“It’s (not just) all about the brand, ‘bout the brand, no trouble”

What is it about any brand that makes it stand out? “A strong brand name triggers many important associations in consumers’ memories” (Kardes et al, 2011).

Brands are aware of this and work hard to build strong memories in consumers minds. Take FaceBook. Most people will know the FaceBook ‘Look Back’ movie by now. FaceBook marked their 10th Birthday in 2014 by launching a feature they called your ‘Look Back’ movie.

Although there may have been a few hiccups along the way, The Look Back movie was a masterful piece of marketing with a foot firmly planted in consumer psychology.

It combined individual users most shared and liked posts of the year into a personalised film that generated a powerful emotional response in users. Prompting that emotional response and associating and that with the FaceBook brand elicited a powerful result – almost 200 million people watched their video and 50% of those shared it.

Fast forward to last week and a smaller brand that makes a regular appearance at our house made a play in the same vein, but not quite with the same result.

Boden are a successful British clothing company and their catalogue is a regular visitor to our letter box.


The catalogue that arrived last week proudly announced: “We’re 25”. To mark this occasion, the company had sent every customer a catalogue containing personalised messages aimed at evoking memories (for example, by mentioning the first item the customer purchased). It also offered free delivery, free returns and a 10% discount.

Image result for flaming zombie cocktail

This seemed like a heady cocktail of marketing ingredients and consumer psychology levers. It looked like the credit card was in for a battering and i prepared myself for the worst… so i was puzzled when my wife explained how disappointed she was.

Why should this be?


The brand is a regular discounter, frequently offering discounts of 20% (or more) together with money off vouchers and other incentives. A 25th Birthday event had raised expectations of great discounts… only to deliver a disappointing 10%.


In his book, Predictably Irrational (2008), Dan Ariely talks about the framework of Arbitrary Coherence, (Ariely et al, Quarterly Journal of Economics 2003 – http://users.nber.org/~rosenbla/econ311-05/syllabus/stabledemand.pdf).

In this, the reaction to an offered price is driven by the memory of an original ‘anchor’ price for an item and a desire for coherence with past decisions. This anchor price is established at the point a consumer considers buying the item at that price. Importantly, it persists despite subsequent exposure to different prices. Once you establish a certain price for an item, you tend to judge future purchases of that item against that price.

In this case, it appears that the reaction to an offered discount may have been driven by the memory of an anchor discount and a desire for coherence with past decisions, leading to disappointment at the (relatively) low discount offered.

In my opinion, this shows how important it is to have a broad understanding of the factors at work in consumer psychology and their interdependencies if the desired outcome is to be achieved. Bodens work to personalise their catalog and evoke emotional memories succeeded in generating interest and anticipation, however the offer was not judged to be enough when set against past offers. It is not enough to just have ‘one part of the jigsaw puzzle’.

Have you ever been disappointed by an offer from a brand you like?

2 thoughts on ““It’s (not just) all about the brand, ‘bout the brand, no trouble”

  1. I found this article to be very insightful. The stronger the brand associations form in the consumers memory through targeting emotion, the stronger there brand loyalty comes. Brand attachment have been positively correlated with brand love, (Loureiro, Ruesdiger & Demetris, 2012) which evasiveness a company’s need to create this network of memory structures, to form stronger links in consumers memory, increasing brand awareness.


    Loureiro, S. M. C., Ruediger, K. H., & Demetris, V. (2012). Brand emotional connection and loyalty. Journal of Brand Management, 20(1), 13-27.

  2. This is a really interesting perspective considering a lot of research seems to somewhat overlook pricing as quite a crucial factor that affects consumer behaviour. If you consider this from a Dual Process Model perspective it seems that Boden is relying too heavily on the emotion-laden ‘hot’ system when instead consumers are using the emotion-independent ‘cool’ system which says ‘wait a minute, 10% is a bit disappointing’(Roiser and Sahakian, 2013). So I think, as you pointed out, it is important to find a balance between different aspects of consumer psychology, ones that cover for both emotion driven decisions and more reasoned behaviour.

    Roiser, J. P., & Sahakian, B. J. (2013). Hot and cold cognition in depression.CNS spectrums, 18(03), 139-149.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *