Welcome to the CIMMO Brain to Behaviour Perspective Series – where we will introduce a psychology principle and draw a parallel with modern-day marketing. Enjoy – and feel free to continue the conversation in the comments!

First, what is classical conditioning? It is actually pretty simple, and a great way to predict behaviour in both animals and humans. “30-Second Psychology” outlines how Ivan Pavlov would ring a bell before he fed his dogs. After much repetition, the dogs would salivate at the sound of the bell. By creating an association between the bell and food, Pavlov had conditioned his dogs to behave in a certain way. This ultimately means by providing a stimulus, Pavlov was able to predict the dogs’ behaviour (Jarrett, 2011, p.134).

Now how does this align with marketing? When creating brand imagery and messaging, marketers want to create an association between their brand or product, and ultimately engage consumers. Netflix is an example of a brand that uses a short, recognizable sound to signal consumers their product is being used—you know, the “dun dun.” But does it elicit a behaviour that is favourable to Netflix? That “dun dun” signals that someone is about to get comfy and stream a show—and you probably want to do the same.

Brand imagery can do the same. Think about those glowing arches of goodness—your brain goes straight to McDonald’s. You likely also think of McDonald’s when you see red and yellow together. Sometimes brands will also piggy-back off other brands to create association, and ultimately get you to purchase their products. When the Toronto Raptors score 12 three-pointers, McDonalds gives away free medium fries; they are creating an association between the two brands.

By displaying repetitive brand images in advertising, brands are conditioning us to think of their brand, products or services. This, ultimately, helps brands predict consumer behaviour, which is a unique form of classical conditioning.


  • What other brands have done a good job of using audio or visual cues to predict/elicit a specific behaviour from consumers?
  • Do you feel any brands in particular have an impact on you like McDonald’s arches have for me?
  • Is there an ethical line that brands can cross in using brand cues to elicit behaviour from its consumers? 


Paige is a passionate marketing professional with experience providing data-driven insights to clients using a wide range of advertising technology platforms. She is Chief Content and Communications Officer at CIMMO. Paige holds a Bachelor of Arts Honours in English and Psychology at Queen’s University, and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Research Analysis at Georgian College.


Jarrett, Christian. (2011). 30-Second Psychology. Prospero Books.

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