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Branding Psychology Secrets: Moulding Your Brand Perception

As humans, we have common biases that lead to our judgement and decisions, which are often irrational. Psychologists refer to these inherent biases that play a role in influencing our thinking as cognitive biases.

Hypothetical scenario:

Let’s say you and I are working on a project together. I’m writing the report and you’re doing the research. The report needs to be 12 pages long and we’re currently at page 6. Let’s also say that you don’t know what page we’re at since I’m the one writing. You ask me how much we still have left to do because you’re getting tired and are thinking of taking a break.

Scenario 1) I tell you not to worry because ‘we’re halfway done!’. You decide to take some rest.

Scenario 2) I tell you that ‘we’ve only done half and we still have the entire other half left to finish!’. You decide to rest later and we keep working hard.

In both cases, the amount that the report was completed was the same. However, the way I framed the situation, the way I reacted, the context and tone in which I phrased my response, altered your decision and influenced your behavior to take some rest.

This is an example of a specific cognitive bias – in which an individual reacts differently to a particular situation depending on whether it is conveyed in a positive or negative tone. In brand marketing, our brands have the ability to frame a situation and influence the judgement, reaction, and behavior of our consumers by leveraging this particular cognitive bias. This cognitive bias is known as The Framing Effect.

framing effect

The Framing Effect

In a classic experiment conducted by Daniel Kahneman and his research partner Amos Tversky, participants in a study were given the choice between two different treatment solutions for 600 individuals affected by a made-up life-threatening disease.


  • Treatment 1)      Saves 200 people’s life
  • Treatment 2)      1/3 chance of saving all 600 people and a 2/3 chance of saving no one


72% chose Treatment 1.

Another group of participants were then offered the same scenario, but this time the scenario was worded differently.


  • Treatment 1)      400 people die
  • Treatment 2)      1/3 chance no one will die and a 2/3 chance that all 600 will die


78% chose Treatment 2. 

The Framing Effect and Your Brand Strategy

In the above experiment, the way the options were presented influenced the participant’s choices. The first option was wrapped in a positive frame (save lives) and the second offer was wrapped in a negative frame (lose lives).


Key Insight: Creating a positive frame of your brand elicits positive feelings and results in risk taking and proactive behavior. Creating a negative frame leads to negative feelings and results in risk-aversion and reactive behavior. And on a side note, both are amplified by TIME and PRESSURE.

Two different brand’s targeting the same health-conscious consumer, have both of their products sitting side-by-side on a shelf in a supermarket. Brand A has the label “Only 1% Fat” and Brand B has the label “99% Fat-Free”. One is focusing on the positive, the other is focusing on the negative. The human brain registers two concepts – ’99’ is greater than ‘1’, and ‘free’ is better than ‘only’. Which do you think the consumer will more likely react towards?

A competitive strategy that is fairly common, especially in brand advertising strategy, is when a company presents their own brand in a positive frame and their competitor’s brand in a negative frame – and as an added tactic, implements the pressure of a time-sensitive offer and probes for a quicker decision. Time-pressure prevents the individual from analyzing and leaning towards a rational thought-process even further, when in the midst of making a decision.

The type of framing you employ in your strategy depends on your brand’s goals and what you are looking to achieve. The way you frame the words on your website for example, will influence the way your customer will react with your brand online. It’s all about the context in which information is presented to your consumer. The context is what moulds the assumptions and perceptions about your brand. 

Also keep in mind that the next time you hear an organization request you to spend a $1/day, you’ll know that they’re applying the framing effect. Breaking down numbers is another effective way in using this tactic. When you break down your cost, the frame that you set is more appealing to your consumer. Breaking down a cost for your product or service to the point of pennies and dollars, is more attractive than asking for larger chunks of money. $1/day sounds more feasible than $30/month. It can also work in the opposite way. Buying a printer for $300 sounds like a large investment. However, when it is compared to the total yearly cost of weekly printing at Staples at about $10/week ($500/year), buying that printer sounds like a good deal. Infomercials leverage this technique all the time. “3 easy payments of $29.95” where they cancel the 3rd payment for you because you’re special so it’s only “2 easy payments of $29.95”, is a lot more strategically attractive than them telling you to “buy this product for $60”.

Through the use of strategic wording in all of our marketing messages, strategic images in our advertising and packaging, and an overall effective understanding of our consumer’s psychology, we can influence how consumers think about our marketing message and our brand in general. Thus, effectively building a powerful, long-lasting, and leading brand. That is what Brand Marketing Psychology is all about.

Advertising Brand Building Brand Differentiation Brand Management Brand Positioning Brand Strategy Branding Psychology Consumer Psychology Online Branding

Marketing Psychology Magic: How to Capture Consumer Attention and Influence Perception

Before psychologists and brain scientists began diving deep into the workings of the human mind, there existed a set of individuals who were well-established experts in behavioral economics.

