Dogs, Bells and Branding

by Michael Drew on September 27, 2016

Michael Drew · Branding · September 27, 2016

Pendulum in Action, business education, creativity in business, psychic secretionIn my last post on Pendulum and business we looked at what branding really is: stripped of your logo, it’s all the associations that come to mind when customers hear or see your name.

Successful branding ultimately depends on your ability to speak to your customers in their own language about what matters most to them. In our current WE Cycle, a successful brand leaves hype behind and speaks to the need for community and working together.

There’s more to branding than a group of marketers brainstorming over coffee and coordinating colors with a graphic designer. Branding has a valid scientific background. Consider Ivan Pavlov and his salivating canines.

Pavlov won the Nobel Prize for Physiology in 1904 for his work on branding. Most people would never connect Pavlov’s experiment with marketing. Pavlov himself likely had no idea the direction his investigation would take him. But the curious connection between a physical response and mental associations gave the world a new understanding of consumer behavior.

Pavlov was investigating the gastric function of dogs by analyzing their saliva. Imagine that. And he noticed they were salivating before he actually gave them their food.

Pavlov found this “psychic secretion” intriguing because salivating is an automatic reflex in dogs. Fascinated by this reflex, Pavlov immediately abandoned his original experiment involving gastric functions and redirected his focus to long-term physiological processes. The new study entailed:

1. Ringing a bell.

2. Rubbing meat paste on the dogs’ tongues.

3. Observing the dogs to see if their canine brains formed an associative memory between the bell and paste.

Sure enough, it didn’t take long before the dogs would drool at the ding of the bell. Their brains quickly learned to anticipate tasting the meat paste when they heard the bell.

It’s important to note that Pavlov chose meat paste because meat is something that always matters to dogs. A bowl of limes would not have produced the same reaction because dogs simply don’t care about limes.

It’s the same thing with your audience. You need to know what it really cares about. Don’t market limes if it craves steak.

Whether you try to come up with an idea for your new book, a new flavor of cupcake for your gourmet cupcake shop or a new wellness program for your patients in your chiropractic office, you need to know your customer and speak to the customer in a way the customer can respond to in today’s terms.

We’ll continue to explore this in our next post on the subject of branding.

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