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CONGRESS 2007

Beyond neuroscience
Engagement and metaphor
David Penn INTRODUCTION In 1957, Waldemar Kampffert, then the science editor of the New York Times, offered his predictions on how science and technology would shape our lives 50 years hence. In the 21st century, he foresaw, we would all travel in personal jets, a retardant for ageing would mean that 70 year olds look 40 and we would live in houses made of plastic. In truth, the future has turned out less exciting: we havent got the restaurant on the moon that Stanley Kubrick promised us, but we do have the iPod and Web 2.0. Sometimes, however, the future really does catch us by surprise, and it takes a while for the current mindset to adjust. Neuroscience arrived at the end of the last century, without many of us noticing, or appreciating its significance. Yet it so seriously challenged conventional thinking about consumer behaviour that some have questioned the very future of market research. Why? Modern market research was born during the wave of mid-20th century optimism, which Kampfferts vision typifies. In the 1950s many believed (in the West, at least) that an age of Reason was almost upon us. Reason gave us science, and science not only made us richer and our lives easier, but led inexorably to a greater understanding of things, driving out mysticism and irrationalism and enabling mankind to live a more ordered and rational way of life. Market research was, essentially, a scientific endeavour to discover the objective facts about consumer attitudes and behaviour, the underlying assumption being that attitudes and behaviour can be objectively measured. Crucially, the inception of market research also coincided with the rise of mid-20th century cognitive science, which gave us the metaphor of the mind as a machine: as a kind of computer programme that can run on any appropriate piece of hardware. Cognitive science was mainly concerned with how the mind is ordered functionally and did not pay much attention to the brain structures which underlie it. Although cognitive scientists accepted the importance of unconscious mechanisms, particularly in the area of memory, the role of bodily responses such as emotion was never seen as particularly significant. Thus, for example, in advertising theory emotion was a means of facilitating attention to an informational stimulus (because we will probably pay more attention to advertising that we like), rather than an end in itself. The key thing that advertising had to do was to deliver a message; the rest was mainly seen as window dressing. There is a deeply ingrained distinction in Western thinking between the humanities and the sciences. The humanities study the world of human meaning and value while science studies the objective world of things and never the twain shall meet. It is what Richard. A. Lanham (2006) means when he draws the distinction between stuff and fluff. He quotes a successful young businessman who told the Wall Street Journal: My dad always told me youve got to dig it, grow it or build it, the rest is just fluff. The problem is that brands and advertising are fluff not things, but mental constructs and, because we cant see into the mind of individuals, facts about their impact on our mental processes can never be objectively verified. Herein lies the dilemma: market research strives for objective (scientific) measurement, yet has to work within the world of expressed feelings and attitudes.

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Increasingly, we live in a world of fluff, of non-stuff; every time we turn on a TV or a computer, we enter the world of non-stuff: what we see are images of stuff, rather than stuff itself. Yet, we are wary of fluff: consumers like to have a reason why they do things and market researchers prefer them to have one too. If we can say why a particular behaviour takes place, it makes the world of fluff seem a bit more like the world of stuff. In other words, it objectifies decision-making: by locating the reasons for purchase in the real world (of, say, price and product delivery), rather than leaving it to float around in the subjective world of image and emotion.

Indeed, the idea that style (fluff) can triumph over substance (stuff) has been around a long time. Lanham writes of the importance of rhetoric, as a device in Western culture, to communicate a message in a way that will be accepted and attended to, rather than ignored. Thus, when we receive a piece of communication, we always oscillate between the message and delivery; between its objective content (stuff) and what we feel about it. Lanham also cites the 1960s avant-garde artist Christo (famous for wrapping things, including the Reichstag building), who once wrapped a hundred boxes in plain paper and mailed them to members of a contemporary arts group, twenty of whom opened the boxes to find a note from Christo, saying: The package you destroyed was wrapped according to my instructions in a limited edition of one hundred copies. The point being that information comes in packages, and sometimes, like the recipients of the Christo joke, we find that the idea evaporates once the packaging is cast aside.

In the last century, our emphasis on objective measurement created purchase models (mainly derived from cognitive science) in which consumers rationally weigh up the pros and cons of the options on offer, and consciously choose between them. Maybe one reason we put so much emphasis on the rational is because it is much easier to frame questions if we assume that people make considered choices and, moreover, can explain them back to an interviewer or moderator. It The arguments that we call postmodernism have, like would also explain why we favour hierarchies of needs, Christo, insisted that ideas come in packages and that recall-based measures of advertising impact, persuasionpackages are important: if we ignore the packaging, shifts in ad testing, customer journeys and the like. we may lose some of the meaning. Postmodernists th A further characteristic of the (mid 20 century) see culture as the package which contextualises ideas consumer models is that they, essentially, objectified and gives them meaning. And this is the view that information, possibly because it suited science to see gave rise to semiotics the idea that brands only have information as free from the distortions which human meaning within the context of the language and culture perception and emotion place upon it. According to from which they derive. The underlying presumption of Heath and Feldwick (2007), emotions were seen (by semiotics is cultural hegemony: we are subject to, yet most commentators) as an adjunct to information unaware of, the processes of cultural control, and the processing and communication was viewed as a kind purpose of semiotics is to uncover the hidden practices of one-way messaging process. of their hegemony. According to Rachel Lawes (2002): In this view, the consumer mind is a sort of blank page on which marketers can write anything they want. Yet the common-sense view would surely run counter to this. How you communicate something is as important as what you communicate and the two are often indivisible: stuff and fluff, style and substance continually conflate. Essentially, what we feel about something is as important as the thing itself: meaning is not effortlessly injected into consumers minds as objective fact.
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You might already know one intended meaning for your ad campaign but you cannot know its range of possible truths until you study the culture in which it sits. In short, the truth is culturally specific... Postmodernism provided a (fluffy) antidote to the scientific (stuffy) perspective on consumer behaviour, but what both accounts failed to anticipate were the insights of the so-called decade of the brain. In the late 20th


