The Brand Challenge with Changing Minds


Written by Chris Wagner, Head of Communications and Marketing for the Australian War Memorial.

As we grow up, the neurons in our brains work together to communicate messages and form networks. These tiny complex mental bridges assist us to quickly identify and judge visual stimulation.

These tiny mind maps are called schemas, and they play an important role in helping us quickly establish what we are seeing and the appropriate reaction we should make to the stimulus.

For example, when we are very young, and these maps are just forming, we may see a woman in blue pants and a blue shirt and a badge, and assume she is a member of the police force. In reality, however, she may be a fire fighter or a member of the Royal Australian Air Force.

Later, in our early teens, our maps become more sophisticated, providing us an ability within a millisecond to correctly assess the difference between your average police man and a member of the Village People.

An important distinction. But what has that got to do with marketing?

These schemas also help us build a mental picture, and make a quick judgement call, about the brands we interact with on a daily basis. Schemas are semi-permanent and ingrained in our brains, as they must be, to assure they do their job properly and without hesitation. However, this ability to train our brains to instantaneously and consistently judge a brand has real ramifications for marketing professionals.

David Ogilvy said that an organisation’s brand, as opposed to its logo, is “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.”

For a long time, Marketing professionals have known how customers make decisions on their products, based on how they perceive, feel about, and judge a brand, based on a range of environmental inputs, new and old.

What can often be over-looked is the complexity and challenge of changing that view point, once a schema has been created and embedded in an individual’s mind.

Marketing professionals often rely on clever campaigning to adjust or ‘fix’ negative perceptions of their brand, without realising that each individual making contact with their product will simply be adding the campaign creative it to their existing schemas.

Positive and negative.

The challenge becomes one of personalisation and of individualised understanding of current brand perception. Marketing professionals then ideally need to tailor their message to that individual, to slowly chip away at their existing schemas to make a tangible attitude adjustment.

This is, of course, impossible on a broad commercial scale.

The answer may be in segmentation, and marketing activity that targets larger particular societal cohorts with assumed perception, or assumed schemas.

So then the challenge may be to find that cohort as a collective, and to feed them the message in a medium that they accept, and we must also find a way to measure the impact. We are starting to see this ability to target specific micro audiences through social media advertising.

Regardless of the solution, schemas represent a significant issue for marketing professionals who are looking to change how people see and react to their brands.

This real life challenge is one faced by the Australian War Memorial, as we move towards the end of the Centenary of the First World War.

For five years, our marketing activity has primarily focussed on the First World War, and further ingrained a brand focussed on diggers in slouch hats and trench-based warfare.

However, in reality, the Memorial has, in many ways, moved beyond this image, with a deeper engagement with recent conflicts and the impact of war on individuals, families and society.

Our current brand positioning activity is working towards breaking, and remaking, the mould we have spent a hundred years creating.

Chris Wagner, Head of Communications and Marketing for the Australian War Memorial will be sharing his insights at the Brand Forum, 21 & 22 February 2018. Register here to be part of the most important deliberation for marketers.

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