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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

The brand model – time for change?

Is it time to tune more into emotional decision-making, letting go of a strict formulaic approach?

Traditional brand models may be all very well in theory, but do they really represent how brands are seen in the real world?

From early in our careers the 'brand as shape' model is presented enthusiastically as a way to give brands order, reduce chaos, and provide a framework from which creative outputs can be logically analysed and measured. 

But while these models may give us the tangibility we crave for our brands, do they reflect how they are actually experienced in the real world? 

We've long believed that customers make decisions based on rational evaluation of information and that, through choosing a brand, this will lead to an emotional benefit. Brand models often split this out into functional benefits and emotional benefits

Yet the latest understanding of human psychology and decision-making, led by psychologist Daniel Kahneman, supports the interaction and inseparability of two systems within the human brain; System 1 is fast, intuitive, emotional, automatic and impressionistic, whilst System 2 is slow, deliberate and effortful. 

System 1 is always on. It filters the world for us and tends to dominate the choices and judgements we make – it short-cuts complex decision making and determines what System 2 will subsequently turn into beliefs and actions. 

In other words, feelings and emotions come first – conclusions, attitudes and actions come second.

This irrational, intuitive and emotionally-driven behaviour is seen in healthcare every day; habitual prescribing, groundless loyalty to certain brands, peer influence, and healthcare professionals not heeding their own compliance advice when taking antibiotics. 

We also see it in research settings where what people say does not always reflect what they do: some of the most successful pharma campaigns have tested horrendously in research on measures of persuasion, message take-out and the elusive 'likeability', yet in the real-world, where System 1 kicks in, the behavioural and attitudinal outcome is very different. 

Of course, it takes a courageous team to go with their instincts and defy what doctors have told them in research, as well as the organisation's need for measurement and proof.

There is definite value in having consistency and a strong sense of direction in a brand's communications, with traditional brand models going some way toward this, yet the formulaic nature of these models rarely provides the inspiration we need to produce influential creativity. 

Sometimes the best communications are a result of constant iterations that a team has gone through as part of the creative process rather than a formulaic model. It's a process of feeling as opposed to over-thinking.

The 'brand as shape' model encourages a highly insular and rigid analysis of brands, perpetuating the belief that we must first change attitudes through reasoning and rational argument before we can change behaviour. 

It fundamentally goes against the very nature of how humans think and make sense of the world – even our beloved healthcare professionals, who are human after all.

Article by
Julia Straker

director of strategic brand planning, PAN

14th August 2013

From: Marketing

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