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century, the work of neuroscientists challenged most of our existing assumptions about how the mind works. Neuroscience asserts that we cannot understand the mind without first understanding the brain structures and processes which so-called mental events (such as feelings and attitudes) relate to. Mid-20th century cognitive science perpetuated the view that, somehow, the brain/body and the mind are two different things: one a physical phenomenon of nerves and neurons; the other a kind of disembodied entity which operates quite separately from its physical home, facilitating the operation of reason. What neuroscience suggests is that reason is not separate from the brain, but embodied in it, and is mediated by unconscious emotional influences. In this paradigm, the mind is not out there as some kind of disembodied computer programme; it is right here, inside our brains. Like it or not, says neuroscience, our feelings, our reasoning, our conscious and unconscious thoughts are framed by our physical embodiment. The biggest single contribution of late 20th century neuroscience is to re-connect our brains and bodies with the mind, allowing us to look for the embodied links between the conscious and the unconscious, and between the rational and the emotional. In so doing, it has turned Western philosophy more or less on its head, by challenging the very notion that information can be clean free from the so-called distortions of emotion and perception. For the neuroscientist, information is wrapped in packages created by our own attention systems by our perceptions and our emotions. The cultural (semiotic) perspective remains important, but, because the mind is embodied, it is likely that much of our conceptual system is widespread across cultures and languages, not totally relative, as semiotics suggests. Neuroscience suggests that what we feel about something is framed, on the one hand, by our brains and our bodies and, on the other, by our experience. Therefore, what we are told by marketers and advertisers has to work with our biology, not independently of it. Every time we receive a message from outside our bodies, the
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world and our biology collide, and it is that collision that creates (brand) meaning. This is the essence of cocreation: meaning is not injected into consumers minds as objective fact, but co-created by the interaction of their biology with the message. Hence consumers will not get any message that a marketer gives them, because messages are filtered (by perception) and encoded (by emotion) before they enter consciousness. Consumers will create their own meaning based on what they already know, feel and believe about the brand being advertised: they will wrap the message with meaning, not just unwrap the package to find the (intended) meaning. This process of wrapping may not be conscious, but the effects show up in their conscious minds as attitudes, beliefs, feelings and value-judgements. In other words, what we usually call brands. The new field of cognitive linguistics suggests that brands are themselves powerful and complex wrappers of objective fact metaphors, linking the world of fluff (emotions/judgement/evaluation) with the world of stuff (sensory/experience). This new discipline suggests that metaphor works within the neural process as a pervasive imaginative structure that both influences meaning and facilitates our judgement. The neuroscientific revolution makes us look for the mind in the body, and confront the emotional and unconscious, not just the rational and conscious, aspects of mind. This might be new in the West, but when neuroscientists Hayward and Varela (1992) met the Dalai Lama, they found that they shared an embodied (not a transcendent) philosophy, in which mind and body are interconnected and meaning is internally, rather than externally, constructed. Witness the following exchange: D.L.: Imagine there being no brain just simply the eyeball would there be any kind of visual experience at all? Neuroscientist Thats the whole point the mind and brain do not function as separate things. They have to be together.


CONGRESS 2007

Co-creation of meaning is not wishful thinking: it derives from the findings of the brain sciences over the last decade and, ironically, from beliefs that have been held in the East for centuries. FIVE PERSISTENT FALLACIES ABOUT COMMUNICATION AND EMOTION

our everyday reasoning); and anything that was not in here was more or less discounted. Recall took on the quality of objective reality measurable, quantifiable and comfortingly real. In other words, stuff.

