Memory Triggers

By Olson, Chris | Information Outlook, December 2003 | Go to article overview
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Memory Triggers

Olson, Chris, Information Outlook

Sure, "branding" is a hot buzzword, but how does it really work? How does our brain remember what we've seen or heard? How do we recall our experiences? What triggers recognition? Think about it. The answers to these questions hold the keys to successful branding.

Branding Goes to the Dogs

The core concept behind branding can be traced to behavioral psychology and neuroscience. In the late 1800s, Ivan Pavlov rang a bell every time his dogs were fed. After a while the dogs learned to associate the sound of a bell with food, so much so that the dogs would drool at the mere sound of the bell. The discovery became known as Associative Learning. Pavlov's research contributes to our understanding of branding by demonstrating how to use memory recall to build an associative link to a positive memory, and then having the memory recalled on demand.

Ongoing research gleaned from the field of neuro-psychology is giving marketing professionals new insights into branding based on brain functions and how memories are formed. In 2000 the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three scientists for their research in the brain and nervous system. Their work provided insights into chemical and electrical brain processes, paving the way for understanding how complex memory images are stored in the brain. The three types of memory storage in the human brain--electrical, chemical and structural--can the success of branding efforts.

Electrical memory is temporary and is referred to as short-term memory. It is limited in its capacity and represents what you are thinking about right now--this very moment. Chemical memory is medium-term memory that can store more data for longer periods of time. Medium-term memory is only as good as the exercise we give it. A long period of inactivity will cause the memory to disappear. Long-term memory, or structural memory, is so deeply imprinted that the memory actually changes the structure of our brain. Even if we don't recall a structural memory for years, it still exists.

Teaching the Old Dog New Tricks

How memory is created and stored in our brains has implications for branding. Because a goal of branding is "top of mind" recall and recognition, successful brands aim to become a medium and, ultimately, a long term memory. Brand messages have to be relevant to targeted audiences and frequent, using multisensory experiences to forge a memory. That's why it's not enough to limit an information service brand to just a logo or to a single visibility campaign.

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Memory Triggers


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