Decisions, decisions

Learning about branding and marketing seems like a rabbit hole with no end. I’m aware that there is always more to learn about both subjects on a surface level. I’ll be at it a lifetime. Not least because the tactics available, the ways we can communicate with each other, are forever changing and that change is accelerating. Just when you think you are reaching a point of clarity, or perhaps just after you have done so, it can suddenly become fuzzy with new questions popping up demanding answers.

This has happened to me recently. Having completed one of the most advanced Brand Management courses anywhere on planet earth, performing near the top of the cohort in the assessment and building on earlier learnings about Marketing, I felt like the mists had lifted. A calm clarity settled on me. I can tell the wood from the tress. I can sort the wheat from the chaff. The worthwhile from the pointless.

So why, very soon afterwards, am I left with a nagging sense that there is still something deeper, still something more to learn?

Following some half formed notion in my mind, you’ll understand where that came from by the end of this article, I followed a train of thought and began studying psychology. A new wave of revelation washed over me. Through branding and marketing we seek to influence the actions of humans. That relies on understanding what drives those actions – the human mind. Oh my. The rabbit hole suddenly became a whole lot deeper.


It may or may not have come to your attention that branding is about providing a shortcut for people. The brand, in it’s various manifestations, acts as a shortcut for the brand name, the value it adds to a persons life and it enables the user to spend much less time and energy when assessing competing offers.

Humans are sensory creatures. We navigate the world based on the information our senses provide. We also ignore the vast majority of that information because if we didn’t it would overwhelm us and we don’t need it all to get through the day. We are brilliant at sifting and ignoring. It’s built into our DNA.

So much so that we have, according to much robust research, two ways of thinking when presented with a new situation. They help us sift and make decisions.


Distilled the concept suggested that our brains quickly look for information, previously recorded in our long term storage, that may be useful to help us respond to a new situation. It happens very fast, is automatic and we can’t control it. Your brain throws up suggested responses almost instantly. It’s an incredible survival tool.

Sometimes these suggestions are spot on, sometimes that are not, but we often trust them and act on them either way. We have made a decision based on the suggestion. Great. Easy.

That’s the point. It’s easy for us to do this. It’s automatic so we don’t have to put any effort in. Decision made. Tick. Move on.

We spend a great deal of our time driven by this kind of thinking.


Now, it may be that you don’t like a suggestion, it just feels off, or insufficient, or you just don’t have any useful experience to guide you in a new situation. What then?

That’s when slow, deliberate, active thinking kicks in. It’s effortful and puts some strain on the brain. We use it to sort through new available information, analyse it and then make a decision. Takes longer, takes focus, takes energy. No wonder humans avoid it when they can.


People vary but the vast majority of people have a lazy mind. Shocked? I doubt it. You all know people like this. Who just don’t seem to engage their brain before they act. They are the extreme but we all do it. People are inclined to follow the suggestions their fast thinking mind throws up and often act upon it. Only when pushed will they put the effort in and engage their slow thinking. Some have to be pushed pretty far!

Slow thinking is based on previous experience, accumulated knowledge, the sum of everything a person has been through before. Visual, verbal, conceptual, emotional, audible and so on. Their experience of the world.

Where does that leave us when considering how and why we brand our organisations?


Very simply, our branding activities seek to implant our organisation in the minds of our target market so that when they are presented with a new situation, like ‘Where shall I get my flu vaccination today?, their fast thinking minds throw up ‘Your pharmacy’. Great branding will strengthen that suggestion and encourage the individual to stop there, without moving onto slow thinking and exploring other options.

That, my friend, in summary, is why branding exists, why it’s important to your organisation and it blows my mind. The rabbit hole might be dark but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Get in touch and we can talk about your organisation and brand in more detail.