Memories Mean Business


It’s useless to create stories that no one remembers; you can’t change perceptions and drive behaviors (or commerce) that way. In the sea of channels, posts, pins, videos, etc., there’s a real value in understanding the way our brains create memories.

My fascination with how the brain works, is mostly that, a fascination and a bit of a hobby. So, while I am certainly no Cognitive Neuroscientist, my interpretation of how to parlay what I’ve learned about the brain into marketing strategy has really helped me—thought I’d share it, in hopes it will help you too.

We must first recognize and work from the fact that people learn more from experiences than we do from stories alone. That point is validated by the findings from cognitive neuroscience studies on how memories are created.

Go for the senses! Participation in an experience is far more likely to produce a stronger memory than a story that is just seen or heard. Physiologically, that’s validated because experiences are multi-sensory. If you touch something, smell it, hear it, interact with it and it responds to you, your likelihood of remembering that exchange is significantly higher than if someone just told you about it. If you are in it, part of it, and it’s emotionally charged, retention is higher. Period.

Now, just because a person experiences something in a multi-sensory way, and likes something doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to buy the product or service associated to that experience.  The goal is to re-trigger and reinforce the memories experiences create. The connection needs to be stimulated by a need or a point of engagement that inspires a behavior change.

From a marketing point of view, in a world of competitive environments, it goes beyond one on one, in the moment, direct distribution. You need brand recognition and recall that comes from the fact that people had a great experience with your brand. But their recognition won’t increase if they don’t have an association with the brand.

For example, I was recently at a conference and observed the layout of little food and refreshment stations throughout the event space. The refrigerated drinks were housed in a Coca-Cola cooler, and while there was a small section of Coca-Cola products, the remaining selections were lesser known brands that vendors wanted us (a collective group of influencers) to sample. It was interesting to observe what happens when people are confronted with a bunch of unfamiliar brands—they just stood there, looking very inquisitively at these unfamiliar options. Because there’s no recognition, there’s no simple way for your brain to say ‘I’m thirsty, I want a drink, I am going to have X, because I know what X is, and it suits my need.’ For me, it was an interesting sample experience, but a bad brand experience because I had no way of discerning, because I had no recognition to draw from. Good marketing should help solve for this by building awareness and memories.

This example reinforces why you can’t just create a product and make it available. It’s why creating experiences (not just stories) is so important. Unless the story is immensely powerful and connects in a very emotive way, it’s challenging to achieve recognition. Always aim to make marketing into memories, because memories mean business.

By Darren (Daz) McColl (@daz_mc), Chief Brand & Marketing Strategy Officer, Global

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