*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.
Arek Dvornechuck: What’s up branding experts? Arek here at Ebaqdesign and welcome to On Branding Podcast. And today my guest is Sandeep Dayal. Sandeep is the managing director of the consulting firm Cerenti, where he advises senior executives at Fortune 500 companies around the world. Global market leaders like Pfizer, HSBC, Santander and Kraft, and many other famous brands. Dayal recently published his new book—“Branding Between The Ears”, where he describes how to use cognitive science in branding. And this is the book talk about on today's podcast. Hello Dayal—thanks for joining us today!
Sandeep Dayal: Arek. Thanks for having me on your show.
Arek Dvornechuck: Thank you very much. And thanks for sending the book. The book is pretty interesting. I've read so many books about branding, but this is something totally different. So basically the concept you present, uh, in this book are interesting because they explain why all old methods of branding don't really work anymore. Why they're failing and you focus on, uh, describing how to use cognitive science in order to build cognitive brands. Right? So the brands that the same way as our brain works. Yeah. So you talk about things like psychology, cognitive science and things like that. Brand science. First I wanted to start with what is the difference between cognitive versus traditional brands? What's wrong with this old way of branding?
1. Cognitive vs. Traditional Brands
Sandeep Dayal: Yeah, so, I mean, that's a great place. Start, let me comment on a few things that, uh, you just mentioned in your introduction. So, you know, if you look at branding books, you go to business school and you look at the branding books, they're not talking about the things that they should be talking about, which is the kinds of things that I talk about in the cognitive branding arena. But for ever, if you will, branding has been all about product differentiation versus what I would call brand differentiation. And it sort of seems logical Arek, because when you look at it, you say, okay, I've got a product X, you know, how's that different from the competing products. And then in my branding, I'm gonna just talk about how my product is D okay. And that is fine. And what ends up happening is that a lot of times marketers, as a result of that methodology, which is in all the branding books that you will see in business schools and so on, they end up making a list of benefits where their product is different, right? And what we are finding from psychology is quite if you will, at least different if the reverse, but what you're finding is that the human brain doesn't really work in terms of lists. You know, we all struggle with lists. In fact, if I give you a list of five things to do, you'll forget three things, right? So we're not designed to process lists. What we are designed to do is we are designed to process things like stories. We are designed to process things like pictures, sounds, patterns, rhymes, you know, all of these different things. And we are designed when I say we are designed, our human brain is designed to tap into things like experiences of the past happen to our fantasies, because those are the things that are really in our brain. So what marketers have to do is they have to migrate from simply talking about the list of things that are different in their products to getting into how are they gonna tap into people's experiences and fantasies and so on, right? And that's the big difference. Cognitive brands are really brands that do exactly that they work the way that your brain does.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. Thanks for that. That's a great summary. So I have some, also some of my notes, some of my takeaways from your book. So basically just to summarize for our listeners, the old way of branding, as you mentioned, it was just about, for example, features and benefits, right. Or value proposition. And so, as you mentioned, those leads, but this is not really how our brain works. We have some memories, we have some fantasies, as you mentioned, we have some experiences. I'm glad you mentioned those senses, right? We need to use those senses and tell stories in a way that will tap into those experiences, right? From the past, all those people's fantasies. So that was a difference. So branding was all about product differentiation, features and benefits. But for example, brands like da, which is a soft brand, they did a highly successful campaign, real beauty, which you talk about in the book, didn't even mention zap without even talking how their product is different. Right. They used what is called branding with empathy. So basically the new way of branding that you described in the book, it was on the same principles as our brain works. Right. And I like the way you divided that into vibes, which we are gonna talk about soon. Um, so yeah, go ahead. Yeah.
