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We know – and mostly ignore the fact – that most brand decisions involve very low levels of active consideration.

Robert Heath’s theory of ‘Low Involvement Processing’ pursued the sacrilegious view that attention to advertising may actually be of little consequence, for example, in TV ads for brand-building.  His position is that brand building occurs through emotional connections, not persuasion. We aim to attract a high level of attention to deliver a persuasive message. But advertising works through emotional processing, not persuasion, and emotional content is processed most efficiently at low levels of attention.

Content that is processed in mostly passive ways nonetheless can impact us powerfully. Consumer decision-making taps into the deep waters of in-built associations rather than the shallow waters of our rational brain.

The dominant way that advertising works is by refreshing and building memory structures. These structures improve the chance of a brand being recalled.

“A brand must own mental real estate and get conscious, rational retrieval” has been the objective for conventional brand management. It originated with consumer packaged mass brands. However, for evolved categories with higher involvement and emotional quotient such as automotive, fashion, luxury, alco-bev, services – this is not a model which suffices.

The unconscious mind is always working by scanning and processing our environment. That information guides our motivations and actions beyond consciousness. Stimulus concerning brands – advertisements, endorsements, design, packaging, colour, organic content, events and so much more – keeps registering its presence in the unconscious mind.

In an advertisement its mood, colours, emotions, tone, voice, music, models , production finesse and more all goes into building mental associations and we’re not even aware of it.

Today, marketers are storytellers. It doesn’t mean only to tell consumers something they can consciously listen to, understand, remember, and repeat back to us. How the story is told is actually more important.

This is hardwired into us. As Stone Age hunter gatherers, we had to be able to read the feelings and intentions of others .Language developed much later. We learned to read posture, body language, voice and tone and facial expressions much before we understood words. Nonverbal communication happens automatically and subconsciously.

I’m sure we have felt ourselves hearing more than just the words when someone says “I promise”. We learn more from the tone than from the spoken words.

For example, a brand puts up an outdoor hoarding. Well, firstly it signals to the consumers that the campaign matters to the brand and business. We will soon forget the headline, text, colours, mood and other things but our subconscious registers all or most of it. Our memory pathways are formed. Our gut feel for that brand is now activated even if we paid it no real attention. It shapes perceptions of the brand and builds some equity. The message came and went, but the feeling remains back of our mind. We communicate even when we don’t intend to. Our silence also speaks, loudly. Everything is said in a context.

A brand can go all the way to own ideas and expound ideology. That means the consequential associations will lie deep in our subconscious mind.

That’s the frontier all marketers must explore.

That is where lies glory!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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