Portrait of author Martin Lindstrom
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I have just finished  reading  Buy.ology, a great book by Martin Lindstrom.It’s a well written discussion of the rise of neuromarketing and his research to find parts of the brain associated with different aspects of Brand equity and desire. There is a great discussion of mirror neurones  promoting like for like actions and creating desire for brands when you see other people using or wearing them. He also discusses the need for full immersive brand narrative to enable product placement to work. Rituals and Superstitions as a habit-forming pattern that can aid brand adoption. Religion, Sensory marketing and sex are also highlighted for being closely related experiences that activate emotion used in branding and advertising.

Part of his book talks about somatic markers- or shortcuts to brain bookmarks that code for experience, emotion, reward or punishment. Brands can create somatic markers and be reactivated later to relive the emotion and the sense to buy (to complete the emotion activated). The smell of fresh bread is a given example that triggers  the thought of eating nice bread, increasing the sales of  bread in those shops. I discussed using sensory marketing in an earlier post.

These themes connect with a lot of  aspects of storytelling and linking some of Martins theories with Storytelling could shed even more light on how to connect deeply with consumers. I think stories have a bigger role top play in the brand experience and why people buy. I think its more than just seeing people and thinking, I want to be the same. Customers all have their own life story and brands become part of that story enabling them to become closer to their own life narrative.  Some brands tell stories that fit with people’s life stories and they become a part of that person’s life. So much so that people tell other people (word of mouth) to let other people into their story and about the brand and that’s far more effective than traditional advertising. We are starting to find that these brand fans are worth far more than normal customers who may use the brand, but have little loyalty. These brands fail to create a story that is incorporated into customers narratives.

We know there are only a few core stories and that are so well understood by people that they have been called archetypes. These inner story tapes can be accesses instantly and brands are compared to them for closeness of fit. We all know how these core stories play out and therefore how brands will fit in . Often we see that metaphors are the way to activate memories and the encoded emotions (engrams) by association. These metaphors can be verbal, visual, through sound, smell or taste. Each can activate a nuerological pathway called and engram (Mark Beatey in Brand Meaning) and the associated emotions. The more experiences a person has the stronger the pathway is  set and the easier it is to access. Powerful brands, like Martin says, can activate these emotions easily but I think its deeper than mirroring neurones.

While Martins research is truly amazing and as a scientist and a marketeer I get excited by these things I do wonder if this is only part of the story. For the relationship between the fMRI studies and religion vs brands it was seen that an area of the brain activated by religious images is also the same area as well known brand icons. I think it is a leap to say that these are linked based on the information. Could it be that these areas of the brain are associated with recognition and acceptance of stories verses struggle and absence of relevance that small brands communicate. Did Martin and his team find the “Story Centre’ and he is seeing the firing of engrams of well known stories in action? I hope so. If he repeated the test with children’s’ stories or famous movies like Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark may help answer it.

I’m going to investigate the discussion on somatic markers as well. As these are experiential and learnt, it would be difficult for these to be passed from one person to another. But we do see desire for brands before people have been able to experience them for themselves, indicating there is more to it than experience, emotion reward or punishment. Metaphors help us explain things both to ourselves and to others. It also appears that metaphors are passed from people to people and that emotions can be experienced even before the actual physical interaction of a brand or event happens.

Its a great Saturday when your left thinking about a subject you love , so a big thanks to Martin Lindstrom and his Buy.ology book for stimulating the day. I hope to follow up this post in the next few weeks with some more thoughts.