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What Should We Know About Memory?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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We are commissioned to make messages that stick. Naturally, then, we should crave the knowledge of why and how our messages appeal and stay with our audiences.

Our industry is inclined to think that it is all about the creative process. 

And it is, to a point. 

Our memory is awesome. Awesome in both the "cool" and "awe inspiring" senses. And if we are serious about communicating messages that stick, we need to know just how interactions are stored and recalled in our memories.

Jeremy Dean, the author of How to be Creative: Six Psychological Principles of Creativity, wrote an article based on the writings of UCLA memory expert, Dr. Robert Bjork. Dean highlights 10 takeaways we should all keep in mind when it comes to memory. When it comes to advertising, we are going to highlight only four of the takeaways. Overall it is a good read, and we recommend that our readers take a look at the other six.

Recalling Memories Alters Them
One of the more interesting tidbits of memory is the tidbit of recall. Recall, Dean explains, is the process of actively constructing the past. Therefore, the parts of your memory that you recall become stronger in relation to other past events. For example, let's say consumer A watched a number of ads in an hour. The next day, consumer A is asked about a certain ad. The following day, consumer A is asked again, and this process continues until the end of the week. At the end of the week, consumer A is asked which other ads they saw. Based on recent experiments, consumer A will remember very vague details of the other ads because they were asked to actively recall and strengthen a particular ad. The point? We should make our messages relevant enough that consumers need to actively recall them, or else the messages can be forgotten or altered.

Foresight Bias
The foresight bias explains the tendency for people to be overly confident of what they will remember at a later specific time. For example, if we are running in-store promotions and a consumer doesn't take information because they say that they will remember the deal or event, we should take that with a grain of salt. The foresight bias reminds us the importance of maintaining strong call-to-action messages. Do not let the consumer walk away without committing to the message. 

Effortful Recall is Necessary
Dean points out that when people easily recall information, no learning is involved. On the flip side, when people struggle but eventually remember, they learn. This is why in academic environments, testing is necessary; people need to challenge their memories in order to learn. Now, in an industry where quick and effortless recall is heralded, how can we apply this counsel? Interaction. When we interact with our audiences, we should employ activities that challenge the consumer to learn about our brand, good, or service. The more they are challenged, the more they learn, and the more connected they become.

Learning Depends on Context
Many of us are familiar with this theory. The fact is, we remember things more easily when we are in the place or in the state of mind when we first learned something. We remember the great scene in Beerfest when the brother only remembered the drinking event place when he was drunk; the funny thing is, science reaffirms that thinking. The research goes on to detail that in the long term, people learn and remember best when they are exposed to information in different contexts. This gives credence to the integrated marketing campaign. Exposing consumers to the same information in different channels will help them in learning and remembering your brand, good, or service.

Happy is the advertising professional who knows the mind of the consumer. May we put our memories to the test and continue to challenge ourselves and our activities in order to provide the best messaging and services to the brands we work with.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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