The Marketing Strategist:

Brain Science Says: Three Keys to Memorable Marketing

April 25, 2017

  • Featured Article, Content & Communication

Think back to your latest big presentation.

How much time did you spend working on it?  Sharpening your message…inserting the perfect visuals…adding a great story… wordsmithing your three key takeaways.

Now, guess how much of the presentation your audience remembers.

The answer, according to cognitive neuroscientist Carmen Simon, is probably about 10%. The sobering reality, according to Dr. Simon, is that almost all our content is entirely forgotten.

Even worse, we typically have no idea which 10% our audience remembers.

Let’s say the presentation was an internal proposal for an awesome new thought leadership campaign on digital transformation.

Did your boss remember:

  • The bulletproof budget justification that you painstakingly laid out?
  • The proposal to spend yet more money with that agency she’s never really liked?
  • Or maybe the fact that the account team has a make-or-break briefing coming up in two weeks and why are you wasting time on some grandiose long-term campaign now?

This is bad enough for internal presentations. Now consider the implications for that long-sought executive briefing you’ve set up with your account team. You’ve worked for two months to get the head of merchandising and his top lieutenants from your top prospect into a room for two hours with your account lead, CMO, and retail practice lead, and you’re crafting the opening presentation. What are they going to remember?

For Simon, a marketing coach and consultant with doctoral degrees in both cognitive psychology and instructive technology, designing and controlling the memorable 10% is marketing’s most important task.

Wait, a double PhD marketing consultant that applies brain science to content marketing? I’m guessing that’s one thing that you might actually remember from this article!

Anyway, marketing is about persuasion and persuasion relies on memory. If people don’t remember what you want them to remember, how are they going to be persuaded to decide what you want them to decide?

According to our memorable marketing expert, three guidelines are especially important:

Clarify your message

“The first step is always to figure out what you want to be memorable for,” says Simon. “Getting to clarity is a beautiful thing but it’s not always easy. Spend as much time there as you need; it will fix a lot of problems later.”

And don’t fall prey to a simplistic idea like “we’re the experts in the future of retail.” With very few exceptions, according to Simon, “the gist” of a message is not nearly as powerful or memorable as a more specific “verbatim” (e.g., we’ve designed the clicks and mortar experience for retail innovators like Harry’s and Warby Parker to drive growth with millennials).

Use your words

As marketers, we’re trying to shift to visuals and video as fast as possible but the reality is that the words we use can make or break the message. Most of all, says Simon, use your words to touch the senses.

Sensory details (“climbing Mt. Everest is like walking on a treadmill, breathing through a straw”) trigger feelings far more effectively than the “dramatic” mountain climbing photos that presenters to often rely upon to add PowerPoint punch. “It’s harder to form memory without emotion,” Simon explains. “With emotion, the brain primes the electrochemical response required to create new memory.”

Stop talking!

Use your words wisely, but not too many of them. The balance is a tricky one. “Repetition is the mother of memory but boredom comes quickly if you’re not careful to provide frequent stimulus change,” says Simon. “Repeat what you want people to remember but allow them to contribute their own wisdom and tie their words to your main message. After all, what do you think they will remember even better: what you said or what they said?” 

Impossible to ignore - Carmen SimonCreating memorable marketing isn’t quite that simple, of course. Indeed, Simon’s research has identified 15 variables that affect the degree to which people remember what you say. Follow these three guidelines, however, and you’re well on your way to tapping the power of brain science to create more compelling content.

Interested in learning more about brain science for content marketing? Check out Dr. Simon’s new book, Impossible to Ignore and join the conversation during her featured presentation at our Marketing Leadership Forum on May 23-24 in Napa, CA.

Ready to test your own memory? Take Dr. Simon’s new Memory By Design survey on human memory and see how you score.


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