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How Brands Hack Your Brain

It’s common knowledge that branding can change your feelings about a company. However, it also changes how your brain is wired. Effective brand marketing prompts consumers to link brands with their identity and influences their feelings and behaviors. This has interesting effects on our economy, society, and decision-making. Two professors from the University of Pennsylvania: Americus Reed II, a marketing professor, and Michael Platt, a professor of marking, psychology, and neuroscience, delve into this question and more in a thought-provoking YouTube video presented by Big Think.

In the video, Professor Reed explains that when we make choices about brands, we also choose to create an identity. Our brand choices are a reflection of who we are. We choose brands based on the ideology (as presented in the advertising) behind them. Once people choose a brand, a piece of their identity is tied to it, and the relationship with it deepens. This process creates brand loyalty. We relate to brands in the same way we relate to people. These brand affinities are intertwined with our wallets, our identities, and even our communities. 

Professor Platt discusses a study that explored our brain’s reactions to brands via MRI. Michael and his team observed the brains of iPhone and Samsung Galaxy users while they heard good, bad, and neutral news about the brands. When Apple users heard bad news about the brand, their brains responded with empathy. This empathy response was shown the same way we show empathy toward loved ones. 

When Samsung users heard good or bad news about the brand, their brains showed no response. Interestingly, the only response that Samsung users’ brains showed was a reverse empathy response when negative news was heard about Apple. This means that Samsung users’ brains reacted positively to negative information about Apple. Professor Platt states that these findings “really show us that Apple has completely defined the market here. Samsung customers, it seems, from their brain data, are only buying Samsung because they hate Apple!”

Watch the full video to learn more about the neuroscience behind branding: https://vimeo.com/764680845/5bc0d260ce.