Do you want to stimulate a positive emotional response from your customers? Positive brand experiences make your customers want to experience your services. Dr. Diane Hamilton’s guest in this episode is Kevin Perlmutter, the founder and Chief Strategist of Limbic Brand Evolution. Kevin discusses with Dr. Diane how certain sounds attract people to your brand. You need three key elements to make it work: awareness, familiarity, and freshness. Tune in and learn how to use positive emotional responses to attract customers and keep them coming back for more!
I’m glad you joined us because we have Kevin Perlmutter. He is the Chief Strategist and Founder of Limbic Brand Evolution. We are going to learn a lot about sound, emotions and branding.
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How To Stimulate Positive Emotional Response From Your Customers With Kevin Perlmutter
I am here with Kevin Perlmutter who is a brand and customer relationship strategist. He’s the Chief Strategist and Founder of Limbic Brand Evolution. It’s nice to have you here, Kevin.
I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you for having me.
I’m grateful to Diane DiResta for introducing us. She’s a former guest of the show. She’s a great gal and I like her a lot. She had wonderful things to say about what you’re doing. She thought it tied in well to my work with curiosity and I could see why. I want to get a little bit of background on you for those people who aren’t aware of how you reached this level of success. Can you give me your backstory?
I am the Chief Strategist and Founder of Limbic Brand Evolution. This is my own company that I started in 2019 after 25 or so years of working for other people in the brand consulting type world. Prior to starting my company, I was working for a sonic branding music studio where I had an incredible opportunity to learn about Behavioral Science through the creation of a research capability that I worked on. We could talk a little bit about that. I created experiences for brands through simply how we want people to feel and how music and sounds can help take people to those places and provide the information that they need in those situations. Before that, I worked for a global brand consultancy called Interbrand where I was a brand strategy leader. I created their first-ever customer experience offering back around 2009 when customer experience was first becoming a topic. In 2019, I decided to bring all these skills together, start my own thing and created Limbic Brand Evolution.
You sound like you’ve been busy. A lot of that stuff that you were talking about reminded me of when I had the CMO of Mastercard on my show, Raja Rajamannar. He was discussing how we’re doing audio branding so much so because of the echoes and those kinds of devices. You might know the Nike Swoosh. What’s the sound recognition you have with Nike for theirs? They created this sound that won awards to make you recognize Mastercard.
I love talking about some of the science behind what they developed. I would like to know a little bit about that sonic branding music studio experience. That’s interesting because you said you led strategy innovation research and created neuroscience-based research capability. You’re working with emotion, meaning and behavior. That’s what I’ve found that has been hard for a lot of CMOs. I wrote a brand publishing course for Forbes before I left. The biggest challenge they said was they’re trying to reach people with a personalized message but doing it at scale and that’s tough. I’d like to know what did you do there and did you find that to be an issue as well?Sound conveys meaning instantly. Click To Tweet
That experience was a wonderful one for me and it directly informs what I’m doing now. First of all, I’m familiar with the Mastercard work. It’s wonderful. They’re one of many brands that have become believers in the last few years around the power of sound and the importance of having a great brand sound. When I was at the music studio, I was brought in there in 2014 to lead strategy and ultimately innovation. I was part of creating this research capability that I’ll describe, but my job when I was there was to help them do things they’ve never done before. I was entering the world of a music studio. Something I’ve never done before is being able to play an instrument or be musical in any way. What I was good at and what they brought me in for was to lead strategy, innovation and research.
My job there was described as to help them do things that they’ve never done before. In doing so, I helped them bring a greater foundation of strategy to the client offering. I also led the strategic evolution of the company itself by offering innovation. The research capability that I was responsible for creating with an outside partner was all about understanding the non-conscious impact of music and sound on people’s emotions, what the sound said to them meaning-wise, what information it conveyed, brand attributes, and also how it had an impact on their conscious desire and ultimately behavior.
For instance, sound conveys meaning instantly. When you hear a swish, instantly, that’s your iPhone sending a piece of mail. That swish gives you a sense of relief almost that the mail has gone out. Even if it’s still stuck in your outbox, the iPhone tells you it’s sent and you feel good about that experience. I learned so much there about sound and Behavioral Science. One thing that I had a chance to do with my research partner was we created a spectrum of sounds that range from high positive all the way down to low negative.
We were able to understand that the sound of a baby laughing for instance has a tremendous, instinctive nonconscious positive impact on our emotions, and the sound of nails on a chalkboard has the complete opposite effect in terms of instinctive negative emotional response. What we were able to then do was correlate sounds in the world to those things. I was able to say, “The sound of that microwave that you’re selling, that incessant beeping that people hear in their kitchen, falls nicely between nails on a chalkboard and a pain scream in terms of the instinctive emotional response.”
