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April 19, 2016


This month’s meeting featured Carla Flamer, President of Ipsos Marketing Canada, who spoke about branding in commodity or generic markets. She began by saying that there has been a lot of research done recently on how people choose brands and the brain processes that factor into that selection. Carla used the term “behavioural economics”, explaining that our brains are primed to maximize good outcomes, or at least minimize bad outcomes to avoid poor outcomes. When we make a decision, there are two brain processes at work: system 1 and system 2. System 2 is the one that is thoughtful, reflective and rational, while system 1 is more intuitive, unconscious and reflexive. She said that our brain uses both systems in a way to create decision “shortcuts”. In order to influence system 1, a brand needs to be in someone’s mind or consideration set; for example, a brand logo. The logo is a brand symbol in one’s head, and when this is combined with some kind of stimulus at the moment of choice, a decision is made

She continued, explaining that brands stand for something, such as physical and social context. In terms of social norms that influence choices, she provided the example of gas stations. All gas stations obtain their gas from the same suppliers, but gas stations still brand themselves. Why? Because branding instantly gives credibility to anything, even gas, and it can mean different things to different people.

So how is brand choice measured? Carla explained that Ipsos measures brand choice by attitudinal equity, which is a consumer’s desire for the brand. In other words, how does the brand meet the consumer’s needs and how close does the consumer feel to that brand? In order to be successful, a brand needs to be top-of-mind and salient with the consumer. Market effects are another measure, which reflect a consumer’s ability to obtain a brand. Therefore, the equation for brand choice is: attitudinal equity + market effects = total equity, which correlates to market share. She also clarified the difference between brand ranking and rating. If, in market research, a brand is rated 9 out of 10 for an attribute, this means nothing if all the other brands are also rated 9 out of 10 for the same attribute. A brand must be ranked first in order to be chosen.

Carla continued, saying that brands needs to form relationships with consumers and, in order to do this, they must fulfill key motivational selection criteria that include both emotional and functional needs. She introduced the emotional framework called “censydiam” which stands for Centre for Systematic Diagnostics in Marketing. This framework is one used by Ipsos to help companies develop branding that connects emotionally with buyers. The framework is essentially a compass with 8 points that describes 8 basic human needs. The north-south axis is the “me” dimension, which is a continuum between desire for release and for control. The east-west axis is the “social dimension”, a continuum between standing out and fitting in. The east is more about “we” and the west is more about “me”.

This framework is used to identify the motivations and emotions associated with a brand and to determine growth. The first level of motivation is to talk to consumers about the functionality of a brand. The second is to address its social identify; in other words, how will using this brand reflect on the consumer. A brand also has to determine the “tone of voice” to use with consumers. Carla gave examples of industries where functional attributes drive choice; for example, in the paper category (e.g., towels, bathroom tissue, facial tissue). In this category, many products are considered equal, so differentiation must be emotionally driven. However, in general, with most brands, 58% of decisions are driven by functional considerations and 42% by emotions.

Carla concluded her presentation by providing a pharma example of brand funnelling. The research Ipsos conducted was designed to identify the market barriers influencing prescribing and the social context influencing physicians. The research showed that, for general practitioners (GPs), commitment and control were driving brand preference. GPs were influenced by emotional drivers that put them “in control” of a condition and allowed them to offer the best to their patients and protect them.

Her final take-away messages were:

  • People make decisions based on “short-cuts” and reflection
  • Brands needs to be salient, top-of-mind and differentiated in order to be considered, ranked first to be part of the consideration set
  • Brands in every category need to make an emotional connection with buyers; need to create a relationship with the buyer to overcome pricing and other barriers in the market
  • Understanding and targeting those emotional territories that your brand can own is the key to strengthening your brand and building its share

The floor was then opened to questions, a summary of which follows:

Q: You talked about control and patient commitment. If you look at specialty areas, such as oncology, would it be the same?

  • Would bet that it would be different; in categories where patient motivations and emotions might be different, then physicians would be too
  • Control may look different; might go from controlling symptoms to controlling pain; in some categories there may be an element of vitality, such as allowing patients to have a better of quality of life, that’s not as relevant in another category

Q: If there is a segment in the emotional framework where no brand is present, should a new brand seek these empty, white spaces?

  • You might if you have permission to go there; you have to be credible in that territory with your brand characteristics
  • Ask whether that territory is big enough and profitable enough to go after
  • There may be a reason why no one’s there; it might not make sense

Q: If someone wants to make a big change to their brand, if they want to “go big or go home”, what do we need to do to aspire to those big changes?

  • Look at what a brand is currently associated with; look at who the consumer is
  • What are the needs they want met and what is the gap between those needs and your brand; model how difficult it will be to get there
  • Might want to move part of the way and develop a long-term plan

Q: Often when we conduct market research or advisory boards, we focus more on the brain system 2 that requires active reflection. Can you provide examples of ways to tap into system 1?

  • One thing we do is called implicit reaction time; we show people an ad or packaging and ask questions and measure how long it takes them to associate that brand with something
  • Neuroscientists can see when there is a split-second hesitation, which means that people are rationalizing their decision and we can determine which messages are working better
  • We also do facial coding; there are certain unconscious, universal facial movements that are associated with certain emotions; these can be measured in response to stimuli
  • Can also measure changes in the market and see what the effect/reaction is

Q: Which sectors are more (or less) emotionally driven?

  • Emotionally driven: fashion, cars, alcohol, skin care products, jewellery; categories in certain price tiers where it’s not always clear that there are functional differentiators
  • Less emotionally driven: categories where function is important, such as reward programs; people buying simply to get the points rather than it being an emotional decision

Q: There are pharma brands with limited competitors with restrictions on being used in a certain order, as dictated by health authorities. Does that change how you look at the model?

  • You can influence what the physician tells the patient by tapping into understanding of what patients want or need
  • With online research being done by patients, there are opportunities to use that motivational wheel to influence them; patients will still ask their physicians questions

Q: Can you provide examples of brands that were successful in influencing the customer’s decision process?

  • Any cosmetic, makeup, skin care brand
  • Some consumer brands will do better in the desire side and others will have to make their money in the market effects, such as couponing and deals; both can grow your brand and your influence
  • Sampling and end-aisle displays influence people all the time; they’re influencing on the brand side and at the moment-of-purchase

Q: How can you create an emotional engagement with consumers (patients) if you’re not able to speak to them and tell them about your product?

  • Do patient research anyway to understand their needs and feed information to those who are allowed to talk to them to help them better serve their patients
  • Physicians will do your work to communicate with them; help them answer patients’ questions

Q: Do you have an example of a market/category/product in which you had to deal with different gatekeepers and how the message was adapted?

  • Similar issues in financial services; if you are an investor, you’re listening to your advisor and not the mutual fund company; need to talk to the advisors and feed them the messages to give to their consumers
  • Understand the needs of the end consumer and the person you’re selling to

Q: Do you have an example of a successful brand that hasn’t followed the typical paradigm that was surprising? For example, Buckley’s cough syrup. Have you seen this done successfully in the healthcare market?

  • Buckley’s is interesting because they tied a functional characteristic to an emotional benefit; if it tastes bad, it works better and the consumer can feel confident giving that to their family
  • Picking an emotional territory and using functional attributes to support it


Lara Holmes
Medical Writer
Cell: 514-425-4977



Tuesday, April 20, 2021

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