queuing the lines gives guests the feeling of making progress and the introduction of the “Fast Pass” provides guests a better way to plan their overall experience by helping reduce waiting times for popular rides.
Every brand creates an experience, but not all experiences are positive or planned. Just think of the “brand experience” you had the last time you visited your DMV, the Department of Motor Vehicles.
What Experience Does Your Brand Evoke?
Are you 100% satisfied with the experience customer’s have with your brand? Do customers get the same feeling from your brand as your competitor’s? Is your brand experience planned or unplanned? What would it do to brand preference, loyalty and revenue if you created a unique experience around your brand?