The preoccupation with gaining attention is typified by the AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) model, which hypothesised that, through the medium of a persuasive Despite the neuroscientific challenge to traditional theomessage, information is consciously processed and ries of consumer behaviour, there are five fallacies can be accessed via Working Memory. The pervasive that persist in marketing theory and market research influence of this view of the world is still evident today. practise: Advertising tracking is dominated by recall measures, 1. Communication is a one-way process through which and persuasion shift methodologies still dominate marketers deliver (rational) messages that change the advertising pre-testing. way we feel about brands, even if we already know Neuroscience has proved particularly effective at the brand very well. challenging this recall/attention-based view of how 2. Emotions do not drive brand choice, but rather provide brand communication works, with three theories a backdrop to rational judgement. proving particularly influential: 3. Emotions are buried very deep in our psyche and only reveal themselves if we dig equally deep. 1. Le Douxs (1996) belief that the direct link between 4. Emotions are primarily physiological (rather than thalamus and amygdala enables the brain to react mental) phenomena. emotionally, prior to conscious awareness of stimuli, 5. Imagination and metaphor are creative constructs creating the possibility that emotional information might that tell us little about emotion. be processed independently of attention. 2. Damasios (1994) assertion of the primacy of affect The first fallacy: Communication is a one-way over cognition (thinking). This, more or less, turns process the cause and effect of AIDA on its head, because it In the traditional (20th century) model of brand comsuggests that emotions (not thinking) drive behaviour, munication, advertising was seen as a kind of missileand hypothesises that, when emotion and cognition delivery system. The choice of metaphor is deliberate, come into conflict, emotions win. because marketers love to think of what they do in 3. Daniel Dennets (1991) notion of parallel processing militaristic terms campaigns, targeting, getting bangs of information, at high and low attention levels, creates for bucks are all widely used terms. This mediathe possibility of learning about brands via information centric (rather than consumer-centric) view of how processing at either no, or very low, levels of conscious brand communication works characterised the Age of awareness. Interruption, in which maximising opportunity to see, or getting attention, were the key objectives. In short, what neuroscience suggests is that what is in our conscious memory is not a reliable indicator of what In the Age of Interruption, getting attention became we actually know (about brands, or advertising), and that synonymous with achieving recall. Marketers wanted emotions, operating automatically and unconsciously, are consumers to consciously register and to play back the the clue to much of our behaviour. The implications for messages they gave them. Otherwise, they argued, how market research are that firstly, we need to go beyond can communication exert any influence? Advertising (conscious) attention and that secondly, we need to go researchers focused primarily on the contents of Working beyond conscious reason to understand brand choice. Memory (the limited mental workspace in which we do
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Heaths Low Attention Processing model (2001) relies heavily on the neuroscientific consensus, hypothesising that emotive advertising can be processed independently of attention, and that what is in our Working Memory will not reveal the emotive content of the advertising we process. LAP suggests that implicit learning may be more important than explicit (conscious) processes particularly for ads with high affective content, which is probably the majority of ads these days, at least in most developed markets. The counter to the neuroscientific view comes (perhaps predictably) from Millward Browns Du Plessis (2005), who asks why, if the role of emotion is to drive our attention and to shape and feed our conscious thought, should emotive advertising be processed at a low level of attention? He argues that we seek out the positive the pleasurable rather than things which make us anxious or unhappy. Thus we pay attention to ads we like, and what we pay attention to we remember. Du Plessis view is similar to the controversial appraisal theory of emotion, which was widely accepted prior to the advent of neuroscience. Appraisal theory asserts that, for a stimulus to produce an emotional response, the brain must first appraise (consider) its significance: attention therefore precedes emotional response (rather than the reverse, as neuroscience suggests). However, Du Plessis concedes that advertising probably can work at low attention if there exist memories available to be refreshed. In other words, the attention model may be inappropriate for brands which use consistent and repetitious messaging to reinforce a particular set of brand values. Hence, if a new advertisement for an existing brand transmits the same emotional messages that consumers have received countless times before, it may by-pass the conscious mind simply because there is no need to process it and retain it in Working Memory. Thus recall- based questioning will not pick necessarily up its effects, because many more people will have seen the advertisement than will claim to remember it. How then might the impact of such advertisements be measured? An alternative is recognition, which uses
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visual or aural prompts of advertising and seems to have a number of advantages over recall. Unlike recall, it is quick and semi automatic it brings with it an instantaneous, automatic and involuntary flow of emotion, provided that the advertising identified has emotional significance. Recognition thus taps into something much deeper than recall, because it does not rely entirely on a cognitive process of searching conscious memory. It also does not seem to be constrained in any way: whereas recall is finite, limited by the capacity of our Working Memory, recognition seems to tap into our long-term memory, which is almost inexhaustible. Penn (2006) tested the relative efficacy of recall and recognition as a means of measuring emotional TV advertising, concluding that a lot of our memories of advertising lie beyond the reach of conventional recall questions (i.e. outside Working Memory), but that those memories may be just as powerful in influencing the way we feel toward brands. Therefore an over-reliance on recall could mislead us about the true impact of emotive advertising. What the foregoing suggests is that consumers know far more about brands than they are aware of, because emotions and metaphors associated with a brand may lie buried in their unconscious mind, beyond the reach of recall. Just because advertising memories are not retained within Working Memory does not mean that the advertising itself has no beneficial effect on the brand. The traditional model of brand communication is analogous to a courier service: you package up an idea; pay a courier to deliver it; the recipient unwraps the package, revealing the message within. But what does the recipient see when he actually opens the package: is it what the marketer has intended him to see, or is it what his emotions, perception and reason lead him to believe he is seeing? Is the marketer in control, and the consumer a mainly passive recipient, or does the consumer create the meaning?

CONGRESS 2007

In the world of the 1950s and 1960s, the notion of oneway messaging (typified by AIDA) probably made sense, because this was a time when many new and innovative products came to market, and marketers used advertising to inform and persuade the consumer. But today, brands proliferate almost inversely to genuine product differentiation. Much (indeed, most) advertising does not have an informative role. Furthermore, people often know brands so well that they contextualise new information: they do not passively absorb any message that a marketer throws at them, but create their own meaning based on what they already know, feel and believe about the brand all of which suggests that brand communication is not a one-way messaging process, but one of co-creating meaning with the consumer, and that intuition and feeling (emotion) may be key to this process. Neuroscience suggests that human concepts are not just reflections of an external reality, because the way we perceive things is actually shaped by our brains. Even something as apparently real as colour is an experience created by the interaction of our retinas with the brains neural circuitry and with the stimulus itself. Each of us has different colour perceptions, suggesting that colour is neither an objective fact, nor something created culturally; rather, it is caused by the collision of the external world with our biology. Damasio (2003) puts it thus: The neural patterns and the corresponding mental images of the objects and events outside the brain are creations of the brain related to the reality that prompts their creation rather than passive mirror images reflecting that reality.

The second fallacy: Emotions do not drive brand choice Over the last decade, findings from neuroscience have demonstrated the central role of emotion in decisionmaking. Neurologist Donald Calne sums it up: The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action, while reason leads to conclusions. The biological role of emotion is to create action. In neuroscientific theory, emotions are brain and body states that arise in response to certain external stimuli, or to certain internal needs or goals. They are, by definition, not thought-through responses: they are involuntary impulses toward, or away from, a stimulus. Feelings, on the other hand, are conscious (cognitive) responses to emotions. It is probably unhelpful to get fixated on the distinction between emotions and feelings, because the dividing line between emotions, feelings and cognition is so hard to draw that most neuroscientists accept that all cognition has an emotional component. Indeed, it is this belief that fundamentally differentiates the brain science of the last decade from mid 20th century cognitive science, which saw the mind as free from the biological constraints of brain and body. It is best to think of two brains working side by side, consciously and unconsciously: a cognitive brain that knows, analyses, reflects, calculates and makes decisions, and an emotional brain that reacts, spontaneously, immediately and intuitively.

