The content in the Brand Psychology and Audience Engagement certificate delivers broadly applicable skills based on current research and theories across the fields of psychology and neuroscience.  We designed the two core courses, Brand Psychology and Social Storytelling and Audience Engagement through Persona Development, to fit together to cover the continuum of skills you need to create and deliver effective and persuasive messaging and engaging media experiences.

Understanding brands as values-based social contract

Brand psychology looks at brands as symbols of meaning.  Brands are narrative representations of expectations, beliefs and assumptions that live in the mind of the consumer.  We will examine some of the theories that influence how people perceive brand messages and the brands themselves, such as personality, identity, needs and goals, cognitive processes and biases, mental models and schemas.

We will also look at how the term ‘brand’ in this symbolic sense as a distillation of meaning, is equally applicable to product and brand marketing, nonprofit organizations’ quest to expand donor support, a political candidate’s run for office, or a public policy debate.  Whenever we use the term brand, we mean it broadly, including any idea–whether it’s beer, a movie franchise or a public awareness campaign, that you are trying to encapsulate and transmit.  When we say ‘consumer,’ we mean the recipient of the message, whether it’s a potential donor, customer or community member.

Analyzing brand meaning and capturing core values in story

Storytelling is a buzzword in marketing these days.  As we all know, storytelling is not new.  We look at the role of story as fundamental to how people navigate the world, how they make sense of themselves and others.  Storytelling is what we do every time we explain how or why something happened, every time we have a social interaction and every time we plan or project into the future.  Narrative psychology has a rich history that includes personality theory and motivations for behavior change.

Narrative theory, on the other hand, is about the structure of narrative.  The ways we think about the boundaries of a story and the elements that a story creates, such as heroes and villains or challenges and struggles.  We will look at the psychologist Jerome Bruner’s narrative theory and mythologist Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey as useful tools in thinking about building a powerful story.

Matching brand story to universal archetypes and metaphors

Since brands have meanings that existing within the customer’s brains, all communicators face the same challenge: how to tell a brand story in a way that is consistent internally, but is also ‘heard’ as it is intended by the consumer.  This means identifying the core values within the brand message.

As we will see in story structure, narrative uses many devices to transmit information effectively.  These include metaphors and similes that trigger larger meaning through the audience’s existing knowledge.  These tend to be culturally embedded and experiential.

Archetypes, however, drawing on work by the psychologist Carl Jung, is a fundamental model or pattern.  Jung believed, and much research supports, the idea that there are universal models or patterns that we all recognize and that appear within every culture.  For Jung, these were part of a collectively inherited unconscious that is universally present in all individuals.  Because archetypes capture core patterns that evoke emotion, image and cognitive understanding, they are an effective way to approach brand development.  Identifying a core archetype is a valuable exercise to clarify both messaging and action.

See also
Psychology of Story or
Audiences & Personas
for a brief discussion of other topics addressed in the certificate program.