Most people prefer the taste of Pepsi over Coca Cola yet more people buy Coke over Pepsi. Why?
The article below looks at the science behind branding and why your brain is more powerful than your taste.
Read Montague, Director of the Human Neuroimaging Lab at Baylor College of Medicine, has now provided proof that branding plays with our brains.
Last year he decided to repeat the Pepsi Challenge, but scan the activity of the brain at the same time. Using a non-invasive technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the scans reveal which parts of the brain are active in real time.
When Montague gave a taste of an unnamed soda to his volunteers he found that more people preferred Pepsi. On the scan images the ventral putamen, one of the brain’s reward centers, had a response that was five times stronger than for people who preferred Coke.
The shock came when Read repeated the experiment, this time telling volunteers which brand they were tasting.
Nearly all the subjects then said they preferred the Coke. Moreover, different parts of the brain fired as well, especially the medial prefrontal cortex, an area associated with thinking and judging. Without a doubt the subjects were letting their experience of the Coke brand influence their preferences.
The work of Montague and other studies prove that branding goes far beyond images and memory recall. The medial prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain known to be involved in our sense of self. It fires in response to something — an image, name or concept — that resonates with who we are. Something clicks, and we are more likely to buy.
Update. This article, sent over from a friend, further explains it. In the email, my friend wrote: “People prefer sips of Pepsi because it’s sweeter, but no one drinks just one sip when they make a beverage choice.” And he’s absolutely right. When you’re drinking a full can, people prefer Coke because many people just find Pepsi too sweet.