Sometimes the sideshow is the main attraction
Are you sure about that?
Among the interesting stuff packed into The Buying Brain, a new book by NeuroFocus CEO Dr. A. K. Pradeep, is a study of yogurt consumption. You might well think that the best thing about eating a yogurt would be its taste, or maybe its aroma or creamy texture. But the NeuroFocus lab found that it was not the eating of the yogurt itself that engaged consumers’ brains most, but rather ”grasping and removing the foil covering” from the container.
If you’re a yogurt eater, just reading that and imagining the sound and feel of the foil peeling away to reveal the yogurt is probably making you want your favorite flavor right now. Mmmm, foil …
NeuroFocus (the largest provider of neuromarketing services, BTW) calls such a characteristic a Neurological Iconic Signature (NIS)—a high point of the brain’s experience of a product. I’ll bet that the pop of a cork coming out of a wine bottle is another example, and therefore a factor in the controversy among vintners and consumers over replacing corks with screw caps.
But pulling back that foil or popping that cork can also be termed a ritual, and from where I sit, the yogurt study and the NIS concept are getting at ritual and its neurological underpinnings. As I’ve blogged about, rituals are predictable and comforting, help us remember things, and help form the emotional connections that are key to branding and marketing. And the revelation about the yogurt illustrates just how quirky—not to mention powerful—ritual can be.
In short, the obvious characteristics of a product or service may not be the most compelling ones as far as the brain is concerned. So be careful about messing with what you offer—not only the thing itself but also any potentially ritualistic component, including packaging. On the other hand, there’s an opportunity here. A ritualistic appeal that sets your brand apart big-time can perhaps be built right into your product or service—possibly at little to no extra cost.