Perhaps brand advertising has got it wrong

I have always been unable to reconcile a common argument for the power of branding with my understanding of cognitive dissonance, particularly since the main goals of most advertising is to convince people to change their behavior and try the advertised product.

With branding, action follows belief. In other words, if a person identifies with the brand imagery associated with a product or service, he or she would then form a preference for the brand, leading to a purchase.

But cognitive dissonance shows that belief follows action. For instance, if an individual acts in a way that is not in accordance his or her belief system, the person will change his or her belief system to rationalize the action rather than eliminate the behavior.

Could this mean that promotional marketing is a more powerful tool than branding?

True, give the person a large incentive and he or she might argue that action was a result of the incentive, but give him or her a small incentive and the person would rationalize that purchase because he or she actually prefers it. And that’s how the best promotions work.

(That is not to say that traditional brand advertising doesn’t have a place in the marketing mix, but that place is after the purchase—not before—and its goal would be to establish the rationalization to help the individual explain the behavior. And any advertising before trial would need to be more promotional, because it would be designed to broadcast the behavior changing offer.)

So how do you bring branding and cognitive dissonance together? Please let me know in the comments section.

23 comments:

Giblink said...

Great post which summed up a lot of important points. Thank you.

Walter Pike said...

The role of advertising is really the management of expectations. Your brand is actually built by the expereince that the customer has, with the brand and with the organisation.

Managemnt of expectations before, during and after the purchase would make sense.

f.m. said...

I´m going to give this one a shot.

Perception. I prefer that brand, that´s my brand, that´s the brand that talks to me, says something about me, knows my world, it´s closer to me. Brand perception.

But it´s not the only way to get there. I like to think of observation as the spark for this strategy. Watch out, it´s not (just) built on “imagery associated with the product or service”, it´s culture and the world (imagery, values, codes) that surrounds certain (target, ugly word this) people. That´s why observation is key, again, for this particular brand building strategy. Example: W+K, Nike. Mother London´s strategies differ sometimes, it´s good to take a look there too.

Branding builds perception, belief. Cognitive dissonance come in play when information conflicts (internal) with what one already believes, in an effort to ignore that information and reinforce one's beliefs.

So, branding and cognitive dissonance (internal conflicts) work together, all the time. Think of branding as a force, like when a “person identifies”, this would be a positive conflict.

To answer your question i would say that branding and cognitive dissonance are inevitably together. Cognitive dissonance is an affect that belongs in lower level, as an effect, of a branding strategy because it conflicts (internally) with beliefs. A branding strategy would try to build or reinforce (force = comms) perception/belief and try to avoid cognitive dissonance, but it certainly is unavoidable. It´s always present, no strategy is perfect and people aren´t robots.

Metaphorically, branding is the playground. And cognitive dissonance are the foot prints that kids leave after using the monkey bars. Because, as you tied together cognitive dissonance and promotional marketing, promotional marketing would be a tool, a tactic and branding would play in another other level as it relies on a strategy.

From a comms point of view it´s hard to rely on reductionist = action-belief / belief-action terms. It reminds me of needle theories, and they are dead. Linear is dead. Most definitions are too.

I gave it a shot. Not sure i hit anything.

Cheers!

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