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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Brands go Mental! – published July 2003

Buy the book here, listen to the interview or read a review

Mental World of Brands Giep Franzen Margot Bouwman 2002 WARC Click on the title and you can order the book from Amazon.

    • We have an exclusive interview with Giep Franzen and Margot Bouwman. See below.
    • And you can read my review of The Mental World of Brands below that. Click here to read the review.


  • What else? Oh another exclusive – a paper by Giep Franzen on Gesamtkunstwerk Branding.


Listen to the Going Mental Brands Interview
The following extracts come from an interview I conducted with Giep Franzen and Margot Bouwman on June 5th 2003 at the S-W-H offices in Amsterdam. Giep Franzen claims to be the longest serving adman in Holland who now spends his time lecturing and writing on communications. Margot Bouwman has 2 degrees in psychology but crossed the fence to work as planning director at S-W-H in Amsterdam. So theadman turned academic and the academic turned adperson make a fearsome combination in bringing rigour to the impact of neuroscience on the way brands really work.

The book runs to over 450 pages! This is a rare interview, the only one I am aware of that they have given in English. Click on the icons to hear the mp3 files play back.

playWhy did you write such a long book? (913K)

play It has been said that 90% of all that is known about the brain has been learned since 1990. What difference has neuroscience made to our understanding? (1116K)

play Did your views change in the process of writing the book? (1190K)

play Can I ask about brand representation? Do brand circles, pyramids and onions have any validity for you now? (1358K)

play Surely if a brand idea exists as a pattern not a hierarchy it works very differently? (1698K)

play How does brand positioning work in a neural network? (1320K)

play So you have different groups of brands in the awareness set, in the consideration set and in the purchase repertoire… (1679K)

playWhat are the implications for research into brands? (1.5Mb)

playIn the book you make the point that existing users have much stronger brand perceptions… (681K)

play So you’re saying tracking studies measure the association the wrong way? (925K)

play If most of the communication is received unconsciously then how much attention should we pay to conscious learning? Shouldn’t we concentrate on giving consumers scripts for new behaviours? (625K)

play You have a chapter on brand relationships where you define 4 elements that have to be present for there to be a genuine relationship…(680K)

play I thought you would be a lot more unkind on the research once you had unpacked the neuroscience. Why weren’t you more critical? (1.5MB)

play You have compared the way brands work to the Gesamtkunstwerk theory of art. What’s the connection? (1.6MB)

play Can you give me an example? (717K)

play Jeremy Bullmore talks about people assembling brands the way birds make nests. Though perhaps it’s more like IKEA providing the flatpack for the consumer to build to a design. Where does the audience fit within this? (1MB)

play What about shared meanings? (945K)

play So in summary is this book an argument or an encyclopaedia? (980K)

play Is there a sequel? (297K)

The brand as Gesamtkunstwerk – towards strategic management of brands. paper by Giep Franzen.

(29K) Another exclusive from Planning Above and Beyond – what Giep thought next. A paper given to the head of Unilever in Holland this give a clue to the direction set in the sequel to the Mental World of Brands. Gesamtkunstwerk is an art theory which considers the physical elements of a work of art to be manifestations of an underlying set of ideas.

Review of The Mental World of Brands

The Mental World of Brands is intended to be an exhaustive inventory of the latest thinking about how brands function within the brain. The 1990s was announced as the decade of the brain. Virtually everything known about the brain has been discovered since 1990. Which raises a challenge since the vast majority of branding theory predates the 1990s and needs to be reviewed and potentially scrapped. It is therefore a very solid read (450 pages+) which means that relatively few people in the business will get around to buying it and fewer will manage to take it off the shelves and read it. Which is lethal since the ground has shifted and agencies have enough credibility problems without continuing to trot out branding models which bear little or no resemblance to the way brands are stored. And in a media environment that is more cluttered year by year – what is desperately required is simplicity – and brutal simplicity is what neuroscience delivers. If the main task is to create a stronger link with the idea at the centre of the category than any of the other brand names then frankly most of the rest of the paraphernalia of the branding industry can be consigned to the dustbin. And in each category there can only ever be a couple of winners. Which is hardly new but often forgotten.

This book tries to do everything – in the first part a thorough primer to the physical structures of the brain, in the second part a thorough review of the elements that make up brands: awareness, meanings, emotions, positioning, attitudes, behaviour, relationships and representation. And then a review of no less than 70 research techniques used to evaluate brands. A practioner caught in the hurly-burly will need to cherry pick their way through. My favourites were the chapter on memory and the importance of the strength of association, the chapter on behaviours – people who use brands have a lot stronger opinions and attitudes about them (even if tracking studies mix them up hopelessly with non users). And the chapter on brand relationships where the criteria are laid out for genuine relationships which would fatally flaw every CRM programme I’ve ever seen. One of the pleasures of the book is its range – they do look on a world considerably wider than planet advertising – so the book is a gold mine for those working in relationship marketing and promotions. I guarantee that any chapter you read will challenge the way you currently think about how brands work.

The flaw in the book is that having introduced the brave new world – that so many research techniques are trotted out which the second part of the book would seem to have discredited – you’ll never look at an attitude bank the same way again. So why list so many discredited techniques? And I suppose the other flaw is its length. Academics will have time to work through the implications, students will be given the crib notes. But practitioners will carry on blithely with their onions and pyramids.

Click here to order your own copy of The Mental World of Brands

Click here to find out more about other business titles from WARC




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