Brand choice is driven primarily by emotion and feeling. People don’t make brand choices based on logical, persuasive marketing arguments (as many in our industry still like to believe), rather the more you feel for a brand, the more likely you are to buy it. But is this equally true for all product categories?

By now we should all know that people tend to choose brands quickly– using their intuitive brains – rather than slowly, methodically and rationally using their deliberative brains. Fast thinking, our instinctive and emotional response to a brand, guides our purchase decisions. But does this imply that our deliberative thought has no influence on the purchase decision at all?

If nothing else, there are product categories where people do seem to think it is important to check out the comparative merits of different brands. A quick look at differences between categories in BrandZ finds that people are far more likely to research or shop online for some product categories than others. The mere act of researching something online implies a degree of deliberation.

When it comes to choosing a bank, I suspect few of us would be content to make a decision based purely on gut feel. In fact, most people do report that they research choices online, ask friends and colleagues for advice, check out rates and fees and so on. In other words, they deliberate on their decision. Even in the supermarket people are forced to make decisions occasionally, for instance, buying for a different need or occasion, someone else, or their habitual choice is out of stock. Even the obvious impact of price promotions suggests that a proportion of people are paying attention to the alternatives available to them and not just buying purely on instinct and habit.

Returning to banking it is possible that people will simply go with the brand for which they have the strongest affinity, but my suspicion is that many will want some proof that they are making the right choice. Santander in the UK called their new 123 Current Account a “blockbuster product” precisely because it gave people a reason to think again about why they might choose Santander. If they had not done so, the bank’s previous poor reputation would have prevented many people choosing it.

Santander needed some credible reason for people to change their attitude toward the brand. I doubt very much that people remembered much about the new account beyond the fact that it paid them money back if they paid their utility bills online but that was enough to get them thinking ‘I better check it out’. Would their subsequent investigation be independent of their emotional response? Absolutely not. But without that initial challenge I doubt people would have included Santander in their consideration set. And besides, academic evidence suggests that if people have an easy rationale for why they made a choice they will be more satisfied with it than if they cannot easily explain their decision.

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