Your Brain on Branding — the Science Behind Brands that Matter

Commercial Real Estate




Commercial Real Estate



3 min read

Pop quiz: name your top three favorite brands. No judgement here. Just name the brands that you admire most and which inspire your loyalty.

Have your list? Great!

From smartphones to the consumer packaged goods that stock our pantry and the fashions that fill our closet, each one of us can list at least a few of our must-have brand names. For shopaholics and loyalists alike, the science of branding has deep psychological roots dating back to the Industrial Revolution.

Let’s flashback for a moment to look at how branding got its start.

DYK?: “Branding” as we know it evolved from manufacturers’ marks during the early 20th century.

Proctor & Gamble, Maxwell House, Levi Strauss (you’ve heard of these guys, right?) and countless others became synonymous with superior quality, unmatched efficiency, and proof of the American Dream. As customers evolved and began prioritizing affordability and accessibility over quality, competitors flooded the market and companies pushed the “idyllic lifestyle” as the new buying trigger. This concept lasted for decades until the self-expression movement of the ‘70s and ‘80s turned its back on all things standardized.

That shift in buying power, and access to limitless data, shaped the science of 21st century branding. Today, every single brand we encounter is backed by a team or teams of strategic thinkers working to define its target market, establish advocates, and make it relevant with current events. With just a few clicks, today’s shoppers can change their appearance, their mindset, their habits, and ultimately influence their status in the social circles through the brands they purchase. And all of this is driven through brand recognition, influence and strategic marketing. Impressive, right?

Now let’s break down the science behind brand building.

1. The Personality Test

Every brand has a personality. Like it or not, customers will always cast this perception onto a brand even if no team actively creates or manages it. Don’t miss the opportunity to control your brand’s personality! How your brand looks and sounds, who it attracts, and why it exists are all critical elements to establish upfront so that you can control your brand’s perception before one is cast for you. Start by identifying what your brand stands for: minimalist living, attainable luxury, political involvement, trend-making or daily essentials, etc. Next, determine why your brand attracts its shoppers: price, sustainability, niche solutions, and self-expression are major triggers to consider. And don’t forget your brand’s voice; this element can convey personality before the customer ever sees a logo, color palette, or product line.

We recently worked with Harrison Homes to help redefine its brand identity, personality and voice through rebranding efforts. View Post

2. The Right Fit & Feel

Stock photos and stereotypes won’t cut it with today’s consumers. If you want your brand to stand out it has to be an honest reflection of the people who buy it. Genders, ethnicities, communities, sexual orientations, and family makeups only scratch the surface of what it takes to reflect the realities your consumers face every day. Simply saying, “we get it.” will never, (we repeat, never) be enough. By researching the lives of your audiences and building personas that accurately reflect their circumstances (biases, setbacks, and opportunities included) you can tailor visuals and brand messaging across the board to build authentic connections with your audiences and inspire loyalty.

A unique, underwater photoshoot concept led Gables Columbus Center to a dramatic visual style for their brand. View Case Study

3. The Finish Line Fallacy

When it comes to strategic, consistent branding, the finish line does not exist. Thanks to new media and our “always-on” culture, today’s consumers are inundated with marketing messages. In the rush to “get it out there” brands often forego the artistry and authenticity needed to connect and convert. Strong and steady design, a relatable brand voice and message, and intentional media placements are crucial to building a memorable brand that remains relevant and drives sales for years — while being absorbed through mere seconds of exposure.

As a benchmark, take a look at the average time spent viewing popular ad types:

  • Banner ads: 1 second
  • Magazine ad: 1.7 seconds
  • Poster: 1.5 seconds
  • Direct mail: 2 seconds
  • Trade journals: 3.2 seconds

Put your consumer cap on for a moment and think about how much you can absorb or retain in that short period of time. The answer is not much.

Ultimately, strategic brand planning, an authentic voice with a relatable brand personality, and the right media mix to reach your audiences when and where they are receptive to your message are key to building a brand that enables a business to thrive.

Our team helps keep Tanger Outlets' brand relevant in the fast-paced and ever-evolving retail world with fresh creative concepts and unique strategies. View Case Study