– Coke is just soda. Tylenol is just acetaminophen. And Levi's are just jeans. Yet consumers go out of their way to select these specific
brands over others. – An economist would say, "How is this possible, that a rational consumer
would be willing to pay more for exactly the same thing?" We love to think about
ourselves as rational. That's not how it works. A very famous study done by
colleagues at Duke University flashed either the Apple
logo or the IBM logo to two randomized groups of participants. – The study found that after being subliminally exposed to the Apple logo, compared to when you'd been exposed to the IBM logo, participants performed
better on creative tasks. – And the argument is that
Apple has been telling you this story over and over again, that Apple is the brand for
hip, cool, fun, creative people.
– This is the true power of brands. They can influence our behavior in ways that extend way beyond the point of sale. So to what degree can
the influence of brands wreak havoc on our ability to make rational spending decisions? This is your brain on money. This is Americus Reed. He studies identity and marketing at the University of Pennsylvania. When I make choices
about different brands, I'm choosing to create an identity. When I put that shirt on, when I put those shoes
on, those jeans, that hat, someone is going to form an
impression about what I'm about. So if I'm choosing Nike over Under Armour, I'm choosing a kind of
different way to express affiliation with sport. The Nike thing is about performance.
The Under Armour thing
is about the underdog. I have to choose which of these different conceptual pathways is most consistent with
where I am in my life. – And once a consumer makes that choice, their relationship with a
brand can deepen to the point where they identify with
that brand like family. And once you identify with a brand, it can shape the way you behave. – And it's really interesting
because they will also, if someone talks bad about that
product, brand, or service, they will be the first
to go out and defend.
Why? Because an attack on the brand
is an attack on themselves. – Michael Platt is a professor of neuroscience, marketing, and psychology whose research demonstrates how our perception of brands
influences our decisions. – There's an idea in
marketing, which is that we relate to brands in the
same way we relate to people. It's like, "I love this brand,"
or, "I hate this brand." Of course, what people
say, right, can often be different from what's really
going on in their heads. So we thought, "Well, why don't we just ask the brain directly?" – Michael and his team
observed the brains of iPhone users and Samsung Galaxy
users with an MRI machine while they heard good,
bad, and neutral news about Apple and Samsung. – Apple customers showed a brain empathy response toward Apple that was exactly what you'd see
in the way you would respond to somebody in your own family. – Strangely, Samsung users didn't have any positive
or negative responses when good or bad news was
released about their brand. The only evidence that Samsung users showed was reverse empathy for Apple news.
Meaning if the Apple
headline was negative, their brain reflected a positive response. – You know, it really shows us that Apple has completely
defined the market here. Samsung customers, it seems,
from their brain data, are only buying Samsung
'cause they hate Apple. – The kicker? The Samsung users didn't report feeling the results their MRIs showed. What was happening in their brains and what they reported feeling
towards Apple and Samsung, were totally different. – Most people just don't realize that they are subconsciously
choosing brands because those brands have some kind of self-expressive value. – You can see there's a lot of power here in terms of shaping consumers' decisions. As we learn more and more about that, we have to think much more deeply about the ethical, legal, and societal
implications of doing that. – So, as consumers, what can we do to make informed choices? Well, the best thing we can do is to be aware of the influence
that brands hold. – I think it's important to always pause and think a little bit about, "Okay, why am I buying this product?" – And like it or not, brands aren't going anywhere.
– I've heard lots of people push back and say that, "I'm not into brands." I take a very different view. They're not doing anything
any different than what someone who affiliates
with a brand is doing. They have a brand, it's
just an anti-brand brand. And I think about, what is it that I've learned
about identity over time? I think a lot of it has to do with the fundamental need
that we as humans have to have support systems. Perhaps it was the church,
it was the community, it was these other
institutions that existed. Now, brands have stepped in
as pillars of our identity. So I'm very much motivated to see that in that positive light.