Aiming our mental shotguns

Our minds work like shotguns – not like precision rifles. Our thoughts are scattered in a particular direction as opposed to being razor focused on one thing. Fingerprints remind us of detectives. Chennai brings to mind a hot and humid climate. Christmas triggers thoughts about Santa Claus and decorated trees, while Florida reminds us of conservative seniors.

Neurons that fire together wire together.

Advertisers have known this all along. Brands try their best to associate themselves with things we celebrate. Cadbury launches several ads and changes its packaging during the festival of Diwali. Coca Cola had the audacity to be synonymous with “happiness” (and has largely succeeded). When we hear an ad-jingle or see something that resembles a logo, our mind is reminded of a particular brand. This reaction is unconscious.

Teams that build these brands invest a lot of thought on what they mean and what they signal to their customers. They handpick the colours they use, the words they choose and the brand-ambassadors that represent them. A successful brand presents a picture that is coherent in the minds of its customers.

Similarly, people who are coherent with their ideas on what they stand for, have fewer mental conflicts. A person who shows up everyday, is on time, and meets her deadlines signifies consistency, punctuality and professionalism. Being conscientious is to aim one’s mental shotgun and hit the same virtues again and again – the ones that we are proud of. People who invest this effort are comfortable in their own skin.

But the ones who do this are surely a minority. It is surprising how little time we spend thinking about what we represent – to the world as well as to ourselves. I’d reckon we leave money on the table and a hole in our souls by not doing so – holes that a few brands are happy to fill and money that they are happy to pocket.

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