Brand Brain

How do you get children to eat their vegetables and drink their milk?

According to Yale professor of psychology and cognitive science, Paul Bloom, you just tell them “it’s from McDonalds.”  If you were lucky enough to have been driving your kid to softball practice this past Mother’s Day, you may have caught his interview on Ted Radio.

During this 12-minute conversation about what we like and why, Bloom explains why wine really does taste better when it is poured from an expensive bottle. His research into the power of branding reveals that human beings are “essentialists” obsessed with origin and history, and swayed by our beliefs about the hidden essences of the brands we prefer.

The discussion about the power and value of brands is particularly salient when you are working for an industry facing unprecedented challenges from generic competition. After listening to Bloom’s talk, I began to understand how “origins” can play an even more central role in the narrative for branded medicines. Conversely, the origin narrative also has a role in the generics business, where the terms generic and counterfeit are often used interchangeably.

I recently had a chance to try and understand French attitudes toward generic drugs and was surprised to find that the French take a particularly dim view of generic medication. In light of Paul Bloom’s discussion, this makes sense when you understand the French as the ultimate essentialists. After all, champagne, haute cuisine, haute couture, and parfume were all invented in France. Much of French culture is based on the ability of the French to discern and cultivate the exquisite nature of things and turn products into the most coveted—not to mention the most knocked-off—brands in the world. It is no wonder they have no patience for what they see as “fakes,” especially when it comes to medicine.

– Alexandra von Plato, President, Global Chief Creative Officer, Digitas Health LifeBrands