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Creating and Activating Brand Meaning in Consumer Decisions

By: Anthony Grimes, Rob Barker and David Elliott
Posted: November 6, 2012, from the May 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

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For example, in the case of a Guinness brand loyalist who had intended to buy Guinness before entering a store, recognition of a brand mnemonic would prompt a selection schema. To an occasional consumer of Guinness who wants to buy from the beer category, recognition of a brand mnemonic might prompt a consideration schema in which Guinness is one of several brands he may choose. To a rejecter of Guinness, recognition would prompt a deselection schema.

Schemas or engrams can be visualized as a three-dimensional web of feelings, associations, experiences and imagery associated with a brand. Recall of the brand can be accessed using many routes. By understanding consumers’ disposition toward a brand and their motivations for considering or purchasing it, it is possible to link a strong brand association with a motivation to purchase. Schema can therefore be prompted by a number of associations or themes. As such, brands may be seen to have a palette of imagery, associations and themes that can activate the brand schema or engram and essentially cut through from ATL to BTL. This palette may be described as brand visual equity.

Schema research methodology deconstructs the media associated with a category—such as packaging, magazine ads and TV ads—to which consumers are exposed. Groups of consumers with differing dispositions toward the sponsoring brands are taken through a range of exercises in relation to the media. These exercises are designed to identify:

  • the brand mnemonics that drive recognition and recall;
  • the strength of the CVM in relation to market competitors;
  • typical shopping missions and motivations;
  • the decision-making process and related visual cues;
  • typical consumption patterns; and
  • the brand visual equity, i.e., the palette of imagery, associations and themes around the brand.

This article concludes by stressing the importance of such methodological development in this field. In particular, the authors note that once brand managers clearly understand the specific visual language required to trigger explicit and implicit semantic memory networks, the visual presence of brands on the shop floor can be strategically managed to generate effective cut-through from ATL to BTL.

However, the development of effective methodologies in this area must take into account of the fact that, in fast-moving consumer goods categories characterized by very low levels of attention and involvement, consumers largely adopt automatic purchasing modes. As such, it is perhaps inappropriate to expect cognitive research models with a focus on conscious, explicit memory traces to predict through-the-line efficacy of marketing.

A process that avoids verbal overshadowing and reveals a window to the adaptive unconscious may prove to be of real value in advancing research methodology in this field.

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