I suspect you’re familiar with this, given your background, we used Implicit Association Testing to uncover those results. What we also did was using MaxDiff to understand the conscious response to whether or not people would desire those experiences given those sounds. We found an 86% correlation between how a sound makes you feel instinctive and whether or not you desire to have that experience again. What we learned there was that the instinctive emotional response has a tremendous impact on people’s desire for an experience.
Whether that sound or how a brand makes you feel in a customer service interaction or the way you feel when a brand does something in public that may not be something that sits well with your values. These instinctive emotional responses that we have to brand experiences cause us to either want or not want to have those brands in our life. All of this work that I was able to do with the music studio to learn about the Behavioral Science aspects of emotion and how emotion impacts desire and behavior got me thinking, “I want to go back to my brand strategy and customer experience roots a bit and bring this way of thinking to brands at a broader level than just through the sound that their brands make. I want to create a strategic approach that is focused on understanding emotional insights and turning those emotional insights into a competitive advantage.”
Honestly, having been in the business for as long as I have and working on as many brand strategy projects at different places that I’ve done, most brand strategy people are not focused on emotion as much as they should be. Most brand consultancies are not prioritizing the emotional insights at the center. A lot of brand work, clients feel like they’re paying by the pound for information and most of it is not very useful or actionable. The approach that I’ve created is very much focused on getting to the heart of what matters most which is what people care about.
As you were talking about that, I was thinking about the sounds and I had Jim Carrey going in my head. I don’t want to hear an annoying sound from Dumb and Dumber. You have these sounds that would not make me want to purchase a product. I’m thinking of some of the earworms that we get. We had the Mastercard discussion on the air and they are almost trying to create earworms. Do you get people who say, “I want you to remember it,” but how do you get it to not be annoying where you can’t get it out of your head?
It’s a great question because some sounds are pleasant and some are annoying. You certainly don’t want to reinforce the annoying ones all the time. Like anything with the brand, you have to evolve so that it stays relevant, engaging and fresh. My business is called Limbic Brand Evolution. Every word in those three was picked carefully and we can pick those apart. The word evolution is core to who I am and the way I think brands should move forward. I am not about reinventing the wheel every time and there’s nothing about my approach that is not invented here approach.
I’m all about understanding what equity and positive aspects exist in a brand’s identity, vision, values, experience and messaging. I’m all about understanding what equity exists and carrying that forward in a refreshed way. There are some sounds that over time lose their distinctiveness or they’re no longer the right sound for the moment. In anything that a brand does, there are ways to carry forward the equity that draws consistency from one quick period of time to another, but at the same time makes it more relevant to what people need, want and desire in this new time period that they’re working in. The earworm thing is important. You want to have things that are memorable. You want to have things that create awareness and familiarity, but you also want them to be useful. You want them to have meaning that sticks. There are a lot of examples of that with sound but very much so in other areas as well.
In science, you want the elegant solution, the most simple yet effective thing. I was thinking of NBC. They were way ahead of their time having recognizable chimes.
The NBC chimes have been around for many years. The NBC chimes were one of the first brand sounds that took off. They’ve consistently incorporated those chimes, the notes of those sounds into their brand identity over all this time. They show up in different ways. They’ve been refreshed. The qualities of them have evolved slightly but the core notes are consistent and reinforced.
What other examples do you have that you think are good?
There’s a variety of things. One piece of work that I was part of at the music studio that I’m proud of is we created the sounds for Nissan’s electric vehicles. Electric vehicles are now more on the road. Because they’re electric and there’s no engine sound. You get road noise but that’s not enough for safety, presence and awareness nor does it give you any distinctiveness as a brand. There are regulations in place now for the levels and the engineered qualities of sounds that cars need to make on the road for presence, awareness and safety. We had an opportunity several years ago to work with Nissan on that.
I was talking about things we’ve never done before. I was involved as a leader on that business to build that relationship with the client and help articulate through work sessions internally at the studio as well with the client. What should the qualities of the sound of that vehicle be and then how do they then comply with the safety standards that are required, and also fit with the engineering requirements of the vehicle and how the sound can be created by the vehicle through certain speakers in certain places, and project appropriately? There was so much complexity to the project.All brands exist because we want to do something better than everyone else. Click To Tweet
One of the cool things that we did was we used this proprietary research collectability that I created with my outside partner for the music studio. We were able to assess the presence and awareness of whether people noticed the sound when they were supposed to through eye-tracking. We were able to assess whether the sound conveyed positive or negative things about the brand, and whether or not somebody knew the difference between a backing-up sound and an acceleration sound or a deceleration sound. We’re able to assess that at an instinctive subconscious level which is how you react to things when you’re walking through a parking lot and you’re looking at your phone, pushing a shopping cart and there’s a car backing up. If you can’t hear it, you’re going to get hit by it. That was an interesting thing and I was proud of that work.
