Why your brand should embrace irrationality

People will say one thing and do another. They’ll make decisions that seem to defy a logical thought process. Everyone who works with a brand has seen this. People are unpredictable.

Well, not totally unpredictable.

As Dan Ariely has shown us in his excellent book Predictably Irrational, people’s irrational behavior can be predicted. It starts with accepting that we are all creatures whose decisions are driven by emotions.

Early in my career, I ran into product managers who insisted that any brand communications we created needed to be straightforward. “Just give them the facts” was the mantra.

Being young, I thought that maybe that’s just what you did with certain audiences. It didn’t feel right in my gut. But, hey, what did I know? I was just a young guy.

Should have trusted my gut.

Those efforts were lackluster at best, leading to a reevaluation of the whole brand/marketing program.

Looking back, it makes sense why these managers drove everything to the rational. Human motivations are driven by emotions. Which means they can seem fuzzy and messy. That can be uncomfortable territory for some. So it’s easier to fall back into what feels safe — all the rational data points and the features and functions.

Unfortunately, defaulting to the rational explanation does nothing to help our decision-making (a.k.a. purchasing) process. We make decisions with the emotional part of our brains which, by the way, has no capacity for language. That’s handled over in the rational part of our brains. The part of the brain that justifies our decisions (and puts words to them) after we make those decisions.

For more on this phenomenon, check out Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk. And for a deeper dive, look into the work of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio and the behavioral economics work of Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman.

The fact is, no matter how rational we think we might be, emotions drive what we do. The sooner a brand embraces this, the sooner it begins to gain our attention, win our loyalty, and even spur our advocacy.

This is why authentically purpose-driven brands have demonstrated such impressive success. Nothing touches our emotions like knowing we are engaging with a brand that is dedicated to making a difference in a life, a community, or even the world (I call it your brand’s Big Audacious Meaning). Clarifying a purpose is like creating a super-charged conduit into our emotional, decision-making epicenter.

Embracing irrationality won’t always be easy. It can be uncomfortable to that hyper-rational, Mr. Spock-like part of ourselves that would consider it all too illogical. But the fact is that it’s how all of us humans are wired. So if it all starts to make you feel uncomfortable, you should take that as a sign that you’re on to something.

Something irresistibly irrational.

Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail — a brand innovation company, helping organizations find their unique, undeniable, and unshakable sense of purpose and create innovative experiences that bring it to life.

Originally published at https://www.dansalva.com on March 4, 2021.

Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail.

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