11.08.2014 Pod1 - It’s all in the mind

Understanding how our mind remembers things can unlock some secrets about how brands work (or don’t)

Consumers can now access any information by using their mobile phone when they need it, right? Wrong. Well, they can in theory, there is Wikipedia and mobile apps like Evernote that act as our own memory device, but is this scenario likely in the context of such a diverse category as ours?

“I tried this wine I liked but can’t remember the name” is something that many of us have experienced. And if we agree that consumers still rely on old fashioned memory it means that we also need accept that we are dealing with quite an imperfect machine (as my wife reminds me regularly).

Understanding how human memory works can help us remember better and can also help us position and build brands that resonate more positively with consumers. Science writer Joshua Foer* shares some insights with the example of the “Baker/baker paradox”. The experiment goes like this: a psychologist shows a picture of a man to two participants. He tells the first participant that the man’s surname is Baker and second one that the man in the picture is a baker. A couple of days later, the researcher shows the same photograph and asks each for the accompanying word. The second participant (who was told that the man in the picture is a baker) is more likely to remember the word “baker” than the first participant.

The “Baker/baker paradox” exists because we remember better when our brain can associate a word or concept with something remarkable. While the surname Baker is not associated with anything memorable the baker profession immediately reminds us of the colour of flour, the look of a big white hat or the smell of fresh bread. It is memorable because it means something to us, we can relate it with our own memories.

The power of remarkable associations and its effect on memory is the basis to a range of memory techniques such as the method of loci (as practised by Thomas Cromwell in Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall) or the “Mind Palace” as it’s called in the TV series Sherlock. This technique basically consists on building a mental structure (could be based on the rooms of your house or your way to work) and associating to each room otherwise disconnected units such as numbers, the order of a deck of cards or names. When you later mentally walk through your memory palace you will be much more likely to recall what you have placed in each room.

Sherlock 300x149 - It’s all in the mind

(Sherlock Series 3, Source: BBC.co.uk)

In a world with multitude of brands and limited memory (and attention), understanding how memory works and listening to what is important to consumers is key. At Wine Intelligence we spend a lot of time researching what consumers already associate with your brand and also what consumers find remarkable about it. This could be as simple as a furry-creature icon on the label, a colour or simply an association with a memorable event. Successfully understanding how we can boost this consumer memory chip is one of our ongoing challenges, and one that is particularly acute in the wine category, where memory fails even the most astute Adventurous Connoisseur from time to time (although perhaps not Sherlock).

Author: Juan Park 

Email: juan@wineintelligence.com

*“Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.” By Joshua Foer Link

* “Feats of memory anyone can do” TED talk by Joshua Foer Link