2. Cognitive Brands: Design
Sandeep Dayal: Vibe sense and resolve and maybe, you know, for your listeners, I can give an example. And you may mentioned one example right there with doves, a real beauty pain, please, which didn't talk about their body wash in terms of, Hey, if it moisturizes better or it cleans better or anything like that. But it really talked about the fact that real women or women that we meet in our workplaces women's that, that are at our home don't look anything like the models that you might see on the cosmetic brand commercials. And what was happening was that when people put these super thin, you know, almost anorexic, perfectly beautiful models in their commercials, it makes the average woman feel worse about her body because she feels like, oh my gosh, you know, I can never look like that. And what dove did was that they put just the average woman on all their bill and that made people connect with their brand more and their body wash and soaps their top brand, their top selling products in their category. Another example that I love, which is kind of interesting is Procter and Gamble had this sanitary pad, sanitary napkins for women that is called always. And normally you would think that a product like that would be about, you know, if you just made a list of benefits, you would say something like, Hey, it lasts all day. You know, it doesn't leak. And those types of things, right? Those would be typical. And you would be no different from everybody else that is making those similar products. So you just make a list of things. But what they it did is that look, you know, it is about confidence having the confidence that you won't have any issues during the day, but rather than just talk about confidence and that way they talked about the big idea of confidence and what they discovered in the research was that if you looked at teenage girls, that's the first time that they start wearing sanitary pads, that they have a big confidence issue on a completely different topic, which is that people always use this phrase like a girl, you know, you throw like a girl, you taught like a girl, you, uh, are emotional, like a girl. Right? So, so this whole phrase, like a girl was being used as a way to put down women, put down teenagers and undermine their confidence. So what all the always did was that they came up with this campaign in which they said always like a girl. And they actually celebrated how women do things the way they do. And it's just perfectly fine. And in many cases they do it no differently than men, but just people put 'em down by saying, it's like a girl, but they made, they tapped into this whole bigger idea of confidence, which was also the Kiki theme around their product. But you can see how by focusing on connecting with their consumers, versus just simply telling them, Hey, this is how my product is better. Yeah. Right. They said, let me focus on connecting with you. And by tapping into their angst, they became one of the leading products in their category. Yeah. And that is a big learning that, you know, you say, Hey, when you're doing branding, maybe your product doesn't even have to talk about its benefits, but it has to talk about other things. And I'm not saying you'd always do that, but nonetheless, it's a big lesson in terms of the way that you can establish those connections with consumers. Because guess what, if you have that connection, if you, and I feel like we have a special chemistry, then you're gonna believe what I say. So when brands do the same thing, when they establish that chemistry with consumers, then people believe what that brand is saying. And that's kind of, what's important.
Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah. So, you know, if it's based on emotions, if it talks to our fears or fantasies, the connection will be much stronger than just at least some factual feature or benefits rights. Right. So you divided your book into a three parts. So in the first you talk about the design cognitive brands, the design. So can you explain, um, on your framework, which you start mentioning like vibes sense and resolve, right? Yeah. So you divide this into three parts and maybe you can give us some examples so we can understand the concepts.
Sandeep Dayal: Sure, sure. So yeah, the new cognitive branding model, I sort of have framed it as having three different components. Not, you don't have to have every component in every brand, but nonetheless the three types of things that can make for a cognitive brand or brand WIS brand sense and, uh, brand resolve now in brand WIS is kind of what we were just discussing Eric, which was around how you connect with your consumers based on either empathy or the kinds of values that they have, you know, what they feel is right and wrong. And does the brand also align with what they feel is right and wrong. So that's kind of this whole notion of brand with them, empathy brands with values. And I sort of merge them into this whole topic of brand WIS, which is where the consumer is asking me question, does the brand give me good wives? Yeah. The second piece of it is, uh, brand sense. And this is where the consumer is sort of evaluating either consciously or subconsciously does what the brand say, does it make sense to me? Right? And they can in either of those ways, which is conscious or subconscious. And then the third piece is brand resolve and brand resolve is around. Does the brand, is the brand gonna make me happy? Is the brand going to help me meet my goals? You know, whatever those goals might be my personal goals, right? But generally speaking, when we meet our personal goals, we feel happier about ourselves. And then for, is the brand gonna make me happy. Now we talked about brand rights. If we talk about brand sense and we can talk about some subconscious choice and what I mean by subconscious choice is that in our brains, right? I mean, if you think about your life, right, you've been living your life. You've been buying lots of products. You've been using lots of products, all those interactions, creating some kind of knowledge and learning in your brain, right? You're not necessarily remembering every minute of using every product, but there are learnings, you know, you know, oh, maybe, you know, you might have some rules that you form. So for example, sometimes you may have a rule, like be happy