Tag Archives: Brands

How you communicate is better than what you communicate


Chris Barnham has written a new paper called Instantiation: reframing brand communication in the latest copy of the International Journal of Market Research. It’s an great, thought provoking read and has real implications in how we think about brands.


The article asks us to think of brands as ‘essences’ as “actualisations in the mind of the consumer rather than as senders of messages from outside of that mind”. Chris continues: “we need to start asking questions such as ‘How is the brand being?’ rather than ‘What is it saying?’ And we need to being thinking about the brand as a mental structure rather than as a name that simply has associations with it.”


Recently reading Heath and Feldwicks paper Fifty Years using the wrong model of advertising (thanks Will), they see advertising as processed on an emotional and low-attention, subconscious level. They say that for effective advertising, the onus should change from communicating ‘proposition’, ‘product benefits’ etc to “a holistic basis that includes implicit communication” where we “will have to accept that communication…must be planned and executed not just on the level of explicit content.”


This means how you communicate is more important than what you communicate. That is, it’s 90% of how you say it and 10% of what you say.


Perhaps clichéd; but Clients, briefs and research debriefs dwell on ‘what did the consumer understand’ or ‘what do we want them to understand’. I think we’re relying too much on the ‘rational’ creation and measure of communications because we don’t really know enough on how to convey or measure the emotions or the subconscious. Ultimately, it means taking a risk to get more effective advertising.


That said, Honda have done it well with latest ‘Jump’ ad: the how of the advert did billions more for the brand, than the what ever will do. I don’t particularly remember whether they were advertising the brand or a car, but it makes me feel loads better about the brand. Here it is:



However, for research, this proves a challenge: how do we measure ‘how the brand is being?’ Can this be measured or does it rely on the shrewd judgement of the savvy researcher?


I don’t claim to know the answer but it’s an intriguing, creative challenge to think how we can measure any new approaches into how brands reside within the complex depths and mysteries of our minds.