In the Ape studio, like hundreds more, a cuppa is made almost exclusively to enable the dunking of a biscuit. If the biscuit tin is empty, then it’s a quick dash to the local supermarket where the System One (Limbic System) side of the brain kicks in.

System One is trained to act on intuition and emotion, it’s the first to say yes, to jump to conclusions and is mostly in charge of what we pick off the shelf and put in our basket. It also makes sure nobody ever leaves for biscuits and comes back empty handed.

Then there are other points of purchase, where it’s an investment, like a TV. Our System One has already recognised that it’s nice and shiny and that life is better with a bigger screen. We then gather more information (price, quality, sound, other features), weigh up the decision (what are the winners and losers, maybe ask a few friends), make the purchase, and see how it performs.

This is our System Two (Prefrontal Cortex) side of the brain. It’s patient, has a good concentration, taps into constructive thoughts and helps us behave responsibly. I like to think of the two sides as the chatty little angel and devil characters that mess with your decision making. We’ve all seen the cartoons. You can decide which one’s which.

Although these two sides will always exist (thankfully), the driver behind the decision making is evolving. As consumers, we’re becoming more and more aware of the impact we, as a society, are having on the planet and we want to feel engaged and empowered to do something positive about it. We want something to believe in.

This isn’t new. Roy Disney (Walts older brother) said it a long time ago, ‘It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.’

Come back to the present day and Alan Pope, Unilever CEO says that sustainable living brands grew 69% faster than the rest of Unilever’s businesses in 2018. He goes on to say that ‘companies with purpose last, brands with purpose grow and people with purpose thrive’. In fact brands with purpose are delivering 75% of Unilever’s overall growth.

Even Marmite’s getting a deeper sense of purpose that goes beyond its genericised ‘love-it-or-hate-it’ strapline. I ‘hate’ it, by the way.

Where System Two has previously been driven by rationalised, reasoned and recognised need, 65% of consumers now claim they are buying on the basis of their beliefs. Not only that, but Google says that consumers often make up their mind on a product before even walking into the store.

With Amazon, Google, Youtube and just about all retailers offering customer reviews and demos like never before, the product review can make or break shoppers’ decisions.

I’m guilty of checking reviews for everything from TVs to toothpaste. It’s word of mouth in digital form (Google calls this the Zero Moment of Truth). More than ever, consumers are looking for brands to satisfy their beliefs, and it has to come beaming with golden yellow stars or we’re walking.

So how do you help your brand to do more than just look good on the review dancefloor?

Being a challenger brand means that you recognise a problem and your belief system is based on trying to fix that problem. Success as a challenger brand comes from a clear definition of who you are and where you stand as a business. And that all starts with the belief system that the brand is built around.

Toms OneForOne

Toms shoes, for example, are challenging the relationship with how consumers buy and wear shoes with a simple one-for-one strategy: you buy their shoes and they’ll give a free pair away to someone who needs them. What’s the belief that drives them? That they can improve people’s lives through business. Consumers aligned with their belief so quickly that by the end of their first summer, Toms had sold 10,000 pairs of shoes. Today, they give shoes to children in over 70 countries, totalling over 60 million pairs of shoes; and are expanding into Toms Eyewear and clean water. Good job Toms.

But it’s not enough to have a standalone belief system, it should be part of everything you do and the culture you build your business on. Take Tony’s Chocoloney, they’re on a mission for 100% slave-free chocolate. They have a single minded purpose which helps focus on their goal and they’ve built a culture around that goal to inspire and fuel their team. From free trainers for employees, bonuses for managing your BMI or having a baby (and extra if you call it Tony!), to personal and strategic Monday check-ins. It shows they’re serious about people. It shows their belief. And people like them. How can you not? In just 8 years, Tony’s has grown to £44.9m in annual sales without advertising. We’re big fans, we even got a selfie with them.


Who’d have thought toilet humour could be so powerful? Who Gives a Crap make toilet paper and give 50% of profits away to help more people have access to clean toilets. They were appalled to learn that 40% of the world’s population don’t have access to a toilet and the effects that poor water and sanitation were having. They created a brand to help tackle that. They’ve donated £1.4m to charities and by using only sustainable and climate friendly materials they’ve saved water, trees and energy.

Knowing that you’re working out the wrongs of the world and having a way to fix them on behalf of the consumer will fuel the relentlessness to drive your brand. Not only will consumers respect brands who are true to their values, but they’ll also recognise brands that align with their beliefs and will follow and promote them. Hello gold stars.

Brands need to give the System Two part of the brain something to believe in. They need to be a brand that consumers trust, that’s aligned with their beliefs and values, happy to talk about, like, go back to and impulsively pick up from the shelf. Nothing less will do.