The Branded Mind (Book Review)

On July 10, 2012
Below you can read the book review of The Branded Mind (by Erik du Plessis) that I wrote for publication in the second issue of Neuromarketing Theory & Practice Magazine (published by Neuromarketing Science & Business Association).
Erik du Plessis is Chairman of Millward Brown (South Africa), a global company focused on brands, media and communications research. He is author of The Advertised Mind (2005), and he was Visiting Professor at the Copenhagen Business School teaching neuromarketing from 2007 to 2009.
His latest book entitled The Branded Mind (published in 2011 by Kogan Page Limited) explores the anatomy of decision making and explains recent insights about brain and their implications to advertising. As the subtitle predicts (What Neuroscience really tells us about the puzzle of the brain and the brand), The Branded Mind rearranges the pieces of the “brain-brand puzzle”, at the intersection between neuroscience and marketing. In 272 pages structured in 6 parts and 30 chapters, and with the contributions of Nigel Hollis (Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst, Millward Brown) and Graham Page (Executive Vice President, Millward Brown Consumer Neuroscience Practice), Erik du Plessis explains the modern view of why we make decisions and how things work inside the brain, from an advertising expert point of view.
 The first part of the book is a journey to the biological aspects of the brain, as the author offers an in-depth and rigorous analysis of how the environment is interpreted based on memories, and how thoughts become consciousness. In the second part, the author presents marketing implications of neuroscience and of understanding the essence of decision making for brands. He also presents details on the methodologies used in neuromarketing research, specifying for each one when it should be used.
Erik du Plessis presents the new paradigm about the role of emotions, developed by Antonio Damasio, stating that emotions assist reasoning and cause rationality. As explained, we should view emotions as being a fundamental component of rationality, and use this knowledge in developing better sales strategies and advertising campaigns. Emotions attract attention, and attention creates memories and influences our decisions. Thus, since brand choices are decisions, marketing is all about the impact of emotions, and advertising specialists should be more interested in understanding feelings. The author clearly defines and distinguishes between feelings, emotions, moods, personality, and culture, and how they all affect perceiving a brand, by developing a ‘feelings model’. He also debates the differences between consciousness and unconsciousness and reaches an interesting perspective on how they are used in defining neuromarketing. Du Plessis uses some case studies from research conducted by Millward Brown and many stories from it’s own experience in order to illustrate the concepts. Also, the author tries to caution the reader about the over-claims of neuroscience applied in marketing and to direct him to distinguish and be interested only in valid research from the literature.
The two well known experiments in neuromarketing research are presented and discussed: Read Montague’s Coke versus Pepsi Challenge published in Your Brain Is (Almost) Perfect: How We Make Decisions (2007) and Martin Lindstrom’s results of the study explained in Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy (2008).
The author emphasizes that nearly everything we believed was best practice remains best practice, but in some cases we now understand some things better than before. Neuroscience contributes to marketing both at a macro level – importance of emotion in attention and role of feelings in brand choice – and micro level – giving the ability to measure arousal levels when people watch advertisements.
Erik du Plessis begins from the micro-level, with information about neurons and synapses, and ends the book with marketing implications of attention, the brand soma, the heuristics of decision making in market segmentation and optimization of advertising budgets. He also explains what we can expect in the future and shares his opinion on how neuromarketing will develop in research, in both academic and business side. The book is about how people think and in particular how they make decisions about brands, and as Erik du Plessis states, after reading this book you will have a good idea about what we know about how the brain works and also what we don’t know yet.

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