Summary reading time: 9 minutes. Book reading time: 3h29
Brand Seduction is a book written by Daryl Weber.
I discovered this book on a recommended list that I trusted so I was surprised I had never seen it anywhere else. Eventually, I read it because a friend of mine told me to.
While it had some interesting information, I quickly understood while reading why I had never heard of it: it kinda sucks.
It’s unclear, unspecific, uselessly long, and difficult to understand. The author doesn’t write about anything we know for certain and makes assumptions about psychological principles that may or may not hold true.
Furthermore, he keeps on introducing what he’s about to say instead of just saying it.
The introduction has an introduction, and each chapter has an introduction, and each part of each chapter has an introduction. And each chapter has a “takeaways” section as if we hadn’t understood the idea after ten times already.
As a result, the main and only takeaway of the book (ideas are organized in mental networks linked to other ideas and concepts) is repeated a hundred times.
While the info itself is easy to digest, the author’s writing style complicates it for no reason (Eg: giving two names to one principle and explaining them twice with two different examples despite the principles being the exact same one!!!).
Let’s be honest, most of the content comes from Thinking Fast and Slow and The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.
The “new” content isn’t facts, but possibilities for which there is no scientific consensus, hence no value.
Great books got good content and great style. This one got neither.
You can therefore safely skip it and enjoy the summary of Brand Seduction I have prepared for you.
Summary of Brand Seduction by Daryl Weber
Introduction: The Mental Underworlds of Brands
The Brand Fantasy is an unconscious stream of associations that represent the brand in the consumer’s mind.
Many of these can be conscious (the design, the function), but most of them are unconscious.
Marketers are using a range of tools to position their brands. But all these tools are flawed since they focus on the conscious (such as positioning).
They don’t take into account how consumers experience the brand (the unconscious part).
Positioning is not all.
When we look at the fashion and luxury industry, none of these brands have a clear positioning. Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Chanel, Gucci, these brands can’t be summed up with one sentence or idea like Apple. They don’t have a message nor a USP.
What they have is a brand that creates a fantasy. So, they make billions.
The strongest brands are built on the strongest fantasies.
Let’s see how this works.
Chapter 1: How Brands Enter the Mind
Evolution didn’t trust humans to take care of themselves. The brain is taking care of all the basic functions by itself, and we are left with very little “freedom”. Eg: being pregnant. The body can create a whole new human being without the woman doing anything specific for that.
We assume we are in charge of our life, but the conscious is only a part of what we perceive. Our eyes, for example, don’t see much. It’s our brain mainly doing image treatment and assumptions. Everything we see is encoded and decoded even if we are not aware of it.
When we see a brand, the brain is using its past experience to tell us how we feel about it.
When participants tasted wines they were told cost $10 and $90, the most expensive one created more pleasure in their brain. And yet…it was the exact same wine, from the same bottle.
They expected the wine to taste better because they were told it was more expensive, so it did feel better.
Another study played French and German music in a store, and people bought more French or German wine. according to the music for which they weren’t consciously aware.
Chapter 2: Why Attention May Not Matter As Much As You Think
Ever heard your name at a cocktail party while talking to someone?
That’s because your brain is constantly monitoring the environment for threats without you noticing.
It’s called low-involvement processing (LIP, also called shallow processing) because you aren’t focused or making efforts.
The other type is called high-involvement processing (when we focus hard to remember something).
In the case of ads, we hear them during LIP which means we don’t get the conscious message of the brand. Rather we get the unconscious part of it – the tone and feel of the brand.
Why do marketers focus on the conscious then? They should focus on the unconscious instead.
During LIP, the brain practices implicit learning during which it creates implicit memories (you don’t know you have them). Implicit learning:
- is fast and constantly happening
- requires no attention
- is unavoidable
- you’re not aware of it
- the space for implicit memories is infinite
The association we make during implicit learning are reinforced every time we get exposed to them. They influence us when we make buying decisions without our knowing.
Eg: the branding around Jack Daniels wasn’t made in proper ads but in thousands of other ways such as in music posters, music concerts, in a barber where we saw Jack Daniels without awareness of it. Hence the feel of the brand Jack Daniels.
Why shouldn’t marketers create conscious ads, messages, and brands?
Sometimes, the message is so catchy that people remember the ad without remembering the product (Eg: the baby dancing ad and Evian).
The second problem with attracting too much attention is that consumers might start to think deeply about the veracity of your message and decide it’s false, hence making your ad pointless.
Therefore, an ad that does not attract too much attention can make its way to the unconscious and may be more effective.
Chapter 3: How Brands Live in the Memory
The brain doesn’t rewind when we think of a memory. It reconstructs. And the more we revisit memories, the more we change them.
The purpose for marketers is to associate a brand with an idea, a feeling, a concept so that the brand is triggered when we are exposed to that feeling.
This is called priming. It is the idea that when a stimulus is given, other associated words and ideas become top-of-mind.
Eg: cows → milk → cheese → farm.
When one concept is mentioned, the whole network of related concepts gets activated.
Marketing should become the practice of creating and reinforcing in the consumer’s mind these networks of associations to the brand.
Chapter 4: The Role of Emotions
The brain exists to help us move. Animals that don’t move don’t have brains. Movement is primarily driven by emotions. Emotions make us feel so we do something about what we feel.
We don’t really know in which order movement and emotions come. We don’t know if we cry because we are sad or if we are sad because we cry.
What we do know is that emotions and the body are intertwined. If you see a bear in the forest, you will run.
As such, feelings shouldn’t be split from rationality, because in the prehistorical world our brain evolved in, feelings bred rationality.