What we say, think and feel is always a mixture of the emotional and rational. Our emotions frame and condition our thinking and seem to exert a constant and (generally) positive influence on our decision making. They also play a powerful role in memory, as one of their It seems unlikely, to say the least, that the understanding biological purposes is to give each alternative a value, of more complex concepts, such as brands, will always allowing us to tag our experiences with significance, be consistent across individuals. Yet our experience tells so that, at a future date, the meaning can be re-created. us that whilst we rarely share identical views with another They thus appear to have a powerful role in terms of person, we frequently have similar points of view. In other creating durable memories; indeed, it is difficult to sustain words, we interpret and transform messages to fit within a thought beyond Working Memory unless it is tagged our own conceptual framework, yet often find that with emotion. These tags are what Damasio (1994) calls much of that framework is shared with others. somatic markers.
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The importance of emotion in co-creation was recognised at the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) Conference in March 2006, in New York, when Joe Plummer, their Chief Research Officer, announced the result of a twoyear investigation into the definition of engagement. Engagement, he said, is turning (someone) on to a brand idea enhanced by surrounding context. He added that turning on is about activating associations and metaphors to co-create personalised brand meaning. According to this definition, engagement (turning on) will happen if the consumer connects with the brand idea via the advertising. Engagement is therefore about emotional response to a brand, rather than attention, persuasion or involvement. Measuring engagement is not possible unless we access the emotional response to a brand idea. It is not enough to ask people how they consciously feel about the advertising, because it does not follow that advertising which impacts or involves will automatically engage its audience with the brand. The process of engagement clearly occurs below the level of conscious cognitive response and will not reveal itself easily. Our conscious thoughts and utterances are shot through with emotion: we can say how we feel, but we find it very difficult to say how we came to feel that way because the processes by which our thoughts and feelings are created are mainly invisible to us.

The early 20th century psychoanalytic model, which followed, saw the unconscious mind as a reality that we can apprehend, either through our own self-reflection, or with the help of a third party (a therapist, or moderator). Thus the persistent metaphor in psychoanalytic models is going deeper: to discover emotion we need to dig below the surface, to uncover what is hidden or submerged. Projective techniques were developed to help moderators penetrate the unconscious mind by eliciting feelings below the surface of conscious, rational response. The Freudian legacy is often obvious in both the style and operation of many qualitative researchers today. Indeed, the traditional distinction between quantitative and qualitative research rests on the premise that qualitative techniques somehow dig deeper, whilst quantitative research is more concerned with surface-level (superficial) response. Yet, some qualitative practitioners now question the premise that we can bring to the surface, particularly in a group discussion, something which is, by definition, buried and unconscious. Put simply, there is always a risk in a focus group of building elaborate and cognitively derived explanatory structures on top of simple affective or non-rational responses.

According to Valentine and Gordon, focus groups hothouse the marketing and research agendas (that rely on the consumer model of control) thus failing to reflect the reality of brand and cultural ambiguity. It is essential, therefore, that we find a way of measuring Others have suggested that the focus group method emotional brand engagement. may prompt respondents to find things to say and fill-out the discussion, and that one-to-one interviews The third fallacy: We can only find emotions by may be preferable. Franzen and Bauman (2001) wonder digging deeply into the psyche So what exactly is an emotion? Is it just a physiological whether most of what we call emotional brand response reaction, or is it a mental event that we experience and actually goes much beyond a (non-specific) sense of pleasure or likeability; in other words, what is normally can talk about to an interviewer or moderator? For market researchers, this is a crucial issue, because most called affect. conventional methods of measuring how consumers Most qualitative techniques allow us to observe the feel are based on expressed/verbal response. effects of emotion (feelings), but not the emotions th themselves. Projective techniques reveal aspects of When psychology first began, in the late 19 century, it was thought that through self-analysis, or introspection, the unconscious mind by encouraging the expression of imagery of which the respondent is not consciously we could describe our own thoughts and emotions.
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aware. This is much more likely to reveal something about emotions than direct questioning, or extensive probing, but the output is not an objective fact: it still requires the interpretation of a third party (the moderator). The fourth fallacy: Emotions are primarily physiological The failure of conventional research to objectify emotion has led some to look beyond conventional techniques for the answer to the technology of brain imaging, using, for example, fMRI or EEG to look into the brain. This is what is known as neuromarketing. Neuromarketers believe that brain imaging can supplant the unsatisfying, subjective world of conventional research by providing us with an objective measurement of the mind. They argue that, whilst we can introspect on our own feelings and thoughts, we cannot see into our own brain processes and nor can any third party observer. That window is closed to us except through the route of brain imaging. Brain imaging holds out the promise that we can turn the messy subjective world of feelings and emotions from fluff into stuff, by bringing it into the realm of the factual and observable. Some neuromarketers suggest that, ultimately, we may be able to dispense with conventional market research altogether. For example, Clint Kilts of the Brighthouse Institute has argued (Thompson, 2003) that if the medial prefrontal cortex fires when you see a particular product, you are more likely to buy it, because that product clicks with your mental self-image.