My husband has a Tesla and I never heard it coming. Are they working on that? Do you even know?
I don’t know. I’ve heard the Tesla sound a few years back and it’s like a whirling sound. I don’t know what thought went into it. I don’t know if it was done by engineers or a music studio with a creative aesthetic. I’m not sure too much about that sound but it might have evolved since I’ve heard it last because of the regulations that require it to be a certain thing after a certain period of time.
Now I have to start listening because it seems like it doesn’t make any sound. It’s sneaky. The car is right there.
All of a sudden, it’s right there. I’m a runner. When I run on the road, I am instinctively aware of cars coming in my direction. I could hear through the back of my head when a car is coming and you can’t when it’s an electric vehicle. It has the new sound requirements in place.
I had a lawyer for a cruise that’s doing all those automated vehicles in San Francisco on the show. We have a lot of different aspects of vehicle discussions but we have never gotten into the sound qualities. What interested me in the Mastercard discussion and other ones was the emotional impact. I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence. I’m always interested in discussing emotions. One of the biggest articles as far as attention on my blog was the one that dealt with all the different emotions that you deal with in marketing and in general, everybody in sales, everything appeals to emotions. I saw that you help your clients in what you call creating Limbic Sparks. I noticed that it was a registered trademark. What happens when emotional motivation meets brand desire?
I’m proud of my Limbic Sparks trademark for that to come through officially. I named my company Limbic Brand Evolution. I always said every word in there has a meaning. You’re probably aware of what most of your readers probably aren’t aware of which is that the limbic system part of our brain controls emotion, motivation, behavior and memory. It’s the area where the subconscious things that happen in our brain are present a lot. It’s been said that up to 95% of our decisions are instinctive and emotional. The other 5% or more get kicked back to the rational part of our brain to think through. Our bodies are making these instinctive responses and decisions. It’s creating behaviors and actions all day long.
For me, that was an incredibly appropriate name for my business since I wanted to completely focus all my work through the lens of emotional insight and what motivates people to act, whether that’s consciously or unconsciously. When coming up with the business idea, I also came up with a strategic approach in which every consultancy has its framework or their way of pulling information together so that they can then present thoughts, ideas and recommendations. What I’ve created is a strategic approach rooted in what I call creating Limbic Sparks. It’s my term for what happens when emotional motivation meets brand desire.
I focus on what matters most to the brands that I’m working with because brands all exist. One day, somebody decided that they were going to start a business to do something better than everyone else. They were going to put a product out there that was going to be more desirable to other people. Brands always have this noble purpose to make people’s lives better but along the way, some things get lost. Sometimes business priorities, goals and projections take over. They start cutting costs and focusing on other things. They’re not as close to what customers need and want as they might have been when they started the business. Eventually, they start getting further away from that passionate motivating thing that they’re in the world to do, which is to make people’s lives better. I help them focus on getting back to that place.
The other thing that I’m doing is understanding what it is that their customers need, want and desire in life because people aren’t walking around looking for brands or businesses. People are walking around looking to solve life’s challenges, overcome anxieties, find more enjoyment and get things that they need or want. What I do is I look at both sides of that. My approach is heavily rooted in curiosity, understanding what makes a brand tick and the people they want to reach tick, then I’m drawing connections between the two. When I draw connections between the two, I’m creating the strategic foundation for how brands and people could have better and stronger relationships. When I talk about Limbic Sparks, that’s what happens when people get excited about what a brand is all about.Emotion is powerful in our decision-making. Click To Tweet
Did you put the things on your head to check your emotions, MRIs and things to detect what works and what doesn’t? I’m curious what science is behind this.
Some of the science that’s behind it is rooted in work that’s already been done that proves that emotion is powerful in our decision-making. If you tap into what people care about and into their instinctive emotions in a positive or negative way, it’s going to have an impact on their behavior. I’m relying on a lot of research that’s been done by a lot of smart neuroscientists before me and a lot of research studies have been done by Forrester, Deloitte, Gartner and many others to prove these things.
