Author: Denise Janssen

Denise is a neuroscientist that likes to tickle her brain with out of the box thinking. Her goal is to untangle complex neuromarketing topics to digestible and helpful content.
Pyramid of value – Photo by Holly Stratton

Improve your brand’s worth with the pyramid of value

As a consumer, what are your go-to brands? What do you like about them? Now think of your brand. What do your customers love about it? What gives it an edge over your competitors? These factors determine the value of your brand.

The perceived value of your company is vital to its success. When customers consider buying your product, they ask themselves one fundamental question. Is it worth the money? To make their decision, they weigh the price of the product against the perceived value of the product. Most companies tend to focus on the pricing end of the equation. Prices are tangible and easy to modulate and measure.

In contrast, psychological factors determine the perceived value of a product. Thus, it is harder to grasp. In this article, we explore the elements that define perceived value. We also explain how to harness their marketing power.

The elements of value

Understanding the things that customers value helps in building a successful brand. However, what is considered valuable? A comprehensive marketing study has explored this exact question. Bain & Company collected loads of customer reviews and derived a set of 30 elements of value. The elements fall into four categories:

  1. Functional;
  2. Emotional;
  3. Life changing;
  4. Social impact.

Let’s explore these four categories to get a better understanding of them.


In this category, we find 14 elements that add to the functional and practical nature of a product. One example is the time-saving element. Some companies score high on this element by offering a rush delivery service.


The ten elements belonging to this category have effects on customers’ feelings. They induce positive emotions or prevent a negative state. Take nostalgia, for instance. The Volkswagen Beetle line is an example of successful use of this element.


The five elements in this category help customers achieve goals, such as health, status and motivation. Spotify taps into the motivation element with a feature for runners. It detects a runner’s tempo and finds music to match it.

Social impact

The pyramid of value
The pyramid of value

The only and influential element in this category is self-transcendence. It is all about making the world a better place. One company that implements this is TOMS. This company donates some of their products and profit to developing countries.

Applying the Pyramid of Value

All of these elements nicely stack to form a pyramid. Moreover, that is no coincidence. The idea that there is a hierarchy of needs has deep roots in psychology (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). The higher you go up the pyramid, the more value you’ll find in the elements. So the top-most element (self-transcendence) is the most powerful. However, don’t be too fixated on those top tiers! Offering a great product is not about fulfilling the most complex consumer needs. It’s about providing a powerful combination of needs. With the Pyramid of value, you have a tool to test the value of your brand. However, before you go and do that, take note of these four basic rules.

1. More is better

It’s great if your company excels in something. Make it your slogan! However, also be sure to put the effort in extra elements of value. Scoring well on multiple elements in the pyramid is a recipe for success. The more elements companies deliver, the higher their loyalty and revenues soar. However, rest assured, your brand does not need to cover the full spectrum of perceived value. Even Apple, one of the companies that deliver the most amount of value, scores high on only 11 elements.

2. Find the elements that are relevant

A pattern of elements that works great for one type of product might not give the same results for another. For example, organising and connecting are essential elements of the smartphone industry. However, these elements don’t play a central role in the clothing industry. The latter focuses more on offering variety and aesthetics. Another essential element of the clothing industry is avoiding hassles. Think of free shipping and a straightforward return policy. To make a great product, you need to understand the pattern of value for the specific product niche.

3. Create a solid basis of functional elements

Let’s continue with the example of the smartphone and clothing industries. If you look up the elements mentioned before, you’ll notice that most of these are functional. In other words, the lowest tier of the pyramid is the most important. The five most essential elements in the smartphone industry are all functional in nature. These are quality, reducing effort, variety, organising and connecting. So none of the shiny higher-order elements! Good products have a solid basis of functional elements. This also makes sense from the perspective of the good old pyramid of needs by Maslow. First, you should have your basic biological needs covered. Only then can you aim for more complex needs.

4. There’s no substitute for good quality

We mentioned that different product niches have different patterns of value. However, there is one element that all industries have in common. For each sector, the most critical customer needs to fulfil is quality. If there’s a significant shortfall on product quality, no other element can make up for it!

Measuring the perceived value of your product

Now that we’ve covered the theory let’s move on to the practical part. How do you get a measurement of perceived value that you can work with to grow your brand?

Perceived value is all in the eyes of the beholder: your customers. So the best way is to ask them! Collect reviews and ratings and see how your brand and products perform on relevant elements. Find the gaps that competitors might try to exploit and discover the elements that will form the basis for your next fantastic product.

Are you wondering which elements of value should be central to your brand? Want to find out how to harness that knowledge? Get in touch and learn about our tailored services. Let’s make your brand more valuable and make your business grow.

With our systematic test plan, you can validate your USPs or value proposition with your customers. Interested? Read the results for MLM Parts here.


Emotion: an important factor driving consumer behaviour

Emotions: an important factor driving consumer behaviour

Every day, we make countless decisions. Most of them are small decisions about our day-to-day activities that don’t take much thought. Occasionally there are important choices to be made that take some pondering. How do you make these decisions? You might identify yourself as an intuitive decision maker. Alternatively, perhaps you consider yourself to be very rational. The truth is, emotions play an important role in everybody’s decisions, often without us even realising.

