As a designer I frequently judge brands on how I experience them visually. But experiencing a brand is not only about what you see. It’s not only about logos, color schemes or nice typographies. We can’t separate the way we experience a brand from the products it sells, the services it offers, the way it treats us or how it makes us feel.

Same same but different

Today, due to globalisation and free-market dynamics, we have a lot of products and services to choose from. But the free flow of people, products, information, doesn’t come without its perils. The ideas that make products or services unique, are nowadays easily copied. Technological advances, can be reverse-engineered. Production, outsourced. And prices, quickly matched or undercut.

Products and services, are becoming growingly ineffective as the sole carrier of a differentiating value proposition.

As a consequence, consumers are left looking for something else that can help them make a purchasing decision. On the other hand, without relevant product or service differentiation, businesses also search for other sources of value that can attract customers and inspire their loyalty.
In such an over-saturated market, what opportunities are there for brands to capture mind space and inspire a choice, other than the traditional marketing formula of “reducing costs and risks”?

How brands make us feel

We tend to think of all our decisions as rational. But decisions can also be deeply rooted on emotions. And this is known science. A renowned Portuguese neuroscientist, Antonio Damásio, and his team have studied patients with brain damage, specifically to areas of the brain responsible for emotional processing. They found out, that these patients, unable to process emotions, were also unable to make decisions.

Specifics aside, emotions can have a very strong influence on the neural faculties that allow us to make decisions. They help us filter through the clutter, through all the different possibilities. They help us make the choices, that we expect to be the most emotionally advantageous. For patients without this capacity, even choices as mundane as picking what to eat for dinner, can be deeply overwhelming.

Subconsciously, emotional logic is one of the strongest factors in how we buy products and services. For that reason, brands can find a reliable source of competitive advantage in delivering emotional value. In a much more effective way than, for example, selling a pair of shoes that is more comfortable, or that costs 20€ less.

In reality, we often choose brands because there’s something deeper that resonates with us. Something that inspires us.