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Blog / The Psychology of Branding: Converting Attention To Memory

The Psychology of Branding: Converting Attention To Memory

In the future, Mimi Turner, Head of EMEA and LatAm at the B2B institute at LinkedIn, predicts the fundamentals of marketing will look quite similar.

“I think a great deal of our marketing environment will be very recognizable. We'll probably still have big discussions about top-of-funnel and bottom-of-funnel and how they're related,” she explains.

“At some point, marketing has to enter somebody's brain. If it doesn't enter your brain, the money is wasted. The one thing that isn't going to change is the gating system of the human brain. The wetware of the human brain is fundamental to whether marketing works and all the spreadsheets in the world don't necessarily really help us with that one challenge.” 

Finding new ways to understand how customers think

While the goals we’re trying to achieve as marketers may remain largely the same, the ways in which we achieve them are becoming more advanced as tech and research uncover more insights into the minds of our customers. And this is likely to be reflected in advertising — especially within B2B. “I think that we can predict that within the B2B category, there will be growth and that there will be more businesses spending more money on marketing and advertising,” says Mimi.

But it’s not just our understanding of the psychological process of the customer journey that’s changing, it’s also the ways in which we reach customers to create frictionless journeys that are advancing. Mimi predicts a continuation of the evolution in platforms, and in the ways marketers get people's attention, with a particular swing further into short-form video content, saying we can expect to see “shorter-form content and creative that can actually crystallize the value within a shorter period of time than we traditionally used to.”


wasted money - dollar bills in trash canMarketing messages that don't make it past the gating system of the brain translate to wasted budget.

Over the course of three episodes, the Now, Next, Future series tackles the key action points that marketers need to be taking now and initiatives that they need to put on their roadmap to stretch budgets further without hampering the long-term success of their business. Check out a review of the third episode below, or download the full ebook with all three episodes here


What are we going to use Generative AI for?

In the last year, large language models like ChatGPT have swept the globe, disrupting industries with promises of efficiency. However, in its current primitive state, it’s difficult to imagine exactly how Generative AI is going to impact marketing teams. As the Head of Microsoft Research, Peter Lee puts it in one interview, "The thing is both smarter and dumber than any person you have ever met."

According to Fabio de Barnardi, VP of Business Development at Adverity, this will change though. “Everything goes in cycles,” explains Fabio, “Right now, Gen AI is still, to a large degree, primordial. Technology and marketing as a practice — both will find a balance.” 


Cutting out the busy work to make space for creativity

Fabio explains, “Gen AI can write content, but you still need a human to make sure that the content is on brand and then ticks all the boxes. Eventually, A.I. will learn that as well. We'll probably get to a point where we try to push AI, it’s not going to work just yet, and humans will regain control.” 

Incrementally, this push and pull may lead to a future where Gen AI can support marketers to allow them more creative freedom. “I have hope for Gen AI,” says Fabio, “that people will still be able to carve out a meaningful role and use technology to make their lives easier, without stepping away from the responsibility and the innate creativity that we have as humans.”

The idea of getting technology to remove the busy work and the drudgery is one that Fabio champions. “When I started at Adverity, the first customer who I spoke with said they spend about 80% of their time collecting data and getting it ready to be analyzed for their client, and only about 20% in delivering value in this case,” Fabio explains. 


time to insights - clocks

Gen AI could help speed up time to insights by automating tedious data management tasks.

“I was shocked that only 20% of their time was actually delivering value. And I thought — this is one of my first meetings. I'm new to the job. This must be the anomaly, the exception, not the rule. And then I realized that that was, and still is to a large extent, the rule, not the exception.

I have always seen technology as an enabler for change, and I'm a big believer that people want to do jobs that are fulfilling, that are fun, where they can do the most with their skills and ability. Technology can really make people flourish in their jobs by taking away the boring stuff and enabling them to be the best version of themselves.”


Take it back to basics

Marketing teams might be tempted toward advanced analytics, but the truth is that many of them are trying to run before they can walk. They’re looking to AI to make their decision-making process more efficient without first creating a solid foundation of reliable data. 

Instead of trying to cram more into the 20% of time available for analysis, marketing teams who are struggling to create value and efficiency should first look to the 80% of time they spend getting their data in one place. Only once a streamlined single source of truth has been established can marketing teams truly get value from more advanced analytics like AI and predictive analytics.

In fact, Fabio’s key piece of advice for marketers echoes this sentiment. “I would encourage marketers to be boring. And what I mean by that is to be bold and creative in building the brand and the creatives, but be more boring when it comes to using data,” says Fabio.

“Too often, I see companies and marketers who are thinking about the next big thing, when the truth is they are not working on a solid base of data. People want to go to the next thing, they don't want to be seen as being lagging behind.” But Fabio advises marketers, “Make sure that you've got a strong foundation, brilliant basics, as one of our customers called it. Then build on that foundation. Because if you build something on weak foundations, it will not last.”

The psychology of branding: Converting attention to memory

As more data becomes available to understand marketing in relation to the human psyche, according to Mimi, marketers are edging closer to the behavioral, science-led approach. One element of this is a clearer understanding of how branding fits into the customer journey and decision-making process.

“Brand is really a function of a pre-opinion about something,” says Mimi. “If you want to buy something, what will come to mind is a group of products from which you can choose, and it's very likely that you're going to choose from this group because those are the ones that your brain has learned are important.”


marketing behavioral science led approach

Marketers have more access to data that can drive a behavioral, science-led approach.