with what you have. For example, a lot of us are taught in our lives, not to be greed, you know, be happy with what you have. So that's, it's a bias. That's a cognitive bias that in, uh, lingo of psychology is called, uh, loss, aversion bias, which is that we like to stick with what we have. So if you're a marketer, you can sort of tap into that rule that a person has in making them stick with what they have, if you will. Right. And there are lots of examples of brands that have, for example, done, something like that, where they say, you know, why don't you stay with something that you know, that you are familiar with, right? Or don't go with things that you have the few of missing out an opportunity. So there are these different rules that you have in, in my book, I talk about how these different things come into play. So on this specific rule, uh, for example, in the pharma sector, in the healthcare sector, a lot of drugs will talk about, Hey, don't you want to keep the health that you have, the good health that you have. So is like sticking with what you have. You don't want to lose what you have and therefore take the drug kind of a thing. So you have the examples like that. Uh, with embroil, you have examples like that with some of the oncology drugs and so on. So we see a lot of things like that, which happen to these subconscious rules, which are already there in our minds.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. Okay. So some of my notes for this high, again, so there are three components vibes sense in resolve. So first we ask ourselves a question, does the brand have a good vibe? And that can be achieved through empathy, like TA for example. Yeah. Feel the way you feel. I know what you are going through. Right. We are empathizing with them or by sharing time, core values as you may, right? Yes. And some of the brand examples here for empathy, we also have dollar shave club. And which mentioned in the book, I'm not gonna explain all that, but if you guys wanna check out, it's really described totally in the book. And when it comes to values, that would be Ben and jelly. Right. They create those, uh, flavors and they talk about social justice and things like that. Right. So the stand for a cause now for the brand sense, which is the second component we ask ourselves, ourselves a question, does the brand make sense to me? And that can be conscious or unconscious, right? Yeah. So does it feel easy or true or authentic? Is there a hard evidence we can use like risk mitigation as you, right? Yes. Uh, it basically, it needs to feel like a no brainer. Right? So here's some of the examples. So you also sub divide those into, like, for example, it can feel familiar, right? Like de no pizza did that. It's not delivery. It is dejo. Right. So they kind of link themselves to this fresh delivery pizza. Right. But it is a frozen pizza. Right. But in this kind of a tag line or advertising slogan, now another example is for authenticity would be RX bar, which is a protein bar. So they use the snow ingredients statement. So it makes it feel authentic and true. Another would be when the brand just feels good, like gen beer, they did a commercial. You mentioned in the book also about this guys playing basketball on a wheelchair. And only one of them was actually a handicapped. Right. So, and another example, it just feels easy, like Instacart for gross deliveries, right. Which is convenience or staples. You, this oversized easy button everywhere is so easy to order anything from them. And you mentioned a lot of examples here, so could be amplifying the value of the brand like Uber date, for example. So there is no hail taxi, weak payments that are electronic receipts, sometimes better price. They lose money for many years in order to build that brand. So, yeah, I'm not gonna go to all of this, but you give us a lot of great examples, Uber world part, DLIP how they use those different systems. So the system one and then system two system, one is more about conscious and system two is more about unconscious, right?
Sandeep Dayal: System one is the subconscious and system tools where we make, uh, conscious decision making. But as you rightly point out or in this book, um, the big emphasis is on giving people practical examples, you know, by sort of articulating these concepts through real examples, because I know many of your listeners are going to be having brands that they're running and they wanna be able to say, Hey, how is this gonna apply to my brand? Right. And that is where by looking at the book, you can see different examples and you can say, yeah, my brand is kind of like, you know, Uber or my brand is kind of like a Warby Parker or something. Right. And that can say, can I use these ideas for my brand? So that is why the book is intended to communicate these frameworks. By example, now a lot of this is based by the way on deep research that has been done in the arena of psychology and behavioral science. But most of that research, if you, you know, read the academic books is not done on practical brands, it's done on public policy, see it's done on, you know, experiments that they do on students and so on. And for marketers, that can be confusing because, you know, how do you take academic research and then apply it to right to real world brands? And that's what I've done in this book, which is to make it easy for marketers by really applying it already to brands so that you can just look at it and say, oh, you know what if I did that for my brand, right.
Arek Dvornechuck: Just to shout to our listeners, for example. So there are some, um, I'm sure if you guys can see. So this for Ben & Jerry's ice creams, right? So you actually describe all of these ideas and you give us your examples of famous brands, so that most of us we can relate because we know these brands. Right. So you, yes. So, yeah. Uh, so how you can apply that, you know, just reading this book and reading through those case studies that you analyze all these brands that use different concepts, you can have like aha moment. And you can think, like you said, like maybe I'm Uber, but in another industry, maybe I'm kind of like, like that, but in another industry, and you can have this aha moment. Aha. I can apply this to my industry. I can take something from them and take something from, so this can also like inspire you in your process.
