Findings: Branding on the brain

August 30, 2002

It seems the marketing gurus were right all along - the human brain has a special way of processing the brand names of products, writes Steve Farrar.

In particular, those brand names that keep a consistent visual format are most effective in triggering activity in both hemispheres of the brain.

The research led by Possidonia Gontijo, a postgraduate psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, could help companies hone their marketing strategies and inform the way they deal with products.

The team found that processing familiar brand names occurred in both hemispheres of the brain, while common nouns, proper names and invented words tended to be handled predominantly by the left hemisphere.

This half of the brain is more commonly engaged in processing language, while the neurotransmitters associated with the arousal of emotions are more concentrated in the right hemisphere.

Ms Gontijo suggested that the distinct pattern of brain activity for brand names may be a result of the strong emotional connotations attached to them.

"This has implications for memory, since emotions enhance memory. And this should obviously be of interest to marketers," she said.

The visual impact of a brand name was found to be important. When product names that were commonly displayed in capital letters were instead shown in lower case, they were recognised less accurately and more slowly.

It seemed that the number of letters in the brand name had little impact.

"The message sent to marketers is that all the care they take in preserving the consistency of the visual appearance of their brand name and the large amount of money that is spent in advertising so as to make these names highly familiar to consumers does pay off," Ms Gontijo said.

The findings are to be published in the journal Brain and Language .

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