With every choice we make, our brain considers the available options. It needs to evaluate which options are good, bad, better, or worse. Moreover, for that, it takes into account how we feel about the expected outcomes. Good vibes? Go for it. Bad vibes? Best avoid it.

The crucial thing to note here is that the brain isn’t very rigid when it comes to these evaluations. We are very susceptible to emotional influences, which can change our decision making. Here is where it becomes interesting for marketers. What if you could use emotions to strike a chord with your audience? Could that turn them into customers? The short answer is yes. Let’s see how that works.

Every emotion can be a marketing tool

So let’s get emotional. Spreading some good vibes sounds great. How do we get them across? One powerful emotional tool that we can use is a smile. Seeing a happy face unconsciously triggers positive thoughts and feelings, and those, in turn, influence our choices. It’s not surprising therefore that we see that “Colgate smile” in advertisements everywhere. They don’t only help to sell toothpaste! However, let’s not forget about all the other emotions that can be a source of influence. Think of pride, hope, love, surprise. Also, even sadness, fear, anger, shame, and guilt. Every one of these emotions has the potential to be a marketing tool.

To understand how emotions can work in your favour, you need to know the following: emotions are multidimensional feelings. In other words, they are more complicated than they seem. Each emotion is made up of six cognitive “building blocks”, called appraisals: self-accountability, pleasantness, certainty, anticipated effort, attention and situational control. The appraisals vary in strength for each emotion. So how can we use this psychological knowledge to our advantage? In this blog post, we’ll explore this question for two appraisals: self-accountability and pleasantness.

Taking responsibility

Self-accountability plays an essential role in some emotions, like regret and guilt. In other emotions, like hope and fear, it does not. This information is useful if you want to create a compelling message. In a neuromarketing study, researchers looked for the optimal way to promote the use of sunscreen. One strategy painted the scenario of getting skin cancer, with the purpose of inducing fear. Spoiler: this wasn’t the winning strategy.

You might wonder why. Fear is a robust primitive drive and seems like a convincing motivator. The problem is that fear lacks a sense of self-accountability, so it wasn’t effective in inspiring people to take action to change their habits. Now let’s move on to the winning strategy: triggering feelings of guilt. The researchers made people imagine what their family would feel if they would lose them to skin cancer. Their feelings of guilt came with a strong sense of self-accountability, making it a more powerful motivator to change intentions and behaviour.


Why so negative?

The examples we’ve discussed so far have made a jump from feel-good happy smiles to disturbing scenarios that induce fear and guilt. So, with that, we have touched upon the second appraisal: pleasantness. This appraisal sharply divides emotions in a group that is pleasant to experience, and another group that makes us feel uneasy. Why would we deliberately put thoughts in peoples’ heads that are confronting, or even shocking, and make them feel bad? The thing is, these kinds of negative emotional appeals sometimes are a marketer’s best friend when they want their campaign to make an impact and inspire change. Often, it’s these confronting campaigns that end up going viral due to the intense emotions they evoke.

A powerful impact

An example of this is a campaign from 2014 about road safety, by the New Zealand Transport Agency. The powerful advert shows two cars moments before an imminent high-speed collision. Using a time freeze, both drivers get out of their vehicles and consider their actions leading up to the crash. The guilt, fear, and sadness building up toward the accident are tangible, giving their message a powerful impact. Did you notice that this campaign is also an excellent example of tapping into people’s feelings of self-accountability? Again, it’s the guilt motive that did the trick here.

Avoid bad vibes

Viral success stories like this one might make you feel that negative emotions are the way to go. They come with potential downsides, however. For one, trying to make people feel guilt or shame comes with the risk of stepping on toes. When people feel confronted with their bad behaviour, they can respond defensively, dismiss your message, and your campaign could end up backfiring. What’s more, having your brand associated with a negative emotion can be hurtful further down the road. Remember what the brain thinks of bad vibes – best avoid it. A negative emotional approach is therefore ideally suited to make people avoid certain behaviours and events. If you aim to build loyalty to your brand, a positive strategy is usually more advisable. So those happy smiles and beach scenes that you typically see in sunscreen commercials are probably still the best way to go.

Are you inspiring your customers to take action? Do you spread positive vibes on your social media? Come back soon to read the second part of the role of emotion in neuromarketing and find out how the other appraisals can help you motivate your customers.

Want to know more about the unique way your business could use emotional cues and other neuromarketing strategies to strike a chord with your customers? Expert advice can help you make the most out of your marketing efforts. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!


Achar C., So J., Agrawal N., Duhackek A. What we feel and why we buy: the influence of emotions on consumer decision-making (2016). Curr Opin Psychol; 10: 166-170.

Phelps E.A., Lempert K.M., Sokol-Hessner P. Emotion and Decision Making: Multiple Modulatory Neural Circuits (2014). Annu Rev Neurosci; 37: 263-287.

Passyn K, Sujan M. Self-accountability emotions and fear appeals: motivating behavior (2006). J Cons Res; 32: 583-589.

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