It is true that brain imaging can tell us that emotional arousal has taken place in an individuals brain. It can also tell us that a part of the brain is active whenever a subject is experiencing, or tells us they are thinking, a particular thing but it cannot tell us what part of the mental process is actually being fulfilled, or why that particular part of the brain is active. Most importantly, it cannot tell us what someone is feeling at that moment; for that we need the subjects expressed/ verbal explanation. In practice, a lot of (subjective) interpretation is required to make sense of brain imaging data, simply because of the huge number of possible interrelationships and causal links that exist between mental events and brain imaging output. It is, therefore, nowhere near as objective as it appears. In fact, the real evidence for the existence of emotion lies not in pictures of the brain taken via fMRI or EEG, but in the influence which they clearly impart on our mental processes how they manifest themselves as expressed thoughts, feelings and behaviours. As Zaltman and Mast (2006) note, emotion without cognitive appraisal is really just arousal.

It is time we distinguished between neuroscience, which is a new way of understanding the consumer mind, and neuromarketing, which seeks to supplant conventional research with brain imaging. It is one thing to suggest that expressed/verbal response may mislead particularly when we are talking about our feelings and emotions and quite another to say we should only use brain imaging and dispense with verbal response; Yet others argue that the discovery (via neuroscience) because, without correlating a brain image with an of the interconnectivity of the different parts of the brain, expressed response, an emotion remains just that and the reestablishment of the link between brain and an image of neurons firing. mind, should have led us away from this sort of crude The final fallacy: Imagination and metaphor have attempt to objectify the mind by breaking it down into nothing to tell us about emotion its components. Neuroscientist Steven Rose (2005) Neuroscience has made emotions and the unconscious suggests that neuromarketing commits a category error into legitimate subjects of scientific study. The new by attempting to specifically locate thought and emotion (related) discipline of cognitive linguistics does the within the brain at all. Most neuroscientists do not see same for two terms that are even more strongly the brain as a kind of wiring diagram, but rather as an linked with the arts and humanities: imagination and astonishingly complex, interlocking set of patterns. metaphor.
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Cognitive linguistics seeks to explain how meaning is co-created through embodied schemas and metaphors neural connections, which are part of our unconscious mind. It seeks to explain the mechanisms by which shared human patterns of cognition whether inborn or developed through interaction with the environment can be transformed and blended into entirely new, culturally-specific structures. It thus contradicts the postmodernist claim that meaning is ungrounded and wholly dictated by cultural context, and offers, in its place, the more plausible proposition that there are universal metaphors and cultural variation. Imagination has traditionally been associated with creativity, not reasoning, but imagination plays a crucial role in helping us reason and to make decisions. It can also help us to envision emotional as well as rational outcomes, and to make value judgements, so what we imagine is not just a product of conscious rational choice. Neuroscience suggests that, within our embodied mind, imagination and emotion work together, because our previous experience (memory) is likely to have created emotional (somatic) markers, which will give prominence to certain ideas and metaphors. In this view, what we bring to our imagination is not arbitrary, but directed by the emotional value that we apply to certain ideas. Thus Damasio (1999) notes that when we remember an image, we bring to mind not just the sensory characteristics, but also previous (somatic- emotional) reactions to it. The somatic marking gives an emotional weight to the image, and we seem capable of attaching somatic markers to a vast array of images, objects and ideas. He has also argued (1994) that emotional (value) judgements are part of an organisms quest to attain a physiologically well-balanced state, called homeostasis. Emotions can prevent us from making harmful decisions by forcing us to concentrate on the negative outcome to which bad decisions may lead. Occasionally, this may lead us to refrain from an action, even though the probability of a bad outcome is very remote, because the (imagined) consequences of the outcome are so horrific. For example, the powerful image of an airliner crashing in flames may stop us from flying, even though the
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probability is remote. On the other hand, we buy lottery tickets, which yield a tiny (but exciting) chance of winning a fortune, rather than investing the money in a (boring) savings account. What these examples illustrate is that emotions have the power to overrule a rationally ideal choice. The process Damasio describes seems to be a form of embodied reasoning in which emotions are imported (unconsciously) into the decision making process, which appears, on the surface, to be entirely rational and conscious. When we imagine possible scenarios/ outcomes, they may come with a flow of emotion, which influences our judgement and reasoning within those scenarios. We experience the effects of the unconscious imaginative work in our conscious minds, but we are not aware of the operations that produce it. If this sounds irrelevant to market research, consider the net promoter score found by Bain & Company in 2003 to predict sales growth. It is based on response to a simple question about likelihood to recommend a product or service to a friend or colleague. (The net score is obtained by subtracting the 0-6 scores from the 9-10 scores.). According to Marsden et al (2005), it is one of the most successful measures for predicting sales growth. Although it derives from what appears to be a literal, verbal scale, measuring ones willingness to recommend a brand to a friend, it probably works by conjuring up an imagined, metaphorical encounter with a friend, into which the respondent (unconsciously) projects their emotional feelings about the brand. When people talk of their willingness to recommend to a friend, they do not necessarily mean that they will advocate that brand; it is much more likely that they are using it as a metaphor to describe their feelings (either positive or negative) about the brand in question. The mental processes underlying their (conscious) response may be invisible, but their answer yields the answer we are looking for. Perhaps we take things too literally in market research, particularly quantitative research. Why, when we so easily accept the use of metaphor in everyday language,


