Laura Petrolino

Categorization, Justification, and Your Brand Message

By: Laura Petrolino | September 19, 2016 | 
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Categorization, Justification, and Your Brand MessageBy Laura Petrolino

Does your brand message appeal to your consumer’s natural human tendencies?

Does it trigger the right emotions and metal processes to convert consumers into buyers?

While every brand is different, and every consumer group has their own likes, dislikes, and motivations, a few human tendencies stay consistent throughout. Knowing them can help us craft an effective brand message.

The Five Second Rule

Earlier this week the news was all a buzz with a new study that came out in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, which informed us the “five second rule” of food safety was a vast oversimplification of microbiology.

Well, duh!

Now, I’m not a microbiologist, but I’m pretty sure anyone who has had even the smallest amount of elementary school science could have come to that conclusion, however reluctantly.

The truth is, the five second rule appeals to many of our basic mental and emotional processing needs—and that’s why, even though deep down we’ve always known better—we still use it to justify consuming food that’s been dropped on the floor.

Now, this post isn’t to shame you into surrendering dropped food to the dog or disposal—but instead to use the five second rule as an example to show some of the human tendencies we, as communicators, should be aware of when producing our own brand message.

Categorization and Your Brand Message

As humans we like to categorize things.

In fact, we don’t just like it, it’s a basic human need.

It helps us process the things we see, hear, and analyze. It is also why we have a tendency to develop stereotypes and prejudice.

Our brains are most comfortable when not faced with ambiguity, so we look for quick and consistent answers.

Unfortunately, that does not align well with the natural entropy of the world we live in. So sometimes we find ways to classify things, events, or people, which might not actually be accurate or effective—but simply help us fulfill that need.

The five-second rule does just that. When you drop food on the floor normally you want to be able to determine immediately if it’s edible. You don’t have a microbiology lab with you at all times, so you want a way to measure edibility and safety. Quickly and easily.

BOOM! Enter five seconds!

Brand Message Lessons

  • Do you provide your consumer a way to classify you or your product? Because if you don’t provide one for them, they’ll make-up one on their own, and it might not be to your advantage.
  • Do you provide a system to help your consumer decide if you are the right choice for their needs?
  • Do you help your consumer evaluate your product or service, and it’s applicability to their needs in a quick and easy way?

Justification and Your Brand Message

I often like to tell a story about how for many, many, many years of my life I sent my laundry out weekly. It would return to me clean, folded, and organized.

It was splendid.

While this wasn’t a free service, I justified it by figuring out my hourly rate, and how much time I’d waste doing my own laundry. I figured out that I was actually LOSING money by doing my own laundry, so the choice was clear.

I’m a pro at justifying why I should pay others to do my house chores for me. Give me any house chore and I can give you at least five different justifications as to why someone needs to be hired to do it.

Likewise, the five second rule gives us the ability to justify consumption of dropped food and that makes it an extremely valuable theory to us.

So whether it be sending out laundry, eating dropped food, buying the latest gadget, or even immoral decisions, justification is a very powerful force in our decision making process.

Brand Message Lessons

  • Do you provide your consumers with the right justification as to why their money is well spent with you?
  • Does your brand message help consumers understand why they need you?
  • Do you appeal to their needs and provide rational reasons why your product or service fills them?

When you provide for the human need to categorize and justify through your brand message and buyers journey, you work within the natural human process we rely on to make decisions.

Many times a consumer wants to choose you, you just don’t give them the opportunity to do so.

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

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