Head of the week: Heart and brand

Markus Bircher is a strategist at the advertising agency By Heart and also - still today - managing director of Brandezza. This subsidiary develops psychological Brand technology for practice

Successful brands always offer both: practical advantages and emotional benefits. Brands speak directly to our feelings, motives and dreams. That's why it's important for the creatives at the By Heart agency to position brands in the emotional world of consumers. But how?
"We are convinced that brands have to fascinate. It's like when I walk into a bar. No one here has the chance to tell me their life story and convince me of their worth by way of argument. I only sit down with someone who immediately appeals to me, turns me on, and fascinates me," Markus Bircher compares. Brands function in a similar way, and psychological mechanisms are therefore becoming increasingly important. Especially in times when advertisers no longer have the opportunity or the budget to argue at length.
The advertising agency By Heart was founded 14 years ago by Hans Siegwart and Markus Bircher. Today, 15 people work in a former wine grotto on Zurich's Zeltweg "for many beautiful Swiss premium brands," as Markus Bircher proudly explains. The agency is strongly positioned for brand advertising. Those who come to By Heart don't want a "creative high-flyer." For this, the agency has been working for the same clients for nine years in some cases, for example the PKZ Group. Most of the time, By Heart is "very much involved right up to the strategic issues.
In this long search for new ideas on how to strengthen a brand and give it an independent appearance, Markus Bircher and his team have become increasingly interested in finding out even more about exactly how brands work.

Get to the bottom of the brandBrandezza grew out of this need five years ago. Markus Bircher sought contact with the University of Applied Psychology in Zurich. There, Professor Daniel Süss was inspired. The first research project could already be tackled with the help of the National Fund. This project dealt with the question of how to measure the psychological and emotional performance of a brand.
Since then, several studies have repeatedly addressed the question: How much advertising does a brand need? What exactly does it need? Which brand services offer the greatest leverage on brand sympathy? "As an advertising agency today, you have to explain things to your clients," Bircher is convinced. Advertisers must also be able to say honestly: What can advertising do, and what can it not do? Where are there opportunities to achieve the same or even better effects with other instruments? For Bircher, psychology is "an important explanatory model" for this. However, one must have one's ethical principles, and Bircher also discussed Vance Packard and his then agitator "The Secret Seducers" extensively during his studies. But he is convinced that it would be wrong not to actually use what we know about psychological mechanisms. "We owe it to our customers. Advertising is supposed to work, after all." People can no longer be so easily assigned to brands and markets sociodemogaphically. That makes it all the more important to look at one's target groups psychographically as well. "Then you realize that advertising is nevertheless not so unpredictable."
Markus Bircher studied German in Zurich and "always wrote advertising copy" while still a student. He was a Steiner student, "which perhaps explains a certain affinity for brands, because advertising was taboo there." He was able to pursue his interest more at GGK, where Bircher did his first internship. Then he financed his studies at a small agency as a "lad for everything." After graduating, he joined GGK Zurich for real and "learned a lot" there. He later found more in-depth insights into advertising at a successor agency to Grendene and Lanz, at what was then HSG&L. It was there that Bircher met his current business partner, Hans Siegwart. When, after two years, a major change in management was due, the two decided to go into business for themselves. In 1994, By Heart was founded. In the rooms of an old wine shop on Zeltweg, the two creative people "started very small." But things progressed quickly and while the wine shop had to downsize more and more, the advertisers were able to take over more and more space at the same time.
After a lot of development work in the start-up company Brandezza, Bircher will now concentrate more on By Heart again. Brandezza is in the process of becoming independent in terms of space and personnel. This is because the demand for the innovative Brandezza instruments has developed steadily and makes it necessary for this company to be able to operate independently.
For Markus Bircher, this development is very positive. And By Heart still offers him quite enough tasks to keep him busy. In his free time, Markus Bircher plays the piano, "not very well, but passionately". New ideas also ripen for him when he cruises on Lake Zurich in his "small but fun" sailboat.
Andreas Panzeri

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