Study: Apple Logo Stimulates the Brain

A new study shows that just being exposed to the Apple logo can make you more creative. Duke researcher Gavan Fitzsimons talks with NPR's Susan Stamberg about his study on logos and the brain.

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SUSAN STAMBERG, host:

Now that we know how an iPod shuffle function works and you took notes, right, we offer a bit of insight into the power of iPod marketing. A new study indicates that the logo on Apple products like iPods, iPhones, iMacs, stimulates your brain. The study found than people who were shown the Apple logo scored higher on a creativity test that those who were exposed to the IBM logo, presumably because they were mirroring the traits they associate with those logos.

Professor Gavan Fitzsimons of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University co-wrote the study on logos and the brain. He joins us now from Durham, North Carolina. So Professor, tell us exactly what were the traits that people associated with Apple and with IBM?

Professor GAVAN FITZSIMONS (Fuqua School of Business, Duke University): People find that when they think about the Apple logo, they think very strongly about associations with creativity. When they think about the IBM logo, they think about a general notion of competence or professional.

STAMBERG: So the people you studied actually took on traits that they associated with these brands, I mean the Apple creative ones began humming new compositions and the IBM ones got organized and competent?

Prof. FITZSIMONS: Essentially, yes. You know, we showed people on the computer for very, very short durations, like 30 milliseconds, either the Apple logo or the IBM logo and then we looked at their behavior to see if, as you say, they hummed compositions or not. The Apple Prime people were much more creative than the IBM Prime people by like 20 to 30 percent.

STAMBERG: This is a tremendous advertisement for Apple. Are they involved in this project at all, like funding it?

Prof. FITZSIMONS: Not surprisingly, many people ask me that question.

STAMBERG: Yeah.

Prof. FITZSIMONS: But, no to ensure sort of the integrity of the project we've never actually even spoken to anyone at any of the companies whose logos we use.

STAMBERG: Huh. What do you think the message is for consumers, Professor?

Prof. FITZSIMONS: We're obviously being influenced by the things around us and so we should be somewhat wary of what's around us and then we should be strategically surrounding ourselves with logos that have associations that we find to be desirable.

STAMBERG: And what's the implication for advertisers then?

Prof. FITZSIMONS: If every time you see an Apple logo you find yourself being more creative, you're going to be a little happier in all likelihood.

STAMBERG: Mm-hmm.

Prof. FITZSIMONS: And all of a sudden, I think, at a non-conscious level, we're going to start to - we as consumers will start to pair the brand that we're being exposed to with this increased happiness and that should, you know, result in some increase in loyalty from their customers, I would imagine, over time.

STAMBERG: Thanks very much. Gavan Fitzsimons is a professor at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. His study of the impact of logos appears in the April issue of the Journal of Consumer Research. Thanks.

Prof. FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Susan.

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