Brand Psychosis – Could brands be defined as exhibiting psychotic behaviour?

22Sep09

Here’s a thought. When you perceive a brand is starting to act erratically, out of character, or hear it communicating in a confused manner, do you think it’s trying to reposition itself? Is it being disruptive to grab your attention? Or do you think it is suffering from a psychosis?

Psychosis is described by the medical profession as a loss of contact with reality. It comprises a change in thinking and mood that lead to unexpected and abnormal ideas or behaviour. I wondered if brands could be relevantly diagnosed as being psychotic.

Some of the common attributes used to define psychosis are:

– Confused thinking (exhibiting difficulty in thinking clearly or concentrating, having deranged and confused ideas)

– False beliefs (holding delusional beliefs at odds with rational facts, possibly with signs of paranoia)

– Changed feelings (feeling remote, less emotive or being unusually excited)

– Changed behaviour (perhaps bouts of lethargy or of manic activity, also being prone to anger or laughter without apparent cause. Becoming secretive or fearing they are in danger)

– Hallucinations (sensing things that aren’t there)

As I read through this list, it appeared to me that brands may indeed possibly risk appearing mildly psychotic to consumers; if they exhibit the above behaviours in their marketing communications and customer service.

Many of these behaviours are of course commonly sought out by brand owners, innovation consultants and brand planners; as they seek to gain competitive advantage in launching, repositioning or marketing a brand. Being different and creating positive change in the way people think and behave is of course central to the role of competitive strategy in marketing.

Perhaps there maybe something to learn from measuring the degree of behaviour displayed by a brand that is out of character (psychotic behaviour); particularly when it changes brand positioning or launches a new campaign?

It might be interesting to track how consumer trust, net promoter scores (recommendation) and purchase consideration are affected by a brand that acts in a psychotic manner? Could such brand madness be good, an infectious celebration of difference, rather than a rogue brand screaming incoherently for attention and behaving erratically?

When a brand decides it needs to stop acting like everyone else and be different; there might be a fine line between creating positive disruptive behaviour and creative psychotic behaviour?

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