When Building Brands: Start By Understanding Human Behavior

Why is simplicity the key to building a personal or business brand?  

Although most of us likely take this at face value, many struggle to find the clarity of messaging that makes a brand resonate.

How Do You Build A Brand

In a new article on social PR guru Shonali Burke’s blog, Waxing UnLyrical, "How to Build a Brand:  Start By Asking What Drives Human Behavior", I argue that it is important to understand the drivers of human behavior if you want to build brands that resonate.

Brands Need A Simple Value Proposition

When we take the time to explore how our brains process the world around us and our limited capacity for taking on new information, we are better positioned to understand the need for both simple messages and a clear value proposition.       

The article highlights the importance of these fundamental drivers of behavior in getting to the essence of brand to ensure that we don’t end up like Sisyphus, pushing a rock up a mountain, stuck in an endless struggle against branding gravity – an unseen force preventing you or your client’s brand from taking off.

The Challenge of Brand Simplicity

The article describes the challenge of finding simplicity and the ways in which it manifests itself not only in terms of benefits to communications, but in the ease of telling the brand story.

I draw upon the idea that our brains are wired for efficiency and that we routinize tasks with the goal of making them easier to process. I show how we use language, as an example of the way in which we reduce an idea to its essence. 

Brands Need Strong Value Proposition

I argue that, given all the information we have to deal with, adding more takes work we’d rather not do. So, unless there’s a strong motivation (value benefit) for understanding someone else’s business or brand, we simply won’t put in the effort to engage with it.

Because audiences are invested in their own brands, jobs or businesses, they aren’t necessarily interested in what we do, which often leads to a “this does not compute” moment.

Brand Takeaways  

The article offers a few key takeaways: 

  • A brand is mental shorthand for the complexity that is you as an individual or a company. It makes the complex understandable.
  • For a brand to resonate, the idea it conveys must be as simple and as clear as possible – because audiences have limited bandwidth and interest in taking on new information.
  • When building a brand, if we keep the first two bullets in mind we will be best positioned to distill our communications to their essence.
  • The value proposition of a brand for an audience is key. It’s the reason why they will invest their time and limited bandwidth to understand the brand’s proposition.
  • When we articulate a simple story it is more likely to resonate not only with audiences, but also in the telling. I believe that it’s as important to listen to what feels right, as it is to do research.

So why take the time to think about what’s behind a brand?  To put it simply, if we go beneath the surface to understand the behaviors that make the ideas of simplicity and value so important to brands, we are more likely to embark on the journey to get to its essence.  


Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM 

CommunicationsMatch offers communications & PR agency search tools and resources that help companies find, shortlist, and engage communications, digital marketing and branding agencies, consultants and freelancers by industry and communications expertise, location and size.  The site has 5,000 agency and professional profiles in areas including: crisis communications, public relations, internal communications, government affairs, investor relations, content marketing, social media, SEO, website development, photography and video. Prior to founding CommunicationsMatch, Locke held senior corporate communications roles at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank and founded communications consultancies.


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