Trimodal theory and brand interaction

I have long been interested in the the way we understand brands on two levels – the pragmatic or declarative knowledge level (accessible via high input cortical processing) and the emotional knowledge level (low input processing). These levels really deal with the epistemology and ontology of brands, but when we look at how we interact with brands in the real world, we see a trimodal model: we interact with brands on both pragmatic and emotional levels, but also on physical or physiological levels.

For example, when I am shopping for a product I am making conscious decisions about my brand choice based upon my declarative knowledge about the brand, underlying this is my emotional attachment or reaction to the brand, but I am also involved in a physical process, perhaps responding to the appearance or tactile experience of the product, or maybe interacting with the retail environment. Perhaps a classic example of this trimodal model in action is choosing a car – we have emotional, almost sub-conscious understanding of brand values, we analyse pragmatic knowledge about brand and product, then we engage in physical interaction which maybe supports or amends our ontological understanding.

Even working with intangible brands and services, such as financial services, there is a level of physiological level of interaction perhaps through a website or telephone sales, or face to face interactions with a representative or brand steward.

I will avoid the cliche of the Venn diagram this obviously suggests, however the interactions between these three dimensions are critical and fascinating – any brand manager or brand steward should consider each dimensions carefully, and be aware of their relative importance to the brand.


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