Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Alexis de Tocqueville As Brand Strategist & Marketing Expert

Why Emotion Drives Product Brand Selection

The power of emotion behind decision-making comes from what might seem a surprising source.

Alexis de Tocqueville, a young aristocratic French lawyer, traveled to the United States in 1831 to study its penal system. His visit resulted in the classic De la démocratie en Amérique, also known as Democracy in America, a 19th century masterpiece of United States cultural and political analysis.

de Touqueville offers this insight of the power of imprinting upon the human mind, and how these imprints guide us throughout life:

[To understand a man] we must watch the infant in his mother's arms; we must see the first images which the external world casts upon the...mirror of his mind, the first occurrences which he witnesses; we must hear the first words that awaken the sleeping powers of thought, and stand by his earliest efforts—if we could understand the prejudices, the habits and the passions which will rule his life. The entire man is, so to speak, to be seen in the cradle of the child.

Some 180 years ago, de Tocqueville had it right. To understand any audience and identify the basis upon which decisions among competing choices are made, good consumer research uncovers what the individual does not know they know, by reaching into the subconscious and uncovering what was experienced - imprinted - at an early age.

It is these imprints — the experiences of early childhood — that form the context through which an individual will view the world throughout their life and react to communications seeking to influence them.

These subconscious imprints, codes, each communicate relevance, assurance, childhood joy, trust, and expectation. The stronger the emotion associated with the experience, the stronger the imprint. Think of it this way, in an example from The Culture Code:

[A] child [is] told by his parents to avoid a hot pan on a stove. This concept is abstract to the child until he reaches out, touches the pan, and it burns him. In this intensely emotional moment of pain, the child learns what "hot" and "burn" means and is very unlikely ever to forget it.

Imprints are the subconscious memories we file away, forgetting them until they are recalled at some later date if the appropriate emotional trigger is experienced.

Before the importance of research into the effects of human needs and emotion upon product development was understood, de Tocqueville prophetically pointed the way to success.

Understanding the power of imprints, those first impressions during the formative years of every human being, are so very important in any effort to own the conversation within an industry.

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