Three laws of branding: neuroscientifi c foundations of effective brand building

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Three laws of branding: Neuroscientific foundations of effective brand building
Received (in revised form): 14 November, 2007

TJACO H. WALVIS
is a partner at THEY, a brand management consulting firm based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Before that, he was with BBDO. Mr Walvis advises on (creative) brand and communication strategy issues, including brand positioning, extensions, portfoliomanagement and location branding (eg nations). He has worked with brands in a broad range of industries, including fashion, fast mover consumer goods, financial services, government, insurance, media, pharmaceuticals, private banking, postal services, publishing, retail, telecommunications and world expositions. Clients include Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, DaimlerChrysler, Dorito’s, Mars, McKinsey &Company, Robeco, Sanoma Publishers and many others. Mr Walvis holds two Master degrees, in economics (MSc) and philosophy (MA), both from Erasmus University Rotterdam. He is married, with three children, and lives and works in Amsterdam.

Keywords
branding; memory-based brand choice; branding laws; neuroscience; neuromarketing

Abstract
Commercial brands strive to be chosen by customers, andbranding as an activity is aimed at increasing the likelihood that they are. Almost all customer choices are at least partially memorybased. This paper begins with the assumption that as neuroscience is a ‘hard’ science studying memory as a highly regular subject matter, it should be possible to deduce several laws from it for the ‘soft’ field of branding. Based on primary, empirical research inneuroscience, the author synthesises three laws that govern the probability that a brand enters our awareness as a positive candidate for choice. Brands that have been built in accordance with these laws have a higher probability of being chosen than brands in the same category that have not.

Journal of Brand Management (2008) 16, 176–194. doi:10.1057/palgrave.bm.2550139; published online 28December 2007

INTRODUCTION
Marketers around the world spend billions of dollars a year in the pursuit of building strong brands. Study after study demonstrates that strong brands create higher amounts of shareholder value, by increasing revenue and margin growth and decreasing the riskiness of a company’s cash flows, more effectively than weak brands (see Millward Brown,1 Interbrand2 and Madden etal.3). According to some authors of popular management books, building such brands requires the application of simple ‘laws’ of branding (see, eg Alsop4 and Ries and Ries5). These books, however, often claim to be based on practical experience instead of on systematic research. Hence, writers of such books

Tjaco H. Walvis THEY Paul van Vlissingenstraat 6C 1096 BK Amsterdam The Netherlands. Tel: +31(0)20 4953200 Fax: + 31(0)20 4953210 E-mail: tjaco@they.nl

seem to use the word ‘laws’ for rhetorical, and not scientific reasons. The value of branding laws—if they were available—is quite evident. For example, they would help practitioners make better branding decisions if they could rely on a set of solid principles and these could then provide fruitful hypotheses for academic research. Soare there laws in branding? Are there universal, reliable principles marketers can use in their efforts to influence the choice processes of customers and stakeholders in their own favour by building powerful brands? And if so, what do they look like? This is the central issue this paper aims to address. The obvious first remark is an argument against such a claim. Social science—to

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© 2008PALGRAVE MACMILLAN 1350-23IX BRAND MANAGEMENT VOL. 16, NO. 3, 176–194 DECEMBER 2008

www.palgrave-journals.com/bm

THREE LAWS OF BRANDING

which the study of branding belongs—is not characterised by the presence of rules and principles with the immutability of the laws we find in the exact sciences. Within the field of economics, the most exact of the social sciences, a number of ‘laws’...
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