When I work with a client, a lot of times, brands are far off the mark. They don’t need a tremendous amount of neuroscience beyond what I already know to help them get on track. You can bring in some smart thinking, curiosity and smart decisions that are rooted in what people care most about and create a strategic foundation that will take brands from one place to another place that will have a huge impact on their results. Other times, when I work with brands that have more resources at their disposal, more time or budget, whatever it takes. Also when the stakes are higher because it’s a larger brand where these decisions have a huge impact on how they move forward and their results for the next year or two, those companies are more apt to invest in research.
When they’re ready to invest in research, I love that as well because you could invest in research that taps into people’s instincts. You can do research like metaphor elicitation to uncover new ideas for how a category or brand can serve people’s lives in ways that haven’t been thought of before. You can bring in research like Implicit Association Testing to understand if instinctively people are finding positive synergies between multiple concepts or if they’re finding them to be disparate and cognitively not congruent. Those are things that you can do. Research is important to prove things when there’s the budget to do so. There’s a lot of existing information out there that can help guide how brands could move forward in effective ways if they can’t afford the research that can prove it specifically for their situation.
You brought up a lot of good points and it brings in a lot of the blogs that I’ve seen you have on your website. You have some great content and a lot of people could learn a lot about branding from the site. I noticed that you have some that you originally published on Brandingmag.com and some others that you share. A lot of this is talking about the emotion and the things that we’re talking about now. I found this is one of the better blogs because you don’t see a lot of this kind of content. I’ve seen you on another YouTube video with Jasmine Moradi. Do you work with her or it happened that you are on a show with her?
It’s a couple of things. Jasmine and I are friends and we do collaborate whenever we have the opportunity to do so. I’m not sure which video you’re looking at. When I was on Jasmine’s podcast, which was on a portion of my website, she interviewed me about my experiences similar to what you’re doing. Jasmine is incredible. Her background is in neuroscience-based research. She works a lot in the music industry. I met her when I was working in a music studio. She’s done a lot of fascinating studies around things like if music is playing in a fast-food restaurant, how does that music impact people’s linger time and how much they’re going to go back for dessert? When you change the music, what’s the impact of the change on sales? She’s gotten into many cool things. I’m fascinated by Jasmine. She’s a good friend.
Soon after we recorded her podcast, she said to me, “Kevin, you should have your own podcast.” I said, “I don’t want a podcast. There’s a lot of work.” She says, “It’s a lot of work but it could be a lot of fun for us to do some fun things together.” We collaborated and we created my podcast which is called Let’s Talk Limbic Sparks where we focus on interviewing brand leaders, people who work for companies. I wouldn’t have a consultant like me on. I’m talking with people who are in the thick of it in companies who are either leading their brand or insights leaders. I’m talking with them specifically about how they’re turning emotional insights into a competitive advantage. Jasmine and I have these interviews together and we co-host them. We’ve got a few out the door and we’re just getting started.
A lot of people could gain a lot of knowledge from your site and from you. I was wondering if you want to share how they could find you or learn more.
I’m on LinkedIn as Kevin Perlmutter. My website is LimbicBrandEvolution.com. You can also go to LimbicSparks.com which takes you to the same place. If people want to reach me by email, I’m at Kevin@LimbicBrandEvolution.com.
This was interesting and I could see why Diane thought we would have a lot to talk about. I’m glad that she had the chance to introduce us because this was important for so many companies. Thank you, Kevin. This was a lot of fun.
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
I’d like to thank Kevin for being my guest. We get many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to DrDianeHamilton.com. I hope you join us in the next episode.
- Limbic Brand Evolution
- Diane DiResta – past episode
- Raja Rajamannar – past episode
- YouTube video – Creating Limbic Sparks with Kevin Perlmutter
- Jasmine’s podcast – Kevin Perlmutter on The Power of Audio + Science + AI with Jasmine Moradi
- Let’s Talk Limbic Sparks – podcast
- Kevin Perlmutter – LinkedIn
About Kevin Perlmutter
Kevin Perlmutter is brand and customer relationship strategist – Chief Strategist & Founder of Limbic Brand Evolution. Limbic is a brand consultancy specializing in emotion, helping business and brand leaders create stronger connections with customers by turning emotional insights into a competitive advantage.
Kevin helps brand leaders answer the question: “Why should people care about your brand?”. He applies behavioral science insights and approaches to understand what makes people tick, enabling him to help businesses focus brand strategy, strengthen customer relationships, evolve business plans, offerings, messaging, and customer experience.
By focusing on emotion and motivation, Kevin’s work efficiently and effectively increases brand engagement and customer loyalty.
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