Sunday, March 1, 2009

Is brand communication like human communication?

It is said that 80 percent of communication is non-verbal leaving the other 20 percent for what we actually say. Think about it: WHAT YOU SAY is only 20 percent of what your audience takes away from the dialogue and 80 percent is HOW YOU SAY IT.

On Wikipedia I found a more specific statistic but that is just as revealing about real communication:

"More reasonably it could be at around 50-65 percent. That’s exactly what Mehrabian discovered in his communication study. He found that only 7 percent of communication comes from spoken words, 38 percent is from the tone of the voice, and 55 percent comes from body language."

This lowers even more the culturally accepted left-brain dominant belief that words are communication. 7 percent! The adage that words are the barriers to communication becomes not so scientifically far-fetched.

This poses a real quandary for rationally-driven marketing. It is proven that quantitative claims are effective in driving purchase. But it is more about closing the deal. The last stage of the purchase process.

So here is my question: when consumers react to brands are they not reacting to what the brand is not saying versus the words the brand is using? Do consumers fall 80 percent in love with a brand for all its non-verbal cues rather than the 20 percent of its verbal cues?

In the shopping space we know that women shop (in this order):
1. By color
2. By shape
3. By brand

Nothing has changed, we are sensual beings - we shop with our senses. How we interpret the world is a right-brain process because it is the QUICKEST and MOST EFFICIENT way to interpret a HUGE AMOUNTS OF INFORMATION. Once we have deselected what is not attractive to us - read non-verbal cues - do we begin to interpret from a more rational, left-brain perspective (price, value, ease-of-use, need, etc.).

What appears to draw us into a brand are the design and aesthetic cues (color, shape, style, size, etc.), the non-verbal cues. Knowing that shoppers don't see 50 percent of what is on shelf, are we not underestimating the first stages of Shopper Marketing by not auditing the category in store? What is every other brand doing at shelf? Well then, let's do the opposite or do it better. It all starts with design. THEN close the deal with the words and the claims.

One of these days I will undertake a formal research study to prove that 80 percent of brand attraction (then leading to brand love) is non-verbal and only 20 percent is verbal. I hope to then convince my clients to spend more time and resources creating a great brand story rooted in design (of packaging, advertising, mnemonic cues, etc.) and only once this is established, talk about the words we will use. Not only will this help create a brand that truly stands out (in the landscape and at shelf) but will also solve the communication issues for a time-starved and information-overloaded consumer/shopper.

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