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Driven By Meaning: Uncovering The 3 Layers Of Perception

Posted By: SGK June 01, 2014

What’s in a meaningful story? Whatever our minds fill in the blanks with, according to Rob Swan, SVP, Executive Creative Director at Brandimage, which is part of our brand development group. 

In his BrandSquare Live Session, “Decoding the Design of Motivation,” Rob examined the three layers of perception and how they help define meaning, which is the key to creating brand stories that spur action, gain trust and build equity.

Perception, he says, is the way we assign meaning to everything we see, hear, feel, taste and touch. We perceive meaning almost instantaneously and, just as the mass of an iceberg exists beneath water, 90% of what we perceive takes place subconsciously, shaped by our emotions and our experiences. This is particularly true in shopping experiences when companies attempt to sell consumers on a branded proposition.

Applying these three layers of perception as you plan and execute design will lead to a more effective, compelling and meaningful story that will resonate with consumers.

Instinctive Perception (What you feel)
This is the visceral, intuitively felt assessment of the elements we are exposed to. It is centered around emotion and feeling which are hardwired into the circuitry of our brains. Think of this layer as literally “driving” the perception of meaning through design, as though one would drive a car. There’s the rush of adrenaline as you feel the car accelerate. 

Subconscious Perception (How you feel it)
The next layer up, but still “below the surface,” is where we put that experience through the filter of our cultural and experiential values to understand what it means to us. This is the “steering wheel” that allows us to use the acceleration and exhilaration of the car and steer it to wherever we want to go. 

Conscious Perception (Why you should feel it)
Consider this layer of perception the proof point. No longer in our subconscious mind, this is the rational, data driven evaluation of whether or not what we are seeing or experiencing is true. This stage can be likened to a speedometer that confirms the speed and direction we are moving in.

To learn how brands can use these three layers of perception to tell meaningful stories that go beyond what is seen, but how it also defines what is felt, watch “Decoding the Design of Motivation,” a BrandSquare Live Session presented by Rob Swan.