July 13, 2011

What makes a memory vivid?

What do really vivid memories have in common?

You know, the ones where “I remember every detail,” “time seemed to slow down,” “it’s like it happened yesterday”?

The ones where “we won the state on a buzzer-beater,” “Kate and William kissed on the balcony,” “our car got hit and we flipped over into the ditch,” “Kermit rides a bicycle!” or, you know, that skinny-dipping after the prom thing.

Whether it happened to you personally or vicariously, the common element is the brain chemical epinephrin, also known as adrenaline. That instant of laughter or sorrow or conflict or danger, that fight-or-flight moment, stimulated the flow of this powerful neurotransmitter, which imprinted the sensations.

The lesson for your brand? Every communication is a chance to evoke conflict, or danger, or humor, or some other emotion to make the juices flow. Don’t be merely rational. It’s the difference between “remember when your pants fell down?” and “remember what you had for breakfast last Thursday?”