Why Branding Works (Illusion of Truth)

So I was reading an interesting article on cracked.com the other day entitled “5 mind blowing ways your memory plays tricks on you.” That pretty much proves that inspiration can come from anywhere. It’s a great site, but I don’t read it to have realizations about radio. But, there was one statement that caught my attention. In the article they write about real functions of the brain. One in particular lends itself beautifully to advertising, and in specific branding.

The “Illusion of Truth effect” is a well documented theory that shows that people are more likely to believe something that they have heard previously (regardless of whether what they heard is true or not.) Basically, if a person hears something from a source (and ideally multiple sources) it will become truth to them. Furthermore, even when that thought is confronted and proven to be false, people still tend to believe it. We’re stubborn creatures, and we don’t like to believe that we’re capable of being wrong. Time compounds the effect as well. It solidifies your belief system with every passing day that you accept something as fact. We’re all prone to thinking this way, but none of us believe it. That only furthers the likeliness that we will not be dissuaded from our beliefs when we’re shown that we’re wrong. Seriously, try to change someone’s mind once an idea has been cemented by time. It doesn’t have to be a deep ideological belief either. How many times have you been talking to one of your buddies and they say something completely ridiculous? Something that you know is absolutely false? For example, imagine one of your friends was talking about Jim Carrey’s Oscar win. They go on and on about how great and actor he is, and how under-rated he is nowadays, and how much he deserved that Oscar for “The Majestic.” The problem is, you know they’re wrong. Jim Carrey never won an Oscar, and he never will! Before you know it you’re in a big argument over it and you’re scouring the web to prove each other wrong. Now be honest with yourself. How often have you been proven to be the incorrect person? It bugs you right? You can’t imagine yourself being wrong. You’re too smart for that! Well, that’s the basis of why good branding works so well.

Good branding is always based on one solid interesting fact about your business. All too often, that fact isn’t even really true. You should be able to back up your ads, but that’s not always the case. The strangest thing about it is it often doesn’t matter. I’ll give you an example. In Edmonton we’ve heard ads for decades from the Wetaskiwin Auto Traders. Wetaskiwin is a town about 45 minutes outside of the city. They’ve stated for years that “cars cost less in Wetaskiwin.” Ask anyone in Edmonton and they will tell you they have heard that. They’ve been saying it so long that it has become fact for many people. But, it actually isn’t true. You will pay less in Edmonton. This is where the “illusion of truth effect” comes in. People have heard that message for so many years that many believe it without doubt. When they’re ready to buy a car, they’ll make the drive out to Wetaskiwin to see how much they can save. Nobody can convince them that it isn’t the truth because they have heard that message since they were 12.

It works the same way with any branding campaign. Because branding campaigns when done correctly should run for a very very long time (preferably forever.) The longer you run them, the truer your message becomes with your audience. People register things they hear often as true. Your business needs to find your own truth. What do you want people to remember when they hear your name? What do you want them to believe? If you truly want to do well, you need to make it interesting, different, and you really should back it up when they come through the door. You can gain customers with a lie. As we’ve learned, the brain is wired to believe things that are false. But, you’ll go much further if you can deliver on your messages.