Sandeep Dayal: Yeah. I mean, I think you picked a good example and you know, so for example, with Uber, the point that I'm making is that they give so many benefits with their product, right? I mean that you can hail a taxi while sitting in your room. You can see how the taxi is arriving. You can pay for it on your credit card. You don't even have to take out your credit card. So you know, all these things, when you add up, there are so many benefits. And then initially when launched it many times, it was cheaper than taking a taxi. Yeah. So that I call like the no brainer method. So if you are a marketer sitting there with your own brand, the question you have to ask, can I be like an Uber? And really what the question you're asking is can I make the benefit versus cost such a no brainer Yeah. For my customer that they're gonna say, oh, I got to get this. Like, you know, how do I not get this? They're just, the pile of benefits is just so much more. And Uber did it initially, as you saw by taking a loss on it. So, you know, it was a little bit, and that's what a lot of these new world brands do, that they get financing from the public markets and they're able to provide a lot a benefit to you. So they actually start making money and then they're established. But I think that question is fair for any brand, which is not just, Hey, can I give a little bit of benefit? Can you make your brand so that a person would look at it it and say, it's a no brainer. I gotta get this thing. Yeah. And, and then see where you could get and how big it could make you and then figure it out. So it's just a way, like you said, it's a way for you to stretch your own thinking and see if there are things that you could do differently with your brand, which you haven't done in the past. If you're not happy with where your brand is today.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. That's a great summary. And then we have brand resolve, which you already mentioned, which is, you know, does the brand make me happier because we can speak to our inborn desires, like being free or being in control or just feeling good about ourselves. Right? These are all people share the same desire. Right. So an example would be here, MasterCards, iconic campaign priceless, or national card rental campaign go like pro right. Which, which they play that concept being in control and autonomy and, and stuff like that. Right. Right. And, and the third part of your book, you talk about execution, right? So this is about, more about doing, not versus thinking. Right. And if you give us again, a lot of examples, like old spice, John West Prudential. So maybe you have some of your favorite examples that you wanna talk about of brands that executed the right way.
3. Cognitive Brands: Execution
Sandeep Dayal: Yeah. So I think there are a few things when you start, so once you've designed your brand and you've sort of said, Hey, this is what my brand is going to be about. That's my DNA. Then you have to actually execute the experience. And in that sense, there are a couple of things that are highlighted in the book. So one part of it is that what really constitutes an experience? What do you really remember? Right. So there's work that has been done by Daniel conman, for example, in which he talks about that when you are looking at an experience, the really the parts that you remember are mostly the climax of the experience and the tail end of the experience. And you tend to forget everything else. And I give the example in my book where I talk about this one time that I was taking as soon there a flight, you know, it's an eight hour flight to Zurich from Chicago. And, you know, in the middle of this flight, I'm, you know, you know, I'm getting good service and all that, but you know, you usually get good service. So you don't tend to remember that. But what I do remember is that the air hosts came to me and she said, sir, do you wanna buy something from the duty free shop? And I said, no, I don't wanna buy anything from the duty free shop, but I love the wine that you serve. And can I buy a bottle of that? And she said, sure, she didn't even say, oh, you can't do that or anything. She said, sure. And a few minutes later, she comes back, can the bottle of wine is in a duty free bag. And she hands it to me. And I said, okay, and how much do I give her my credit card? And she said, oh, that's not necessary. It's a complimentary for you. And so I remember that still, you know, I don't remember anything. So that was kind of the climax moment of that fight. So you remember that. And then at the end of the flight, you know, I walk into there and they had a nice reception area and a nice club. The Swiss air club was very nice there. I had a nice shower, so I felt very relaxed. So, you know, if you take those things, so the two things I remember about the flight is her giving me that complimentary bottle of wine and having a nice shower and feeling very relaxed. Those two things. I remember the rest of the thing in that entire eight hours. I don't remember. So the message for you as a marketer, what are people going to actually remember about your experience? What is that climax moment that your memorable climax moment that you're going to create? What, how is the experience going to end the interaction with the brand? Be very focused on those things because that's what people remember. The other part that I talk about in that book, as you were referring to earlier, or is around the sensory branding, which is that because we experience the world, not just through what we read or what the brand is saying on a billboard, but, you know, by smelling the environment by, you know, seeing whatever else is there by touching things in a store, by whatever, you know, all our five senses are involved in it. And the one learning from the book is that in your brand experience, whenever you're executing, the more senses that you can involve in it, the more memorable your brand is going to be. So you could be someone that's selling a sweater in a store, but you got to focus on. And how is the sweater overall gonna look what's around it, that's your visual. You've got to see how it is when you feel it and touch it. What if the person picks it up and smells it, you know, all those things you have to really focus on because it's the combination of all of those things that gets stored as a single experience in our brain. So write what I call a brand brief for every sense and how it's going to be engaged when people experience your brand.