Book Review: Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing by Douglas Van Praet
“The fact of the matter is anyone can do neuromarketing without ever scanning a single brain.”
This statement from Douglas Van Praet, an ad guy who has scanned any number of brains (or, more accurately, had others do so on his behalf), sets the tone for Unconscious Branding. Van Praet isn’t your stereotypical ad guy, even though he’s a top exec at Deutch LA and has worked big-time clients on iconic campaigns.
The first quarter of the book is intended to convince the reader that our behaviors, including brand affinity and product purchasing, are determined mainly by subconscious influences. Regular readers of Neuromarketing may not need too much convincing, but the number of marketers and advertisers who haven’t absorbed that reality is enormous. Van Praet lays out the evidence in a clear and convincing manner, and makes it impossible to disagree with this comment from the first chapter:
“In order to improve the marketing process we need to first shift the focus from within the walls of companies and unveil the process of behavior change within the depths of the minds of people.”
The bulk of the book is broken into seven chapters, each describing one state of a process defined by Van Praet to change customer behavior:
- Interrupt the Pattern.
- Create Comfort.
- Lead the Imagination.
- Shift the Feeling.
- Satisfy the Critical Mind.
- Change the Associations.
- Take Action.
Each chapter explains what Van Praet wants to accomplish in that phase, liberally seasoned with both research references and examples of advertising campaigns that exemplify the topic. While the reader will have to determine how to apply these steps to his/her own advertising, at the end of each chapter Van Praet includes a handful of brief “thought starters.” These are quick examples of specific techniques successfully employed by other advertisers intended to spark the reader’s creative application of the principles involved.
Unconscious Branding is thoughtful and well-researched. While Van Praet (like me) is willing to make some leaps from general brain and behavior research to applying that work in advertising and branding, he is meticulous in his citations. The book has hundreds of end notes for the reader who wants to dig deeper, making it a great jumping-off point for further exploration of unconscious influences on behavior.
In Unconscious Branding, Van Praet offers a rare combination of advertising savvy and behavioral science insights. This book is a must-read not just for neuromarketing devotees, but for any marketer wanting to understand the roots of consumer behavior and how to employ that knowledge to create better ads.