ImageYes, yes, yesterday was the big day for contemplating the Virgin Birth, but we thought we'd nonetheless share a little something religious with you today. Even better, something religious and branding-related. According to an item in the Oct. 27 issue of Newsweek entitled "Forgive Me, Pepsi, For I Have Sinned," our devotion to our favorite brands — Constant Comment tea, for instance — is akin to religious devotion.

Writer Lisa Miller provides insight into a three-year, $7 million study in which "marketing guru" Martin Lindstrom demonstrates via fMRI that "your preference for Macs over PCs is embedded in your brain circuitry." Furthermore, per Miller, Lindstrom reports (in his book Buyology): "The same areas of the brain 'lit up' when people looked at religious symbols — the Virgin Mary, for example — as when they looked at strong brands, like the iPod."

We're not down with all of this article's findings. For starters, I happen to own a PC and a Mac. What does that say about my brain chemistry?

Moreover, Miller concludes: "The most successful brands ... stimulate the brain's emotional centers in a positive way — a lot like religion. They create community, rituals and a common adversary. Coke Zero, says Lindstrom, succeeds because it poses as an enemy to its sugary sibling, Coke." I understand how certain popular brands create community and rituals, but a common adversary? Most viewers of the Coke Zero vs. Coke ads understand that this is a tongue-in-cheek rivalry

"The same areas of the brain 'lit up' when people looked at religious symbols as when they looked at strong brands."
(even Miller uses the word "poses" to describe the artificial antagonism) and that these separate products effectively comprise a single brand. If that's true, consumers' apprehension of the campaign is filtered by irony, which is essentially the opposite of religious belief. That's not to say popping open an icy can on a hot day can't be an ecstatic experience. But this particular gospel of branding could stand a little more time in the seminary.

And then there's my PC and my Mac, which seem to coexist rather comfortably here at EE HQ — who's the villain in that drama?

This carping aside, Lindstrom raises some intriguing possibilities. Will focus groups eventually give way to brain-scan groups? Will market researchers one day be able to claim zero margin of error? Will we finally have an answer to Freud's question "What do women want?" (without having to ask them or believe them if they answer)? We've got nothing but questions. If you've got answers, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it