Making the day one list

The group of suppliers a buyer already knows they want to consider is known as the Day One list, and it’s an incredibly important concept for marketers to understand and aim towards. In fact, according to recent research by Google and Bane, 90% of the time, B2B buyers will choose a provider from their day-one list, which emphasizes the importance of a solid brand awareness strategy.

The human brain is overwhelmingly designed to be miserly in its use of thinking resources. “If you spend a lot of time on cognitive functional things, you get glutamate markers in your prefrontal cortex that give you a headache,” says Mimi, “That's why you feel tired after 45 minutes of thinking — because glutamate buildup has happened and your body has to work hard to metabolize that out of your brain.”


selective memory - glutamates headache

The brain is highly selective when it comes to creating memories.

Our brains are not built for you telling me 100 things and me remembering 100 things. Our brains are built for you telling me a hundred things and me maybe remembering one.” Speaking to the increasingly competitive marketing landscape, Mimi predicts, “I'm fairly certain it's going to be an even more difficult environment in which to attract attention because people will have both a multitude of different places that they can go to and they'll have their own communities that they feel very at home in.” 

Because the attention of potential customers is more difficult to capture, it’s all the more important to capitalize on this attention once earned by converting it to memory, with the goal of making the day one list. By factoring this memory-led approach when considering their messaging, marketers can create more successful campaigns. 

Marketers need to focus their creativity on this goal of creating storage in the brain for their product or service so that when that person is thinking about making that purchase, they make the day-one list. “In order to be remembered, we need to tap into some deeper social-emotional ideas about how to communicate a message,” says Mimi. 

While admittedly this kind of creativity is a very abstract concept and can be hard to grapple with, Mimi recommends collapsing the idea into one question: “To what end are we being creative? We're being creative in order to be remembered.”

Balancing long-term brand building with demand marketing

While this long-term brand building is proven to be an effective strategy, marketers are often pressured into focusing on more short-term wins, especially as budgets start to tighten. “There’s a tendency with creative, but also in general with marketing to focus on hyper-targeting the lower funnel, and trying to optimize creative,” says Fabio.

However, he advises marketing teams not to let this short-term need for clicks and revenue eclipse the longer game of funneling creativity into building a brand that will cement itself in the minds of prospective customers, and sustain their customer base.


set of scaled - balancing long-term brand building with demand capture

Marketing teams need to balance long-term brand-building activities with demand capture.

“I don't think you build a brand by optimizing the creative, by measuring click-through rate on each individual one of 100 different creatives.” The fact is that data alone won’t point marketers towards ideas that connect with people on an emotional level, and hyper-targeting individuals with tweaked messaging and branding can backfire by diluting the clarity of your offering. 

“Testing hundreds of different variations of creatives to make sure that people get the one with the higher click-through rate sucks the soul out of what a beautiful creative is,” says Fabio, adding, “There is definitely a trend of short-term focus on getting people to click, to buy, to ultimately achieve a certain revenue target. But there needs to be a balance with the longer-lasting and longer-term goal of building a brand.” 

What do customers really value? The power of the customer promise

So we’ve established that branding is more important than ever, and a behavior-led approach will go a long way — but what exactly does that look like? Well, research from the B2B institute in tandem with the godfather of strategy and Dean of the Rotman School, Roger Martin uncovers one important piece of this puzzle: the customer promise. 

“We really wanted to understand one thing, which is what do customers really value?” says Mimi. Their hypothesis, which was tested across more than 2,000 award-winning or nominated campaigns, was one simple question: Does a campaign that makes a customer promise do better than a campaign that doesn't?

In an attention economy where marketers have to compete more fiercely for people's attention and tap into this neurological, behavior-led messaging, a customer promise is a powerful technique that can help cut through the noise. “We want to be in a relationship with our customers. But we need to express to them why they should be in a relationship with us on the basis of a promise,” explains Mimi.

The research examined brand health metrics, market share metrics, penetration metrics, and long-term brand and sales growth, and found that on pretty much every measure, campaigns that made a promise to the customer performed better than campaigns that didn’t.


customer promise blogCampaigns that made a customer promise outperformed those that didn't.

Even more interestingly, across a longer period of time, two-thirds of all the campaigns that drove long-term brand health and sales growth were ones that made a promise to the customer. “If you want to weight your advantage to bring future customers and drive the long-term growth of your business, then making a promise to the customer is a really important part of that.”

Fabio adds, “I think there's a balance to be struck between quick wins, which can be expensive to secure, and working towards profitable repeat business that comes from making a promise and sticking to it, and builds on top positive experiences and recommendations.”

Brand promise Vs. customer promise 

There is an important distinction between a brand promise and a customer promise and it’s crucial to understand that a brand promise, in and of itself, is not as powerful as a promise to the customer. 

Mimi clarifies, “A customer promise tells the customer what you are going to do for them and that you are putting yourself at risk if you don't deliver. A brand promise can still be something very generic about how great the brand is. So, sometimes a brand promise is not a relationship with a customer that's not customer-oriented. It's not really a strategic function.” 

Summarizing her findings, the key piece of advice that Mimi gives to marketers is this: “Understand in the words that a six-year-old would use how you help your customer, and then promise to your customer that you're going to help them in that way.”


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