September 30, 2012

Memory is a construct.

To begin with, memory is a construct. 

Do prospects remember your message?

Heck, do customers remember? memory aid, adrenaline

Cognitive scientists always remind us that memory is a construct. At your neighborhood Cognition R Us store, that’s the first thing a sales clerk will tell you, followed by “want fries with that?”

We throw away sensory data by the bucketload (pardon the technical jargon) every second, and unless there’s a squirt of adrenaline to go with the experience, nothing’s retained. That hormone, a brain chemical that imprints the memory, is a part of an evolutionary package of reactions that put us in a higher state of alertness. Tell me a joke, I’ll remember it tomorrow. Set my pants on fire, I’ll remember it for years.

(Do you remember what you had for lunch last Thursday?)

Even memorable moments, conversations, lunches and roller coaster rides will fade over time unless repeated, re-edited, polished, and shared.

Construction by “remembering” will continually morph over time. Uncle Louie will tell that family story every Thanksgiving, always with small evolving embellishments. You could track its changes over time if you were really geeky about keeping notes.

Think about the jolt you feel looking at old photographs, or your high school yearbook, or reading a letter you wrote long ago. Your shock is because it doesn’t resemble your memory. The faces don’t match. The words don’t match. Hey, can you even believe you wore shoes that looked like that? Not to mention that haircut….

So what?

Well, if you’re selling a widget or a service or an idea or a candidate, make sure it provokes adrenaline. Every strong emotion causes your glands to produce and circulate adrenaline around your brain, fixing the memory more clearly and for a longer time. Positive or negative? Doesn’t matter. The powerful memory of that car crash (the one you can replay in slomo) or that time you sunk the three-pointer at the buzzer, or that first kiss. All ready to call back to life. And re-edit.

So that’s why your brand message must be emotionally creative. Not reasonable, not logical, not a list of benefits. Amuse me or scare me or seduce me – and you won’t have to repeat yourself so expensively. The (old) conventional wisdom says you have to repeat your message 7 to 12 times to make it stick. That’s less true today. Creative engagement is the new frequency. The famously memorable Macintosh “1984” ad ran a total of … once.