An fMRI study was conducted with unfamiliar and familiar (strong and weak) brands to assess linguistic encoding and retrieval processes, and the use of declarative and experiential information, in brand evaluations. As expected, activations in brain areas associated with linguistic encoding were higher for unfamiliar brands, but activations in brain areas associated with information retrieval were higher for strong brands. Interestingly, weak brands were engaged simultaneously in both processes. Most importantly, activations of the pallidum, associated with positive emotions, for strong brands and activations of the insula, associated with negative emotions, for weak and unfamiliar brands suggested that consumers use experienced emotions rather than declarative information to evaluate brands. As a result, brand experiences should be considered a key driver of brand equity in addition to brand awareness and cognitive associations.