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do we not use it to construct scales and measures of the way people feel about brands? Qualitative research has always recognised that when people talk about having relationships with brands, or a brand being like an old friend, they are using an imaginative, metaphoric mode of speech to convey their feelings (emotions) about a brand. In fact we constantly use the language of love to convey how we feel about brands, which represent either inanimate objects (products) or intangibles (services). That doesnt make us fetishistic, just human. WHY METAPHOR PROVIDES THE KEY TO EMOTION Metaphors seem fundamental to being human: even the way we thinkabout ourselves is fundamentally metaphoric - we talk of struggling to gain control over ourselves, of our higher self battling with our lower self, of two selves at war, trying to find ones true self and so on. We have seen that our imagination seems to link the unconscious and conscious mind by harnessing emotions to our capacity to project (imagine) possible outcomes, helping us to reason and choose between options. We experience the results in our conscious mind, but the operational processes which link our emotion and reason are below awareness and invisible to us. When we talk about these imagined scenarios, about how we would feel in them, we often use metaphors, which are the most basic form of imaginative expression. Metaphors seem to express emotions more vividly than literal language, which is why we so frequently use them to describe what we feel. Indeed, it is very difficult to describe emotion (except in physiological/arousal terms) without resort to metaphor. Singerland (2005) uses the example of digging ones own financial grave to illustrate the importance of metaphor in evoking emotional reaction. This is a well understood metaphor meaning that bad financial decisions cause financial failure. But why import the metaphor of grave digging at all? It does not seem to add anything in terms of helping us to understand the literal point; rather, its purpose is to evoke (negative) emotion:
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to inspire (or help us imagine) the negative emotional reactions associated with death, corpses and so on. In this view, the metaphoric construction of arguments is often designed to guide the recipient to a particular judgement, by provoking particular emotional reactions (either positive or negative). Acceptance of the metaphor moves the listener to a course of action, which can often be reliably predicted because of the relatively fixed nature of emotional-somatic reactions. This is why metaphor is such a powerful tool in marketing communication, because it guides us toward value judgements. And its what political propagandists have been doing for decades, often negatively. For example, referring to your opponents as vermin or cockroaches creates an emotionally resonant image which is more powerful than any literal insult. Thus metaphor is a pervasive imaginative structure that both influences meaning and facilitates our judgement. Metaphors are conceptual as well as linguistic, matters of thought and not merely of language: a metaphor may seem to consist of words or other linguistic expressions, but conceptual metaphors underlie a system of related metaphorical expressions that appear on the linguistic surface. Underneath this surface, in our embodied mind, conceptual metaphors have literal meaning so immediate and powerful that there is no need to compute or deduce it. Metaphors seem to exist, therefore, not as words in memory, but as networks of abstract understanding that form part of our mental imagery. Zaltman (2002) believes that one of the most important conceptual metaphors is balance, which may be expressed in terms of weighing-up options, scales and seesaws, each implying that too much of something bad may tip the balance vs. the good. However, these are, essentially, surface (linguistic) metaphors underpinned by a conceptual metaphor of homeostatic balance, which derives from our search for outcomes that promote our well-being. Thus a mother choosing a soft drink for her child may have to choose between the childs preferred option (a fizzy cola), her preferred option (a juice) and
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a compromise option of, say, a fizzy fruit drink. If we understand her choice to represent a need for moral balance (I like to please my child, but not indulge him), or nutritional balance (I like to give him something good to offset the bad stuff ), then a comment such as fruit drinks are not devils or angels theyre sort of in between can be seen as a surface metaphor that expresses the (underlying) conceptual metaphors of nutritional or moral balance. Literal communication mostly involves the cognitive brain, which consciously processes information, whereas metaphorical communication speaks to the unconscious and emotional parts of the brain, recruiting images without our being aware of what is happening. And, since images that have emotional significance seem to have greatest resonance, it is almost certainly the metaphors that link directly to our emotions that are most powerful. Many conceptual metaphors seem to be embodied, in that they link emotional judgement with (sensory) experience. These are called primary metaphors and seem to be part of our unconscious mind, acquired automatically and unconsciously through the conflation of subjective and sensory experiences. For example, the subjective experience of affection is typically correlated with the physical experience of warmth, which becomes a metaphor for affection through simultaneous activation in two parts (domains) of the brain one devoted to emotional judgement and the other devoted to temperature; the two conflating to create a metaphorical concept. The Theory of Primary Metaphor is built on fundamental insights by Christopher Johnson (1997) and Srini Narayanan (1997), which were later developed into an integrated theory by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1999). Johnson (1977) argued that primary metaphors are learned (in young children) through the conflation of subjective and sensory experiences. For example, the subjective experience of affection is typically correlated with the physical experience of warmth when being held in someones arms as a child. Thus warmth is
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not similar to, or the same as, affection, but the two become conflated. In very young children the experience is undifferentiated (i.e. the subjective and the sensory are not felt to be different), but later, children are able to separate them, although the embodied metaphors persist and will lead the infant, in later life, to speak of a cold response or a warm relationship. The associations made during conflation result in permanent neural connections being made across the neural networks. Narayanans theory explains how conceptual metaphors are instantiated via neural maps neural circuitry linking the sensory system with higher cortical areas. His theory suggests that neural learning produces a stable, conventional system of primary metaphors that tend to remain in place indefinitely within the conceptual system and are independent of language. HOW METAPHOR CAN HELP MEASURE EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT WITH BRANDS It is ironic that marketers inhabit a world of brands and concepts yet so easily default to prosaic and literal means of measuring it. Typically, market research scales are language-based and literal, not metaphorical: the problem being that they usually require cognitive processing respondents need to consider their response before answering. When we think and consider, we get further away from our emotions the emotion may still be present, but it becomes blended with our thinking and more prone to rationalisation. Metaphorical measurement has the advantage of evoking emotion directly, provided the metaphor chosen correlates with an emotional judgement. Primary metaphors provide a window on emotion, because they link the judgemental (often emotional) parts of our brain with the experiential. They are, like brands, conflations of experience and judgement. They are representational in the same way that brands are representational of experience, not simply a literal description of the experience (either service or product). This suggests immense potential for metaphor to help us understand emotional engagement with brands, because, in essence, brands are metaphors.
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Not all primary metaphors are relevant, but it seems likely that those linked with subjective emotional states such as love, affection and intimacy have particular importance. In each case a particular (sensory) experience correlates with the emotional judgement to create the metaphor. Each metaphor represents either a subjective judgement, or an emotional state, in terms of a specific (sensory experience). For example, affection is represented in terms of warmth; intimacy in terms of physical proximity; importance in terms of size and so on. It is also important to note that the mapping is in one direction only: it goes from the source experience to the judgement/emotion. Thus it is warmth that connotes affection -as in, for example, a warm smile - or physical proximity that connotes intimacy - as in a close relationship - not the reverse. These metaphors can be expressed linguistically, but they are actually deeply conceptual and operate below the surface of language. Thus they can be represented non-linguistically through a visual representation, provided it represents the sensory experience so well that no deep cognitive processing is required to recognise it. If recognition is instant and the metaphorical link triggered, it will create literal meaning within the unconscious mind a meaning that is so intuitive, instant and understandable that there is no need to compute it. Therein lies the great advantage of metaphor as a means of accessing emotion after all, we have had emotion far longer than we have had language. Thus what is proposed here is not the metonymy of, for example, the smiley scale, or of depicting emotions via facial expressions. Metonymy differs from metaphor in that it does not seek to represent one thing in terms of another, but by depicting it directly. Thus an image of someone smiling may be a metonym for pleasure (or happiness, or amusement), whereas a depiction of, for example, affection as warmth, or love as a journey is clearly metaphorical. Metonyms work within a single domain, while metaphors seem to activate more complex neural mapping, connecting different domains within the brain.

