How to make brand work with human psychology

The line between what we want and what we need is a fine one. Especially consumer brands invest a lot of time and effort into becoming a ‘need-brand’, perceived as a necessity that one cannot do without. Human psychology gives us many insights into how brands can elevate their standing with target audiences. The list of factors influencing consumer behaviour is long of course, but here are three considerations:

It is all a matter of associations.

The average person sees 5,000 ads every day. Stop and think about that number for a moment. 5000 ads, per day. But fun fact: The human brain is only capable of storing 7 items at a time. In the competition for one of those 7 spots, brands must remember that information is not stored on its own. Association is everything.

For example, your child wants a toy. But having seen a Lego advert, he now associates the concept of “toy” with “Lego”. Is that sufficient to convert this want into a need? No. Because an ad is just one touchpoint of many. Rather than relying on just an advert or a logo to connect with their consumers and drive purchase, Lego focuses on a huge number of touch-points. A good example are their branded experiences. By using their brand to create memorable moments, to encourage children to associate joy and excitement with their brand, Lego turns your child’s want into a need. They wanted a toy, but it needed to be Lego.

In the competition to be the brand associated with a certain category, brands should consider all touch-points both physical and digital. Empathy is all important. The brands that understand their audience, that are able to help their consumers to wade through the overload of information by creating clear and positive associations, will be the brands that win.

Give people what they want.

In psychology, humans are described as “cognitive misers”. We have the tendency to economise on the time and effort we spend to process information. When facing information overload or information that isn’t specifically relevant to us, we disengage - a nightmare for the brands trying to connect with us!

It’s an outdated belief that we should segment our audiences based on age, country or any other fixed demographic. Rather, we should segment our audiences based on the way that they consume information. This might take the form of Gen Z’s preference to video formats or the Chinese audience’s preference to mobile.

Netflix found that their largest audience group preferred content in shorter formats and began to produce more bite-sized shows and mini-series to fill that consumer need. What is thought-provoking and engaging content may mean completely different things to different audiences, however. Netflix has similarly produced longer than average programming for other audience groups whom they understand just as well. Whilst a brand must have a strong purpose and identity, expressing that brand in a personalised way that your customer wants to consume, is extremely important.

Help them belong.

Human beings are social animals. We desire connection and meaningful relationships. Brands can tap into this desire in order to connect with customers both existing and new.

They provide us with a feeling of belonging to communities and we use brand as a way to connect to other people sharing in that interest. An example is the Nike brand which creates a sense of community through their digital applications and physical running clubs which foster connection between their consumers and thus with the brand itself. Another is the work we at Saffron did for YouTube. We discovered that people feel that YouTube is theirs. We applied this feeling to the visual identity of the brand, for example placing the iconic play button as the centre of attention for the logo in order to invite users to play, to join the conversation and to connect with their interests and communities at large through the YouTube platform.

Remember your kid’s Lego? Think of how Lego in a way also stands for a community and how their promise makes your son perceive this feeling of belonging, associating it to feeling connected to a community. So ask yourself, is your brand creating positive associations across all your brand touch-points? Are you empathising with your audience as you express your brand? Are you providing a community with your brand for your audience to feel a sense of connection?

To learn more about how your brand can rise to meet these challenges, get in touch.