Brains & Brands: How the Subconscious Mind Influences Consumer Preferences
The human mind is constantly making instant, unconscious decisions. Like, within milliseconds of being presented with literally anything your brain has processed an unbelievable amount of information and has made a choice on whether to embrace or repel whatever its being approached with.
And its not like the brain is making decisions at random, either. It has your best interests at heart. Your thinking mind consults your subconscious to get an understanding of your deepest desires and emotional needs, and seeks to satisfy them as best as it can, making instantaneous decisions that maximize reward while minimizing risk, energy, emotion, and cost.
So basically, your brain is your #BFF. It knows you better than anyone and is constantly making instant decisions on your behalf - even when it comes to what brands to buy from and what websites to use.
As designers and digital marketers there are so many ways to tap into the subconscious of our audiences and appeal to their deepest needs. To connect with their brains and get them saying "YES" to our brands. This is some major love-at-first-sight type marketing magic that has a real effect on sales, loyalty, and more.
Top 3 Ways to Enchant Your Audience Digitally:
1. Color: Color has a powerful psychological influence on the human brain's decision making process. In a study called "Impact of Color in Marketing" researchers discovered that 90% of snap judgments about products [and brands] can be made based on color alone.
Think about it- you're walking through the food court of the mall and you're looking for a meal that is vegetarian and gluten free. What color signage is most likely to catch your eye, without even having to read anything? Undoubtedly, it's green.
Just like in a tarot reading where certain colors on a card reveal an instantly recognizable theme or emotion - grey skies bode uncertainty while blue skies evoke freedom, tranquility, and expansiveness-there are many commonalities in how people respond to color. Of course, we don’t all react the same way to color. Our associations with color are dependent upon our life experiences, our culture, and our memories. It's important to deeply empathize with your audience to understand what your brand colors will mean to them (ex: a progressive political group in the U.S. likely wouldn't brand with the color red, which is associated with the conservative values of "red states").
Want to learn more about color theory in marketing psychology?
Take a look at these resources:
2. Typography: Typography works silently. It sets the mood, tells a story, and conveys a message without using words (well, sort of). Even the act of looking at a certain typeface can involuntarily stir up strong emotions or instill a sense of nostalgia. Which is why, according to Company Folders, "a font like Comic Sans can be so hated by designers and yet so widely used; because Comic Sans was designed to feel fun and playful, and that’s a tough emotion to resist."
And then there's Papyrus which, like Comic Sans, is also hated among designers but used all the time in branding. Papyrus is supposed to portray an Earthy, natural vibe - and is a great example of how (despite whether or not designers love it) your choice of font really needs to make sense with what you're offering. See how unsuitable Papyrus looks for one type of brand vs. another?
Just like with color theory in branding, different font families can immediately portray a feeling or an idea to your audience- and it's obvious when a typeface doesn't fit the brand it's associated with. Handwritten fonts often portray youth, femininity and intimacy, rounded fonts portray innocence and fun, while sans serif's are typically seen as simple, straightforward, and modern (and so on).
Regardless of the font you choose, knowing how your audience deciphers and perceives a certain font can help you to unlock its potential or avoid any hidden pitfalls that might hinder your intended message.
Wanna know more? Check out these awesome resources if you want to learn more about typography & brand psychology:
3. Relevant graphics and imagery
The type of graphics and imagery you choose in your branding can be very impactful in relaying subconscious messages to your audience. A picture speaks a thousand words, after all. :)
Example: An advertising agency wants to hire a photographer for their new website. What type of photos will they use? A photo of an employee in sharp uniform, working hard at their desk implies seriousness, attention to detail, and individuality. The photo of the team having a round table discussion implies collaboration, cooperation, and community within the agency.
Both images imply professionalism and business protocol but with very different tactics. Both have their benefits. The image you choose for your brand depends on the message you want to portray to your audience. Consider what your company's advantage is and how that appeals to the fundamental human needs your service is meeting.
Enhancing your audience is easy!
...If you understand your brand, the needs of your audience, and how to tell your story in a way that resonates, that is. The 3 tactics I outlined above are just a few of the different ways you can win with subconscious branding, but there are many more to be explored, so stay tuned!
Have you utilized subconscious branding before? If so, what methods worked for you?