The Branded Mind: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: May 12th, 2012 by bobmorris

The Branded Mind: What Neuroscience Really Tells Us about the Puzzle of the Brain and the Brand
Erik du Plessis , with Nigel Hollis and Graham Page
Kogan Page (2011)

A travel guide and operations manual for exploration and management of the “Damasian paradigm shift”

With assistance contributed by Nigel Hollis and Graham Page, Erik du Plessis provides his reader with an update on recent developments in the field of neuromarketing to explain “how people think and how people think about brands.” He invokes an especially appropriate extended metaphor when noting in the Introduction that, like a jigsaw puzzle, “the brain consists of many pieces, each unique in appearance and function. All these work independently, and in harmony, to produce the big picture. The big picture is termed `behaviour.’ If only one piece of the brain is faulty then the big picture is also faulty.

“To complete a jigsaw puzzle you need to know the picture on the cover of the box, and you need to study the individual pieces when trying to assemble the puzzle. If you do not know what the final picture looks like and merely proceed by trying to assemble the pieces you will waste your time. Similarly, just looking at the picture on the cover tells you very little about the way the puzzle is assembled. Something similar is true of the brain.” This brief excerpt suggests what this book is about and by what process de Plessis’ intends to explain what neuroscience really tells us about the puzzle of the consumer brain and the brand.

This is by no means an “easy read”; on the contrary. However, it will generously reward those who read it with great care. In fact, I strongly recommend this sequence:

1. Read the Foreword, the Table of Contents, the Introduction (Chapter 1), and then the “Summary of implications for neuromarketing” on Page 244.
2. Re-read them at least once more and highlight key passages.
3. Then read Chapters 2-4 and highlight key passages.
4. Re-read highlighted key passages thus far, then Chapters 5-18 and again highlight key passages.
5. Then do the same for Chapters 19-23, Chapters 24-28, and Chapters 29-30

To repeat: du Plessis will generously reward those who read (and even more generously reward those who re-read) this book with great care. With both rigor and eloquence, he explains why emotions are not in conflict with rational behavior; indeed, they cause rational behavior. For those who are eager to understand the consumer brain and the decision-making process it tends to follow, this insight is of incalculable value. Better yet, du Plessis creates for it a neurological context, a frame-of-reference, within which to understand both its nature and implications.

Of special interest to me is what du Plessis has to say about Antonio Damasio’s somatic marker theorem. What does it achieve? “It forces attention on the negative outcome to which a given action may lead, and functions as an automated alarm signal which says: Beware of danger ahead if you choose the option which leads to this outcome…Somatic markers probably increase the accuracy and efficiency of the decision process. Their absence reduces them.”

Here in Dallas near the downtown area, there is a farmer’s market at which merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples. In the same spirit, I provide excerpts in my reviews. No brief commentary of mine, however, can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of valuable substance that du Plessis provides in The Branded Mind. It is a brilliant achievement. For those who read it and then re-read it with appropriate care, its value will be incalculable.

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