Brand Awareness

August 1, 2008

Whether you are a Mac person or a PC person, even the briefest exposure to the Apple logo may make you behave more creatively, according to recent research from Duke's Fuqua School of Business and the University of Waterloo in Canada.

In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Gavan Fitzsimons and Tanya Chartrand, both professors of marketing and psychology at Duke, along with a colleague at Waterloo, found that exposure to well-known brands can cause people to behave in ways that mirror those brands' traits. "Each of us is exposed to thousands of brand images every day, most of which are not related to paid advertising," says Fitzsimons.

"We assume that incidental brand exposures do not affect us, but our work demonstrates that even fleeting glimpses of logos can affect us quite dramatically."

assess the effects of brands on behavior, the researchers selected two competing brands, both well respected by consumers, with well-defined brand personalities. "Apple has worked for many years to develop a brand character associated with nonconformity, innovation, and creativity," says Chartrand, "and IBM is viewed by consumers as traditional, smart, and responsible."

The team conducted an experiment in which 341 university students completed what they believed was a visual-acuity task, during which either the Apple or IBM logo was flashed so quickly that they were unaware they had been exposed to the brand logo. The participants then completed a task designed to evaluate how creative they were, listing all of the uses for a brick that they could imagine beyond building a wall.

People who were exposed to the Apple logo generated significantly more unusual uses for the brick compared with those who were primed with the IBM logo, the researchers say. In addition, the unusual uses the Apple-primed participants generated were rated as more creative by independent judges.

The researchers note practical implications of their work for both consumers and marketers. "Instead of spending the majority of their money on traditional print and television advertising," Fitzsimons says, "companies with established brand associations such as Apple may want to give serious consideration to shifting more marketing resources to product placement opportunities and other forms of outreach that emphasize brief brand exposures."