Today, not so much.
Intuition is also based on feelings. Scientific experiences have demonstrated how emotions played a role in intuition by picking up emotions that weren’t detected by the conscious part of the brain but stored there to be untimely communicated to the conscious through “gut feeling”.
Fact: While it’s easy to do something against our will, it’s difficult to do something against our emotions.
While marketers want to make customers consciously think about brands, the truth is that we don’t spend that much time thinking about them. How many people do you tell about the brands you love? Not many.
When we buy something, we want it to be as painless and fast as possible. We don’t buy out of love most of the time, but out of necessity. And when we choose which product to buy, we often rely on half-conscious half-subconscious feelings we feel towards the brand.
Then we get into a habit of buying.
As a result, marketers should focus on both the general feelings people feel towards the brand and the unconscious feelings.
Chapter 5: How Consumers Decide
While we think we are in charge of our decision-making, we are in fact heavily influenced by our environment, by anchoring, for example.
Eg: students who had written down the last two digits of their social security number bet higher on a bottle of wine when their digits were bigger numbers.
The idea is that we are not aware of all of the small inputs that subconsciously influence us. Furthermore, it’s likely that our conscious has fewer responsibilities than we think. It seems like the conscious is the executor of actions given by the unconscious. However, there is no scientific consensus on this.
The reason why we don’t think too much before making decisions – and that thinking is hard – is because the brain is optimized for efficiency. It means that it spends the less energy possible and automates as much as possible.
The size of the decision (college, house, car) doesn’t make you more rational.
Chapter 6: A New Way to Think About Brands
Instead of solely focusing on design (the conscious side of the brand), marketers should focus on everything that relates to the brand to make sure it reminds the overall feeling and personality they want to convey (the unconscious side).
To do that, we need to understand the unconscious.
The unconscious would, according to a theory written in 1991, arise out of the sum of the parts of the brain. The brain itself is an echo chamber where ideas arise. As such, when we think of brands, we think of the network of ideas attached to the brand.
Since this is how we think about brands, this is how we should design brands too.
Marketers often make the mistake to own or stimulate emotion in ads. It can work, but it’s not the best way. The best way is to “be” and “embody” the emotion so that your brand naturally elicits it without mentioning it.
Apple was built that way.
Chapter 7: The Brand Fantasy
Since brands are ideas living in a network of ideas, we’ll have to build our own network. The key in branding is to build an overall mental image and feel of the brand.
The first thing you need to do is write the main concept your product stands for (eg: weight loss).
Then, write related ideas (keto, exercise, etc)
Out of these related ideas, choose one, and write a related idea to that one (eg: let’s say you choose exercise, so you can write gym, running, etc).
Now, you are going to have to imagine what your brand looks like in your unconscious.
Find a quiet spot.
Sit comfortably and for 10 minutes, freely explore and look in your head what you want your brand to represent.
Then ask yourselves what your brand feels like.
- Go through every sense: what does your brand look, smell, feel, sound, and taste like?
- Imagine your brand had its own planet. How would it look like?
- If your brand was a person, who would it be?
- If the brand threw a party, how would it be?
- If the brand was a band, what music would they play?
- If the world existed without your brand, what would be missed?
Now that you know your brand’s overall feel, write it down.
- Write 3-5 words that are the core of the brand
- Add your map of association you initially drew
- Add a mood board, which is a board on which is glued images and metaphors related to your brand
- Add a trigger that really embodies the overall feel (word, symbol, etc)
Make sure these align with the three Cs:
- consumer: your brand should help your customers build their identity. It should be what they aspire to be.
- commerce: you should fill a gap in the marketplace
- culture: fitting with current cultural trends
This is in a nutshell, your Brand Fantasy.
Make it evolve as your brand evolves.
Chapter 8: The Brand Fantasy in Action
The author speaks of three brands: Warby Parker, Squarespace, and Hendrick’s Gin.
The founders of Warby Parker spent a year and a half thinking and building their brands before they launched. They wanted to get it perfect the first time. To do so, they created mood boards and discussed at length what the brand represented.
They spent 6 months working on the name and produced more than 2000 before choosing Warby Parker.
Hendrick’s Gin. The brand got revived thanks to its taste and bottle that all give out the same feeling.
Squarespace gave its brand an “Apple” feel emphasizing design and simplicity.
Chapter 9: Filling Your Brand Bucket
At first, your brand starts as an empty bucket and is eventually filled in with products, ideas, customers, employees, etc.
If somehow all of the elements that fill your bucket make sense in relation to each other, then you’ll have a great brand. You are looking for cognitive consonance here.
Chapter 10: Advertising to the Unconscious
All advertising is subliminal. As we have seen, brands may be built out of the thousand cues that communicate about and reinforce their identity.
As such, marketers should focus on these details because, in the long run, they will be more important than the “Buy now” conscious message.
If you want a logo, draw one that feels like the brand.
If you tell a story, tell one that feels like the brand.
If you choose a song, choose one that sounds like the brand.
Chapter 11: Researching the Unconscious
Market research doesn’t work because what customers consciously know about the brand is only one part of the story.
If you want to test your brand, you need to use modern medical imagery techniques.
The alternative is to get consumers to describe brands as words, people, party like explained in the Brand Fantasy chapter, so you can get a taste of their unconscious.
Chapter 12: Innovating for the Unconscious
Most new products fail for many different reasons.
Innovation is good if:
- we know why we are innovating
- it is used to reinforce the Brand Fantasy
For more summaries, head to auresnotes.com.