The Science Behind Branding: How it Affects you?

By: Aaditya V S

What makes some brands irresistible to us? Why is it that your rich friends prefer the classier brands over everything else? Why is it so difficult for new products to gain a consumer base in this market? If you have these questions in your head and are searching for answers, then you are in the right place to find the answers.

Brands are thought of as visual tools, something to enhance the business’ exposure to the public as well as personalize it in people’s lives. A brand has to appeal to the customer’s needs and emotions and should have the ability to influence his or her association with the company’s services.

The power of the brand comes from its external presence. It comes from what the logo is meant to symbolize. So where, then, does the brand exist? Seeing from a businessman’s perspective, the answer is rather simple: The brand exists in the mind of the market.

As the branding pioneer Walter Landolf once said, “Products are made in the factory, but brands are made in the mind”. But isn’t it the product or service that ultimately matters?

Here are some interesting numbers for you. On average, companies spend 10 percent of their revenue on branding, Coca-Cola spends approximately 4$ billion per year, and Amazon spends $18 billion per year on branding and marketing. Now the first thought a common man would have is that instead of spending this lump sum amount on advertising and branding, what if it is directed towards providing better services for their already existing consumer base?  

Every time we think of a brand, there are always some famous faces that come to our minds. For example, Apple reminds us of Steve Jobs, Nike of Michael Jordan, and so on.

Nike earns a whopping 900 million dollars per year just from its flagship merchandise, promoted by the famous basketball player, Michael Jordan. Yes, that’s nearly a billion dollars in sales from a single category of shoes.

Taking a peek into our day-to-day advertisements, some of the most well-known and beloved brands are the ones we have a deep and emotional association with. Remember seeing the iconic Airtel sim ad starring a musical from the well-known AR Rahman that made Airtel popular overnight? The IPL ads in February and March were an instant hit in every household. You didn’t have to be a cricket fan to have those songs stuck in your head, as those vibey ads brought together an entire nation with varied interests over a game of bat and ball. These are a few glimpses of how businesses worldwide use sentiment to win over audiences and convince them to try their product in large numbers.

Before we go into the science of branding and advertising, we need to take a look at some of the big brands prevalent in recent times globally that have been huge success stories.

1.Nike-Just do it.

We are all well too familiar with arguably, the most popular as well as influential sportswear brand of this century, Nike. It was founded in 1964 by Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman as a distributor of Japanese shoes. The Nike swoosh, one of the most valuable and parodied logos in the world, is valued at a whopping 26 billion US dollars. Nike has greatly captured the eyes of aspiring sportsmen/women with their inspiring slogan, “Just Do It”, encouraging people to take on the impossible in their lives. 

2.Apple- ‘Think big,Think different’

Apple is one of the prime examples of how branding can capture an up-and-coming market and make it a monopoly by simply adding emotions to the product. Apple is where it all started. With the Macintosh back in 1984, this was when the company marketed its products as a friendly personal computer, but Steve Jobs, who was back at the helm after a decade-long exile, took apple marketing to the next level with the ‘think different’ campaign in 1997, when he narrated a script encouraging the audience to innovate, create, and think differently than usual. In that moment, the whole world knew that this was going to create history. Apple greatly profited from this campaign, as people around the world started to think of Apple as a name synonymous with innovation and creativity, while also parodying the whole brand and its products in public.

3.Coca Cola-’The wonder of us’

One of the most popular soft drinks of our century, Coca-cola has always reinvented its branding to stay relevant in an ever-faster-growing world. The company has always relied on its robust branding strategy to increase its consumer base, making it the most preferred beverage among the masses. The most recent initiative by the company has been to brand Coke as ‘the wonder of us’, emphasizing the diversity of its consumer base. This branding is an example of how companies are using social issues as a base to connect with people and strengthen their bond with the public.

What exactly is the connection between branding and the brain? Neuroscientifically speaking, the brand is ultimately a pattern of connectivity in the consumers’ brains. It is through the totality of the emotional and semantic associations that consumers have come to understand what the brand represents. And it’s this associative pattern that gives branding its true meaning. Companies are seen to dig deep into the social issues prevalent and bury themselves deep into our minds with the help of ad campaigns. This leads to a ‘no-brainer’ purchase. It’s a marketing principle that’s related to the work of Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist and economist who won the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

In his book “Thinking Fast and Slow“, Kahneman separates thinking into two broad categories: system 1, which is fast, automatic, and involuntary, and system 2, which is logical, voluntary, and slow. Brands that top System 1 are more likely to be successful in the market.

Since the 1950s, researchers have examined the impact brand value has on people’s preference for products and have found that people prefer products whose brands fit well with their self-image. A modern example would be how some part of the population prefers iOS over Android simply because it increases their self-image and status in society. This is particularly true outside North America, where the cost of an iPhone is significantly higher. So could this be a sign that we are basically robbing ourselves in order to buy products befitting our self-image rather than choosing ones that are sustainable and better in the long run?

By choosing brands that enhance our self-image, we, the consumers, can portray ourselves the way we want to the rest of the world. While criticism on this matter is valid, on the other hand, humans are prehistorically deemed to be social creatures, so it is obvious we would deduce someone’s character based on how they present themselves to the outside world.

Brands may have some psychological power over us with their personalized advertisements, campaigns, and heartfelt promotions, but we can still make the smarter choice that’ll not only help us in terms of finances but also give us the satisfaction we want. The best strategy as of now is to slow down and stop making involuntary decisions about buying products purely based on their brand value.

As for moving out of the brand game altogether? Good luck with that!


This blog page serves as a platform for the Editorial department of The Hindu Education Plus Club at VIT Vellore. We provide opportunities to budding authors across campus to hone their writing skills. We publish blogs four times a week, where writers can communicate their views on any topic of their choice with our readers.

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