Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why We Hate Change


The horrors of New Coke have not been easy for the American public to forget. We do not handle change well, especially when it comes to the brands that we've been conditioned to love. But did New Coke really taste that bad? And likewise, is the new Yahoo! logo really that atrocious? And is iOS7 really the flaming train wreck of a redesign that some folks are making it out to be? Or is the problem not within the product, but rather, within ourselves? 

What's in a Brand?

The modern world is dominated by brands. Defined by the American Marketing Association as the "name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's product distinct from those of other sellers," brands got their start as a means of determining cattle ownership. Unique identifying marks were burned—or branded—onto the animals' hides with hot irons, and the tradition soon spread to all areas of commerce. 

But brands don't just tell us that we're drinking Coke instead of Pepsi or reading Gizmodo rather than the Verge. They represent all the associated feelings and emotions we have with the product, sort of our overall concept of the brand. So, for example, think of the brands Microsoft and Apple. Just mentioning the company names is likely to dredge up a slew of positive (or negative) feelings, memories, and associations you have with those brands that, when taken as a whole, constitute the brand concept. This, as Norman H. Anderson argues in the Foundations of Information Integration Theory, is the result of both multi-sensory perception—how the product tastes, smells, feels, etc—and a bit of cognitive algebra that involves trying to make sense of these data inputs. "Emotional branding," as the practice is known, is far more potent than simply pointing out categorical differences between your product and a competitor's.
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