We all know just how important emotional engagement is to a brand’s success. New tools which better identify and measure the nature and degree of a brand’s emotional attachment versus more rational brand take-outs/beliefs are needed.

Ford did!

In the UK, arnold&bolingbroke was commissioned by Ford of Europe to deliver an appraisal of its automotive brand, over time – one that would identify the degree of emotional attachment versus more rational brand takeout/beliefs for Ford the brand and its nameplates, in isolation and versus key competition.

This was needed as input to a repositioning plan to ensure the brand was as relevant as possible to the defined target markets.

Using streaming techniques we captured the spontaneous, top of mind, unorganised feedback – the ‘episodic’ thoughts about Ford (and key competitors). This meandering dialogue provided a rich tapestry of imagery, driver associations, memories and other connections. This was supported by traditional questioning techniques.

The streaming provided a profound clarity to the issues identified in the traditional measures. Through these insights, we identified clear opportunities and delivered focussed communications strategies to better balance emotional and rational brand perceptions.

What exactly is ‘streaming’ and StreamVerb© ?

StreamVerb© andStreaming’ is our shorthand for Stream of Consciousness interviewing.

In its simplest form this involves little more than showing something to someone – like an ad – or asking them a simple question about a brand and encouraging them to talk, in any way they like about the thing… an open discourse, a top of mind stream of consciousness. No prompting. No probing. No chastising if they seemingly meander off the direct issue. 

Why Stream?

Contemporary understanding of how the brain works and, specifically how it protects itself from message overload, suggests that a top of mind ‘filter’ is used to recognise and gate-keep incoming messages. The brain filters by constantly processing at a low level. It is continuously looking for signals that must be paid attention to.

Advertising and brand messages are things that have to fight for attention and share of mind. The things that get through are those that have already been identified as being worthwhile or things that engage because they ring a familiar bell or engage because they offer up something that is deemed to be worth absorbing, or things that are not on a mental black-list that engage enough to be considered for more detailed processing.

You can learn a huge amount about what really matters to someone by asking them just to talk about the subject in their own words and then by analysing what they say and mean in some depth after. Brands and advertising live in this world.

So it is the spontaneous, top of mind, unorganised feedback – the so called episodic thought that we need – the stuff that just pops into mind, the series of impressions and cognitive connections one takes out of a piece of communication, the key fragments that we actually use to construct any ‘picture’ of anything…

Being about the totally spontaneous means not being biased in a particular direction/to a particular way of thinking about things. So you get a truer picture of the real feelings that a person has, which gives a brand owner (or communications manager) a clearer view of what needs to be said, told or done to achieve positive change in the brand.

Different to a traditional ‘open ended’ question

Unlike a regular open-ended question, we actively ask for a lot of information. We actively give permission to the participant to go on a spontaneous journey of their own making around the brand or communication piece. We essentially encourage meandering, Within this framework there are no probes, no prompts, no “why do you say that” follow-ups.

What’s the advantage?

Martin Heisenberg suggested that there is advantage in minimal intervention. His thesis was that the very act of trying to measure something changes the nature of the thing one is trying to measure.

We believe it is important to let people express themselves in their own words and their own terms from absolutely minimal guidance if one is to gain a proper understanding – otherwise, the danger is that we feed people possible answers for them to pick from that may not have anything at all to do with what really matters to them. People can have a good think about things and come up with a reason/set of answers for what and why they think what they do.

And they will do this if you give them the time and the space to do so because human nature demands that adults have neat and tidy rationalised thoughts.


To learn how a&b can add value to your organisation’s marketing and business strategy, contact us:

+61 (2) 8227-5400