Getting To The Brain Of The Matter: Exploring An Untapped Marketing Opportunity

If the heart, the icon of health, were a brand, it would be Coke. Or Google. Or Wal-Mart. So what about the brain? Right now, it’s the off-brand cola getting flat in the vending machine. And that’s not just a modern issue — the brain has a long history of being dissed.

When Egyptians mummified people, they left the heart in the body because they believed it held the person’s intellect. Other organs were removed and placed in special containers called canopic jars. The brain was unceremoniously pulled out through the nose and discarded, according it the same respect due to a particularly troublesome booger.

But that was years ago! Today, the heart and brain would be pretty much tied for the People’s Choice Award, right? Nope. A recent study of AARP members found that “51% find heart health most important while only 37% find brain health most important.” No matter how smart we get, the heart is still the universal symbol of health.



Why is this still true? Marketing. And it could help the brain’s PR as well as boost your bottom line. 

Macy’s sponsors the American Heart Association’s major campaign, "Go Red for Women," and food brands clamor for our attention with the AHA’s Heart-Check Symbol. Diet Coke puts the Heart Truth’s Red Dress logo on six billion packages worldwide each year.

Being “heart-healthy” is obviously healthy for business.

Now, while the heart still rules, marketing tied to brain health has begun to pick up, thanks to a handful of brands … and Hollywood. 

Lumosity has attracted more than 60 million members in more than 180 countries since its launch in 2001. CMO Joshua Duyan says, “Today, health and wellness mean much more than just a balanced diet and physical exercise. It has grown to include other health factors such as sleep patterns, mood, and cognitive performance.” 

CPG companies have also gotten in on the game — especially those focused on kids and Boomers. Horizon says that its milk with DHA Omega-3 “supports brain health.” Enfamil and Flintstone’s vitamins make similar claims. At the other end of the age spectrum is Centrum Silver’s “Fascinating Facts” spot, which gives a shout-out to the importance of brain maintenance.

Brain support is even coming from a brand known for the opposite end of the body: Reebok. Its “Be More Human” campaign launched in January with a section of their site, “Gray Matters,” proclaiming “fitness feeds the human brain.”
Even Hollywood has dollars on the brain. Stories about neurodegenerative brain diseases might not sound like good bets, but Universal and Sony scored big with “The Theory of Everything” and “Still Alice,” respectively. And Disney/Pixar’s “Inside Out” is set entirely in the brain — and has already grossed over $192 million since its opening last month.

The examples above demonstrate how healthy brains can impart as much value to brands as healthy hearts. But this can extend to new target audiences, lead to new product development and become your brand’s next differentiating benefit. Consider: 

Jamba: Energy boosts are great, but where’s our brain boost option? 

Call of Duty: In addition to getting our adrenaline pumping, are you training our brains to be faster processors? 

Bell: Should you take a cue from Reebok and not just protect our noggins but encourage more biking to keep them healthy? 

Rosetta Stone: Learning a second language is one of the best ways to keep those synapses firing. Aren’t you “brain-healthy” in addition to helping people “create a smaller world”? 

Apple: Lots of your devices are “smart” and require less of our brains. What if you encouraged us to literally think different in order to build new neural connections and stay smart ourselves?

It’s time to tap into the potential of what our brands can do for our brains. And if you don’t believe that yet, we have some canopic jars to sell you.

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