Neuromarketing and the Psychology of Branding
Matt Johnson is a speaker, researcher, and writer specializing in the application of psychology and neuroscience to marketing. He received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Princeton University. His work explores the science behind brand loyalty, experiential marketing, and consumer decision making. He is the author of the best-selling consumer psychology book ‘Blindsight: The (mostly) hidden ways marketing reshapes our brains’, and the upcoming ‘Branding That Means Business’, coming out in fall 2022.
Matt is a contributor to major news outlets including Psychology Today, Forbes, and BBC, and he regularly provides expert opinion and thought leadership on a range of topics related to the human side of business. He is also the co-founder of the neuromarketing firm Pop Neuro, and he consults with a wide array of organizations. Matt currently resides in Boston, MA, where he is a Professor of Psychology of Marketing at Hult International Business School, and an instructor at Harvard University’s Division of Continuing Education.
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02:47 What drew Matt to consumer and brand psychology
- Matt comes from a neuroscience background with a doctorate in neuroscience focused primarily on language and communication
- He went into business consulting after his Ph.D., and discovered the relationship between business and neuroscience when he was working in China
- It’s about trying to build enduring connections with consumers
05:05 Matt’s experience of living and working in China
- There is a huge up-and-coming, growing young demographic in China which is bringing a ‘newness’ to consumer behaviour
- There is a very new urban middle class
- There is a lot more experimentation with ecommerce, AR, etc.
07:14 Deconstructing consumer behaviour
- There is a deep intersection between marketing neuroscience, psychology and behavioral economics
- One of the key parts to neuromarketing is about psychological questioning – asking what will resonate with the consumer
- The other key part is that it adds a hypothesis testing technique – the data can be more revealing than a classic focus group
- Artificial Intelligence converges into neuroscientific facts
12:43 How branding has shifted from a focus on brand value to a focus on brand meaning and identity
- The shift happened about 10 – 15 years ago, primarily driven by the proliferation of technology
- For example, it used to be the case that if you wanted some music, you had to go to the store and buy a CD, take it home and listen to it. Now you can have any possible song that’s ever been recorded at the click of a few buttons and for less than $10 a month
- Brands need to go above and beyond for the brand to matter – they have to tap into something deeper with their audience
- It goes beyond brand value, which is defined at the level of the corporation, and really to brand identity, which has a deeper connection with the core beliefs of a consumer’s identity
17:16 How do people interact with digitization in the art world?
- Matt’s dad was a traveling jazz musician and his mum is a painter
- The negative impact of digitizing a physical to a digital product is that we tend to take it for granted and not appreciate it fully
- E.g. swiping between endless songs on digital platforms takes us away from enjoying a full song
- One positive is that we’re able to explore different genres and we’re less pigeonholed in terms of how we identify with music
21:36 Is there such a thing as the psychology of bookshops and how people interact with them?
- There has been a shift in delivering product value towards delivering more ephemeral experiences when it comes to physical bookstores
- Amazon came on the scene and, like a big asteroid, it demolished the physical bookstore industry
- The surviving places delivered something more than just the book
25:02 The study around the taste of Coca-Cola compared to Pepsi
- Coke fans were convinced that they preferred the taste of Coke regardless of the brand name, but the results of the study showed that the blind testers actually preferred Pepsi
- This study demonstrated that consumers value branding over the quality
- “People don’t prefer your product, but when the brand is there, people enjoy the taste of soda much more”
- Via their tens of billions of dollars of advertising every year, Coke has essentially etched their brain into our network
- It shows a much deeper truth about the power of brands, which is that it can influence the raw perceptual experience of an otherwise objective perceptual experience, and it literally alters our brains
32:55 The future of neuromarketing
- Individuals don’t really know themselves very well – we have a very narrow, introspective view as we are protecting our ego
- Media platforms like Instagram have tens of thousands data points, and once that’s fed through artificially intelligent algorithms, they have a very robust way of understanding a person
39:02 What part does motivation play in consumer behaviour, and how do marketers use consumer motivation to create demand?
- Pleasure is a very transient experience that is fundamentally a motivating human emotion
- ‘The chase’ is the thing that keeps us going, e.g. more followers, likes or downloads
44:33 How much control do we have on our decisions?
- There are a lot of experiments that show that very subtle features of an environment can impact our decisions
- There is a social nature to our decisions
48:22 How a brand can ensure that they’re being authentic and that the brand is adapting with the times
- There has been a rise in brand activism, corporate activism, and political involvement
- Expand or engage in a topic and be believable and sincere in that attempt
- There has to be some risk or cost to the stand that’s being taken, or else it’s treated like noise
55:21 Can psychology and new forms of marketing help the perception of green products make them extra appealing?
- A lot of brands are trying to compete to be sustainable brands in their industry
- What Tesla does that Prius doesn’t do is bring consumers that aren’t necessarily sustainably-minded – they bring in people that are tech-minded and futuristic – when you bring people that don’t have sustainable products, then you’re really moving the needle
58:16 The loneliness economy
- Relatively speaking, from 2015, we’ve gotten lonelier as a global society
- There is a market to provide solutions in the form of products and brands for the recent consumer demand for human connection
- You can have a conversation with an artificially intelligent entity and these algorithms are so sophisticated that it feels as if you are having a conversation with an actual human
- Social cohesion at a sociological standpoint is very important to a functioning society – and as we don’t have surgical cohesion in other ways, brands can step in and provide these shared experiences