Affection is warmth can be represented visually by temperature gradation, since the source domain (the sensory experience that underpins the metaphor) is warmth. Various visual devices depict temperature range, including thermometers and the ice to sun decals sometimes found in weather reports. A simpler (and equally effective) representation is the red to blue colour fade, commonly found in heating controls on the dashboard of cars. Intimacy is closeness can be represented (for example) by a visual space in which the respondent places himself in relation to another person, an object, or value, such as a brand. Again the key requirement is that the source experience (in this case, physical proximity) is unambiguously depicted. The survey question (to which the visual representation relates) should also be framed in terms of the source rather than the (target) emotional/subjective judgement. For example, if respondents are asked to rate a brand or piece of advertising via, say, a temperature scale, they should be asked to say how (warm or cold) it makes them they feel, not how much affection they feel towards it. It is also helpful if the scale incorporates a universally understood spatial metaphor: the most obvious is verticality, as in the metaphor more is up. This will allow the respondent to represent the quantity or extent of their feeling by where they put their response on a vertical scale. There is no need for the scale to have numbers or words (particularly if it is shown online), but, behind the scale, response can be calibrated quantitatively. Our obsession with text-based questionnaires is really curious given the opportunities of expressive space now offered by online technology. Lanham (2007) says: The printed page depends on the economics of deprival. No color (sic); no movement, images in careful moderation the digital screen is the economics of plenty. It allows competition between word, image and sound for our attention. Yet few online questionnaires exploit the opportunities of this expressive space, and there is
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great potential to exploit visual (and aural) rather than linguistic, and metaphoric rather than literal, modes in questionnaire design. CAN METAPHORIC SCALES PREDICT THE SUCCESS OF A BRAND? From late 2005 Conquest Research has incorporated visual metaphoric scales (based on primary metaphors) into some of its Brand Health Monitors. The objective is to provide a measure of brand engagement alongside more conventional scales. So far, a total of 90 brands have been assessed across more than 20 categories. To test the hypothesis that metaphoric scales are predictive of brand success, Conquest observed the relationship between the following variables: The dependent variable: the proportion that made the brand their first choice. This measure is strongly indicative of brand share, particularly if it is asked about a competitive set. The independent variable: the proportion that placed the same brand at the top end of a brand warmth scale depicting temperature gradation in terms of a red to blue colour fade.
Figure 1

Figure 1 shows the relationship between the top three deciles (i.e. 8-10) of a brand warmth metaphoric scale and the proportion that make the same brand their first choice. The results indicate that brand warmth is a statistically significant predictor of first choice brand. The Pearson Correlation Coefficient is 0.729 and p>0.01. Figure 1 also suggests that successful brands tend to enjoy high levels of emotional engagement: the higher the level of engagement, the higher the market share. This is perhaps an unsurprising finding, but figure 1 also indicates that positive emotional judgement does not, of itself, create successful brands. An analogy may be with clouds and rain: clouds may be necessary for rain to occur, but they do not ensure that it will happen. Where engagement (warmth) is high relative to brand choice, it may be because the metaphorical link between engagement and the brand offer is poor, or because recent experience/knowledge of the brand is too patchy or weak to forge a strong link between the brand and what it offers. Alternatively, it may be that the brand is simply not exploiting (i.e. marketing) its emotional connection strongly enough some brands have a huge emotional potential, which is not fully exploited by its