These individuals still exist today. They are able to manipulate our expectations, overwhelm us with sensory stimulation, provide us with false confidence, and essentially influence the reality we perceive.

They have the ability to astonish us and connect with us by making us feel as though they are reading our mind.

They are the magicians of our world.

I have always been fascinated by magic. During my elementary years I would love to perform magical feats for my friends and family. As I began paving my career in marketing, I began understanding where this fascination with magic stemmed from.

As a magician or as a marketer, I’m naturally curious about the mechanisms of thought and perception.

Magicians and marketers share one thing in common – the drive to manage expectations and influence perceptions. Both involve understanding the psychology of the prospect.

The difference is that brand marketers don’t do it to perform and impress, but to strengthen brands. Anything that allows brand marketers to manage expectations and influence perceptions can be extremely powerful in creating effective brand marketing strategy.

For example, an interesting phenomenon of human behaviour that is very well-known in the world of magic and psychology is:

INATTENTIONAL BLINDNESS, also known as ‘Selective Attention’.

Every magician is aware of the effects of inattentional blindness and its influence on their audience.

Inattentional blindness is a phenomenon discovered by psychologists Arien Mack and the late Irvin Rock.

Inattentional blindness is the inability of the human mind to process anything that is not the specific and direct focus of attention at that moment.

Mack and Rock conducted experiments which proved that people who had their attention focused on one thing often failed to notice an unexpected object, even when it appeared right in the middle of their field of vision!

Test out how susceptible you are to inattentional blindness by taking the selective attention test below. This video had gone viral some time ago so you may have already seen it. Regardless, it will give you a better understanding of this phenomenon:

After conducting these selective test experiments, Mack was noted for stating there is no conscious perception without attention.”

As marketers, we want to ensure our audience doesn’t fall victim to inattentional blindness when we are trying to get our marketing message across.

Our brains are on autopilot 85% of the time – yet marketers are writing ads and marketing messages to their consumer as if they’re paying attention all the time. This is resulting in companies spending money and resources to not only create ineffective ads, but even placing them in the wrong places.

By now, we’re all immune to banner ads on the homepages that we’re trying to surf. They can no longer command our focus and attention. In fact, I would argue that the majority of people don’t even realize banner ads are even present anymore – this is all due to inattentional blindness.

It’s no surprise that ad click-through rates have dropped drastically in recent years. The same goes for ads everywhere – billboards, bus stops, etc. Ads, especially banner ads, have literally become non-existent to the vast majority of people.

Your consumer is making choices about what to read, what website to go on, what to buy and what not to buy, mainly with his or her unconscious brain – which is completely out of his or her awareness. The unconscious mind is an amazing tool for us because it lets us instantly make decisions on what’s good or bad, what we should avoid, or what we should further investigate.

The more we think, the more energy we use up. Therefore, the unconscious mind wants to limit our thinking as much as possible – thus, we  go on autopilot.

In his book, The Buying Brain, A.K. Pradeep mentions that the brain is frustrated by clutter and messages that distract or don’t apply. It will ignore anything and everything it can, that is irrelevant.

Selective attention is the main reason why customers often begin ignoring a company’s latest news, offers, and ads. Especially when it comes to online marketing.

Our goal as marketers, should be to maintain and capture our consumer’s attention to our marketing message.

So how can we combat this phenomenon in our online and offline marketing initiatives?

Here are 4 suggestions:

1. Attract your audience’s attention when they are not doing anything important

When people are surfing online and are zoned into finding something specific, they become blind to everything else. They are more focused than ever at this point. Therefore, invest in advertising where you know your audience is more likely to see your message. This is why TV ads will always be an effective form of advertising. Same with the YouTube ads that run before playing the video. People are always more likely to pay attention when they’re not doing something important.

2. Use your ad to help your customer – make your ad RELEVANT

When your customer is focused in on finding something online, he or she won’t be blind to something that could be of value to their mission. Be creative in your online advertising.

There are too many times when I see banner ads that aren’t at all relevant to the website they’re placed on.

A simple example is if an ad is focused on selling guitar lessons, the placement of that ad would work best on guitar websites or forums. That’s a logical, but often forgotten example.

Combine logic with creativity however, and you’re sure to have a winning online marketing strategy.

3. Use contrast

Bright colors, loud patterns, and things that are in motion, are all eye-catching features. Use these elements in your ads to make your ads stand out from the redundant, plain, and steady context and vibe of the webpage.

Don’t make it over the top and annoying – just enough to grab attention.

4. Leverage multichannel marketing

Don’t just aim to reach your audience through one approach. Having one message or one ad on the top or in the middle of your homepage is not enough to ensure that people will see it. Use all different means to reach your potential customers – email marketing, social media, mobile marketing, etc.

Magic, like marketing, has the ability to bring its audience enjoyment, marvel, and surprise because of its deep roots in understanding how the human mind works and the ways in which our experiences are shaped through our expectations and perceptions.

We’re not only marketers, we’re also the magicians of the business world.

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