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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  June 03, 2010

How a Brain Responds to a Brand

I blogged on Tuesday about brain imaging and the revolutionary findings this science will bring to the market.  Here’s a great example of what’s to come:  an experiment that shows why a “brand” trumps product preference.

Remember the famous “Pepsi Challenge?”  When folks didn’t know what they were drinking, more people liked the taste of Pepsi than Coke.  What’s the deal?  Why would Coke beat out Pepsi in the marketplace if folks like Pepsi better in the taste test?

Scientists at the Human Neuroimaging Lab at the Baylor College of Medicine repeated the Pepsi Challenge while scanning the brains of volunteers.  Here’s what they found:  most people preferred Pepsi if the soda was not labeled, as in the original challenge.  A scan of a brain area associated with rewards, called the ventral putamen, responded five times more powerfully to Pepsi than to Coke.

But, when the researchers repeated the test with the cans clearly visible, almost all of the subjects preferred the familiar red Coke can.  Significantly, different areas of the brain responded.  The medial prefrontal cortex, which is associated with logical thinking and reasoned judgment, lit up when Coke was selected.  In other words, the preference didn’t have to do with the physical response to the taste so much as to the idea of Coke.

Moral of the story:  experiments like this make the power of branding real.  Watch for this area of boom beyond belief.  (No wonder everyone and their brother is a branding expert…)


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.