Strategic branding and the brain

The human brain is the processing center of the nervous system in all vertebrates. In addition to regulating involuntary behavior such as breathing and circulation, it controls emotions, awareness, pleasure, pain, and conscious behavior. The brain also stores information in its memory.

The eye is simply a camera transferring images to the brain, which is the most incredible database ever. From the second we leave our mother’s womb, we begin feeding images, feelings, and experiences into the memory of the database in our brain. In fact, there are some people that claim to have memories from when they were in their mother’s womb.

The memory capacity of the brain

The human brain contains roughly 100 billion neurons. Each of these neurons is capable of making around 1,000 connections or synapses, which largely do the work of data storage. Multiply 100 billion neurons by the approximately 1,000 connections each one can make, and you get 100 trillion data points, or about 100 terabytes of information.

The brain receives electrochemical signals via neurons scattered throughout the body, processes this data, and then sends similar signals to muscles and glands or simply stores the information. Processing takes place as signals move through complex brain circuits, networks of billions of nerve cells.

We recall a memory only when we activate that network of interconnected neurons. Information flows from the outside world through our sight, hearing smell, taste and touch sensors. Memory is simply ways we store and recall things we have sensed.

Recalling memories re-fires many of the same neural paths we originally used to sense the experience. Memories of concepts and ideas are related to sense experiences because we extract the essence from sensed experiences to form generalized concepts. We store sensory information for fractions of a second in areas located throughout the cortex, then some data moves into short-term memory and some goes into long-term storage.

Short-term memory

Only the data that catches our attention because we need it soon (like a police car behind us) goes into our short-term memory. We hold short-term data for maybe half a minute. Short-term storage is small; it holds about seven independent items at one time.

Long-term memory

Information that may help us in the future goes into long-term memory, where it can last a lifetime. Long-term memory involves three processes: encoding, storage, and retrieval. We include the context around us as we learn a new concept or experience an episode in our life.

As we store the memory, we attach it to other related memories, like “similar to Granny Smith apples but sweeter” – this consolidates the new concept with older memories.

Retrieving a concept involves following some of the pointers that trace the memory and decoding the stored information to regain meaning. If you can’t remember just what “delicious apple” means, you might activate any of the pointer-hints, such as “red” or picking apples”. Pointers connect with other pointers so one hint may allow you to recover the whole meaning.

If you understand this process, then you understand true strategic branding as a science, not an art form. Much of strategic branding happens in the memory banks of our brains. For example; you’re walking down the street and see someone that looks slightly like someone from your past. Before you can think, you are deep in the cortex of your brain retrieving images, feelings, smells, and the experiences of the person in your past.

Great strategic branding works in the same way; it uses colour, shapes, and images that relate to what is in everyone’s memory bank to establish a relationship.

We welcome your comments.

For tried-and-true winning tactics on how your organization can rise above challenges, take advantage of opportunities, and win business, contact
Ken Etheridge, President & Creative Director

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