Our knowledge and understanding of the human brain has dramatically increased in the last few decades. We have come to learn that our behavior is mainly driven by emotion, not by rational decision-making processes.

Any modern psychology literature never uses the words ‘human’ and ‘rational’ in the same sentence. However, in the marketing world we still believe human beings are rational. They process through purchase funnels, rational triggers will change their behavior, whole campaigns are designed around the false construct of rational, human behavior.

It’s time to throw the idea of rational humans in the trash.

Let’s face it: We are emotional and social creatures. Even the head of chemistry at your closest college is. The head of IT. Everyone one of us is an emotional and social being. All our decisions are emotional, we just justify them rationally. That’s why focus groups are such a nonsense: We are incredibly good in making up stories to explain behavior. It’s not an outright lie. We just don’t know ourselves why we act the way we do. We don’t have the key to access the real reason behind our behavior – the subconscious mind.

We still focus on distinguishing between rational and emotional factors in communication development.

We act as if our two brain hemispheres are two brains: one is the emotional side, the other one the rational part. And we believe that emotion translates into brand affinity and rational factors into the final purchase decision. That’s why we get bombarded all day long with rational messages. Messages that don’t connect with us on a human basis.

And while we duck and dive, hide from snipers we call commercials and IEDs we call disruptive messages, we are longing for meaning. We’re starved for meaning.

This is an opportunity for brands that understand this reality and dare to be different.

People wants something different, something that stands out, connects with us, moves us and inspires us. While we see an advent in the art of storytelling, advertising is increasingly dominated by quants and algorithms. It’s almost impossible to tell a good story when the quants are trying to run the show.

A good story is always true.

We all want a good story to be true. That’s why gossip, rumors and conspiracy theories spread so quickly.

Stories don’t need proof of verification. When a story is well told, communicates inspiration and is interesting, it gains credibility and authenticity over time. We don’t question good stories, we love to listen to them and are saddened when they end. Just to hear more good stories.

Brand story telling requires time and continuity.

And it requires commitment, dedication and a long-term view. For most brands it means they have to break out of the rationality restraint and develop evocative and engaging stories based on brand philosophy and belief.

A great story takes time to unfold. You can’t fully enjoy “War and Peace” without reading the first 200 pages. Brands need to be willing to show the same patience while their brand story unfolds. Communicate cues that will come to a conclusion over time. All the clues, characters and chapters create a meaning we all so desperately seek. When we find meaning, it fills us with a sense of fulfillment and connects us closer to a brand. That’s what brands should be doing now.

What does it take?


The courage to be honest with ourselves.

We’re not rational beings.

We’re emotional creatures.

Our industry has to move away from our obsession to hold onto logic and reason.

Let’s show some real courage.

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