March 14, 2014

Everything You Wanted To Know About The Neuroscience of Brand Love, But Were Afraid To Ask..

Here at Unity, we’ve always thought that getting millions of eyeballs doesn’t count for anything… if you don’t get millions of hearts as well.

We like to call this thinking Brand Love. And we’ve used this thinking to help shape many an award-winning PR campaign over the past few years.

But it’s always good to hear that some of the brightest thinkers support our way of working. At last week’s SXSW festival in Austin, the whole idea of Brand Love was at the top of the agenda for a fascinating talk.

It was led by Neuroscientist Paul Zak and US-agency Innocean, and was set up to explore if people could truly really love a brand? And what happens to our minds when we show this love? And most provocatively, do some people show stronger love for their favoured brands than for their chosen loved one?

The session at SXSW was based on Dr. Zak’s scientific research that shows that when hugged, people release oxytocin, a molecule connected to love and attachment (this was previously thought to only be present in pregnant women believe it or not).

To measure emotional responses, subjects were connected to wireless monitors that collected data such as heart rate nerve twitches that tested attention and emotional connection. They were then asked questions about a brand they said they loved, followed by the same questions with their loved one as the subject.

The tests showed that brands outperformed people where a person’s relationship to a product was tied to a story.

Examples include the subject who loved his watch (handed down to him by his Granddad) more than his girlfriend, or the man whose life-long love of the Seattle Seahawks measured as stronger than his love for his toddler. In all, three of the eight test subjects showed more love for brands than people. Amazing, right?

When these results were discussed at SXSW, Dr. Zak said it was telling that when the product beat the person there was always a sense of connection that was driven by story.

He explained: “We’ve known for a long time there is no ‘buy’ button in the brain… but these results show there’s a ‘story’ button.”

So, it’s all about stories, science and love.

This knowledge is really useful for our work at Unity, because we are starting to understand that the human brain is actually really lazy. No really! It uses the same brain system for love of all types, so it seems like the scientists say we’re right.

You CAN love a brand after all.