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right? So it's not all about seeing, but also maybe some music, right? Maybe some, maybe you can add some smell to it. Maybe you can make like a texture of your packaging, have a different feel or like apple products. They have this packaging that everyone is copying now. Right. Because it's a nice experience. It's slowly, I cannot open this box and it's nicely designed to so minimally. Right. I see so many brands are copy that it's a nice experience as well. So that would be it taught, experiencing that. So yeah, these are great examples. So it's about involving the census, right. And telling a compelling story. And, and I like the example that you just gave us with those airlines, right. Because that was the climax. So maybe we think and think about what is that climax experience. Maybe she did this unconsciously, or maybe she did it consciously. Maybe they have like a brand culture. And she figured that was kind of surprising. You know, she could just say, Hey, this is not for sale, but there was something that drove her, you know, maybe some core values of the company. Maybe she remembered something from the training, right. From the company culture or whatever it was that, you know, to please the customer. So she gave you one for free. And now you're gonna tell this story to your friends and so on. So it kind of like that storytelling also, right? Yeah. Press the world and, and that's marketing. So, uh,
Sandeep Dayal: So yeah, storytelling is becoming very, very big as, as you know, in, in marketing. And so what is happening is that people are talking about how there are so many brands out there that your attention spans are so shrinking, right? That's what people keep talking about. And I argue that it's not really shrinking it's, uh, our attention spans are big. Our attention spans are long because attention spans can be conscious or subconscious. And the subconscious attention spans are as long as they ever work. The point is that you, as a marketer has, have to, it's not about just getting your message across in a short amount of time, because, you know, I might be looking away. I might have sneezed and I don't see your message because you just Frank it two, five seconds. But really it is up to you as a marketer, that how are you going to get my attention? You know, how are you going to be noticed? And once you are noticed, what kind of story are you going to tell people love stories, right? Or, you know, you go to a movie, you can sit there and watch a two hour movie, right? You can watch a James Bond movie, you can watch for Gump. And you're gonna remember that two hour movie. So attention spans are as long as you want them to be, as long as you can tell good stories. The one thing about stories, because people get confused about this, then people think, I got to tell a story about my brand. That's not necessarily the case. You know, people are not looking at the story of your brand only as in, oh, my grandfather started this farm. And then, you know, we had these lambs there and they say, you know, that's your story. You have to also understand how your brand is going to fit into your consumer story.
Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah.
Sandeep Dayal: You see, if I'm buying a bottle of wine, I'm thinking, oh, you know what, I have family coming over. I'll have this by now. You know, they're gonna ask me, why did I pick this wine? And I'm gonna explain it like this. I'm sort of fantasizing and imagining all those things in my mind, which is my story. So, so long as the borrow of wine has been presented in such a way that I can tell a good story. And if the story is gonna be about me, then it can be very compelling. So brands need to be thinking about what is the consumer story and how can the, they fit into that story and enhance that story.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right? That's a great point. That's a great point. And I think a lot of marketers make this mistake. And I've heard about that principle from all other experts as well. You know, it's not about you telling your brand story, but you telling your brand story in a way that can fit into the story of your customers. So it's actually about their story, you know, because they wanna tell story about like, if it's wine, you know, this wine comes from this winery or whatever, but they're gonna only remember key few things. Maybe they can express their taste or whatever, um, their values or whatever should that bottle of wine. Right. And show that their storytelling. So as we are about to approach the end of our interview, I just wanted to ask you how we can find more about you. You have a website, of course, sandeepdayal.com, right? Yes. I'm gonna link to your book in the description below, but otherwise, maybe social media.
Sandeep Dayal: Yeah. You can, uh, go to my author website, which is sandeepdayal.com. And there are links to where you can buy the book, you know, on Amazon, it's available online, everywhere. You know, Walmart, bonds in Nobles, Amazon, or all of these places are, have the book available on the website. You will also find a place to sign up because from time to time, I do a blog where I will comment about brands that are doing strategies today. Like I commented about a whole bunch of brands when we have the super bowl and how brands are being impacted by Ukraine and so on. You know, so all this stuff I do on my blog. So if you sign up there, you will, from time to time get a 500, 700 word email from me in which you can learn about brands today.
Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah. That's a great resource. So again, I'm gonna link to your book, thanks for sending over the book. That was very interesting. I recommend to everyone to check out this book and especially all these example, because you know, it can just inspire you in your work. Again, thanks for your time. And I hope to talk to you soon.
Sandeep Dayal: Thank you very much. I enjoyed our discussion. This was great.
Arek Dvornechuck: Thank you. Bye
Sandeep Dayal: Bye.
Arek Dvornechuck is a strategist and designer who helps brands grow by crafting distinctive brand identities, backed by strategy. Need help with your project?—Get in touch
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