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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Your Brain Have Favorite Brands, Research Suggests

Your brain may be determining what car you buy before you've even taken a test drive. A new study gauging the brain's response to product branding has found that strong brands elicit strong activity in our brains.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"This is the first functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) testexamining the power of brands," says Christine Born, M.D., radiologist atUniversity Hospital, Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany. "Wefound that strong brands activate certain areas of the brain independent ofproduct categories."

"Brain branding" is a novel, interdisciplinary approach to improve the understanding of how the mind perceives and processes brands. Using modernimaging methods, researchers are now able to go beyond marketing surveys and gather information on how the brain responds to a particular brand at the most basic level.

"Brain imaging technologies may complement methods normally used in the developing area of neuroeconomics," Born says.

Born and colleagues used fMRI to study 20 adult men and women. Thevolunteers were all right-handed, had a mean age of 28 years and possesseda high level of education. While in the fMRI scanners, the volunteers werepresented with a series of three-second visual stimuli containing the logos of strong (well-known) and weak (lesser-known) brands of car manufacturers and insurance companies. A brief question was included with each stimulus to evaluate perception of the brand.

The volunteers pressed a button to respond using a four-point scale ranging from "disagree" to "agree strongly." During the sequence, the fMRI acquired images of the brain, depicting areas that activated in response to the different stimuli. Inaddition to the questions asked during the scanning, the volunteers weregiven questionnaires prior and subsequent to fMRI.

The results showed that strong brands activated a network of corticalareas and areas involved in positive emotional processing and associatedwith self-identification and rewards. The activation pattern wasindependent of the category of the product or the service being offered. Furthermore, strong brands were processed with less effort on the part ofthe brain. Weak brands showed higher levels of activation in areas ofworking memory and negative emotional response.

Born believes that this research will be used as a benchmark toimprove the understanding of the processing of brand-related information.

"The vision of this research is to better understand the needs ofpeople and to create markets which are more oriented towards satisfactionof those needs," she says. "Research aimed at finding ways to addressindividual needs may contribute to a higher quality of life."


  • Well-known brands activate positive emotional responses in our brains.
  • Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study areas of the brain affected by visual stimuli associated with strong and weak brands.
  • "Brain branding" is an interdisciplinary approach to improve understanding of how the mind perceives and processes brands.

RSNA is an association of more than 40,000 radiologists, radiationoncologists, medical physicists and related scientists committed topromoting excellence in radiology through education and by fosteringresearch, with the ultimate goal of improving patient care. The society is based in Oak Brook, Ill.


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