Experts Weigh In On How Branding Influences People

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What are the secrets of branding? A good place to find out is from marketing experts on the TED stage…or, for a compendium, listen to the TED Radio Hour's "Brand over Brain." Like all TED Radio Hour podcasts, this episode focuses on a single theme and combines segments from various TED talks with new interviews and conversations.

"Brand over Brain" experts include:

• Morgan Spurlock, the director and producer of POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a playful sponsored film about...sponsorship.

• Paul Bloom, professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University and author of How Pleasure Works.

• Joseph Pine, co-author of the books Authenticity and The Experience Economy.

• Rory Sutherland, marketer and Vice Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather.

Here's a quick synopsis of what these speakers have to say about how branding derives its value:

#1: Honesty Spurlock's movie poking fun at product placement appealed to viewers because of its transparency; it appealed to brand partners because they were able to tell stories that otherwise wouldn't have been told. Related to honesty is authenticity, which Pine describes as a "sympathetic vibration" between a person and an offering. The vibration must match the consumer's identity, reflect who they are and what they're about.

#2: History According to Bloom, there is value for consumers in simply knowing where something comes from. Understanding the origins of an item transforms the experience of that item. As a psychologist, Bloom disagrees with those who attribute this valuation to snobbery or status-seeking. Humans, he says, are born essentialists. Their responses are not just sensory, but tied to beliefs and a desire to know the hidden nature of things.

#3: Imagery Consumers come to believe in the dream, or imagery, set forth by a product. In Sutherland's opinion, this isn't a bad thing; he's an advocate of having our experiences improved by leveraging psychological value. Helping people find new appreciation in familiar things is a worthy goal. Bloom points out that how people process value reflects a basic, primordial way the human mind works: in dealing with others, one relies on perceptions of pleasure and kindness to determine who to approach.

#4: Setting the mood Promise someone a good cup of coffee, and they are more likely to fully enjoy it because, says Bloom, the endorsement "gets you in the state ready to appreciate it." For Spurlock, changing peoples' perceptions instead of having to change their realities can improve their fundamental sense of wellbeing.

Listen to Brand over Brain on NPR. Contact AOE to shape your company's message around honesty, history, imagery and mood.

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