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marketers. Of itself, engagement will not drive sales it brains were scanned during both a blind and a branded has to be supported by a good offer, deals and availability. test of Coke vs. Pepsi. In the blind test, Pepsi was preferred, but the result was reversed when responWhere there is low brand engagement, but high brand dents were told which brand they were drinking. Thus share, it may be because the brand is offering an attraca sensory preference for Pepsi was converted into a tive set of product features, price, deals, etc., but is not preference for Coke once branding was known. Brain creating engagement with its customers. Brands can imaging (via fMRI) showed that knowledge of Coke buy market share through, for example, deals and branding activated areas of the brain associated with promotion but real engagement is harder to achieve emotional judgement, whilst knowledge of Pepsi had and may require sustained communications activity to no corresponding effect. co-create an attractive brand. Brain imaging told us which parts of the brain were The high correlation observed between metaphoric engaged in different tasks and judgements, but did not scales and conventional measures provides strong tell us how the emotional brand choice was made. evidence for the neural theory of metaphor, and also Neural metaphor theory would explain it in terms of suggests that metaphoric scales might be employed the activation of a connection across two domains: universally, across cultures to both measure engagement sensory (taste) and judgemental (emotional). In other and to predict the success of brands. words, the brand acts as a conceptual metaphor, linking the judgemental and sensory domains to create the It has been observed in some tracking studies that brand warmth improves in response to communications literal meaning in the unconscious mind that Coke tastes better. In this metaphor, Coke is a representation activity, whilst brand choice remains constant. This suggests that further empirical study of the long-term of superior taste, which activates a subjective emotional judgement capable of overruling sensory information to relationship between these two variables is required, particularly with respect to causal sequence and time- the contrary. It is not just that people think Coke tastes better, it actually does taste better. lag effects. SEEING BRANDS AS METAPHORS Brands are metaphors, because they are representative of a sensory experience, not a literal description of that experience. Products are literal, but brands are metaphoric because they are a mental image representing the experience of the product. Brands go beyond language because they are powerful conceptual metaphors created by the conflation of imagery and product experience. Product experience and brand experience are often difficult to pull apart: you may like a brand of cola, or you may like its taste, but the two experiences may be undifferentiated (i.e. conflated) in your mind. Yet one is about subjective judgement (emotion); the other about the (sensory) experience of the product or service. There is a famous U.S. neuromarketing experiment, conducted by McClure et al (2004), in which respondents
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The so-called objective reality is that Pepsi has a taste preference over Coke: people prefer the Pepsi stuff to Coke stuff. Yet the exposure of the brand produces the equally observable hard fact that the same product in a Coke wrapper is preferred to Pepsi in its wrapper. Why? Because the emotions evoked by the Coke brand wrapper have overridden the sensory preference in the consumers brain. If we accept that brands are metaphors, not objective truths, then our approach to measuring them will change. There are no rational or emotional judgements, only judgements; and there is no such thing as an objective consumer benefit, only the benefit that the consumer sees. Brands are not objective realities: they are bundles of value judgements, made by individual consumers.

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FINALLY Neuroscience tells us that the unconscious power of emotion, operating through somatic markers, drives the consumers decision-making processes. The implications are far reaching for both marketing and marketing research. Firstly, if we are unaware of all we know, then the contents of our conscious mind will not reveal what we actually do know about brands and advertising. Secondly, to understand brands, we must go beyond reason and enter the world of emotion, the world of engagement. Most conventional approaches to measuring emotional engagement fail, because neither we, nor an observer, can experience the invisible operations of the unconscious mind. Because our conscious mind provides only clues to the existence of these forces, it is always tempting to dig ever deeper, via qualitative research, or to dispense with conventional measurement altogether by taking the route of neuromarketing. But neither projective techniques nor brain imaging provide the answers, because all they do is remove the subjective element from observation, not from interpretation of the data. Cognitive linguistics tells us that what people bring (imaginatively) to mind is not arbitrary, nor independent of their emotions; rather, it is a form of embodied reason, driven by the emotions that individuals attach to certain images and concepts. Metaphors offer a window on this process because, in the unconscious mind, metaphors have literal meaning, which connects emotion with experience. Metaphoric scales may, therefore, provide an insight denied to conventional measures, which do not provide as direct a route into emotion as metaphor. It is ironic that marketers inhabit a world of imagination and metaphor yet so easily default to prosaic and literal means of measuring it. The high correlation observed between metaphoric scales and brand choice provides strong evidence for the neural theory of (primary) metaphor, and also suggests that metaphoric scales might be employed universally, across cultures, to measure brand engagement. The new world of engagement and metaphor draws from neuroscience (and from the East)
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and puts emotion at the heart of brand communications research.


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Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. (1999). Philosophy In The Flesh. Basic Books, New York, NY. Lawes, Rachel. (2002). Demystifying Semiotics: Some Key Questions Answered. International Journal of Marketing Research, Quarter 3, 2002. Le Doux, Joseph. (2002). Synaptic Self. Penguin Books, London. Le Doux, Joseph. (1996). The Emotional Brain. Touchstone, Simon and Schuster New York. Marsden, Paul; Samson, Alain; Upton, Neville. (2005). Advocacy Drives Growth. London School of Economics. Mast, Fred and Zaltman, Gerald. (2006). Anatomy of Engagement in Definitions about the Anatomy of Engagement, The 52nd ARF Convention, 2006. Mc Clure, Samuel M; Li, Jian; Tomlin, Damon; Cypert, Kim S; Montague, Latane, M. and Montague, P. Read. (2004). Neural Correlates of Behavioural Preference for Culturally Familiar Drinks. Neuron, Vol. 44, 379-387. Cell Press. Narayanan, Srini. (1997). Embodiment in Language Understanding: Sensory Motor Representations for Metaphoric Reasoning About event Descriptions. Ph.D. Dissertation, Dept of Computer Science, University of California, Berkeley. Page, Graham and Raymond, Jane. (2006). Cognitive Neuroscience, Marketing and Research, ESOMAR Congress. Penn, David. (2006). Looking for the Emotional Unconscious in Advertising. International Journal of Market Research, Quarter 3. Rose, Steven. (2005). The 21st Century Brain. Jonathan Cape, London. Singerland, Edward G. (2005). Conceptual Blending, Somatic Marking and Normativity. Cognitive Linguistics 16-3. Pages 557-564 Thompson, C. (2003). Theres a Sucker born in Every Medial Prefrontal Cortex, New York Times, October 26th, 2003. Zaltman, Gerald. (2003). How Customers Think. Harvard Business Press, Boston.

The Author David Penn is Managing Director, Conquest Research Ltd, United Kingdom.

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