I saw Brené Brown speak at Inbound earlier this month. In fact, she was one of the main reasons I attended – I love her science-based message on vulnerability and psychology in the workplace. I couldn’t wait to see her in person. A couple weeks later, a friend asked me how her talk was and I stopped. “It was great!” But I could’t remember it. I stumbled to give a recap. What was the theme? What did she talk about?
We remember about 10 percent of the things we learn and read according to Dr. Carmen Simon when she presented on the neuroscience of memorable content. That means if you live to be 90, you remember about nine years of your life. Seems I was proving Dr. Simon right.
Obviously, this is why we have cameras, and apps like Evernote, we have bookmarking sites, and reminders on our iPhones. Our brains aren’t capable of retaining everything we are assaulted with on a daily basis.
However, imagine the ramification if you are a business creating content to generate awareness, leads and loyal business? Attention, lead generation and conversion are all important but what if they don’t even remember you? Wouldn’t it be nice to know how to stay in your prospects’ hearts and memories so when the time comes to make a decision, they know exactly where to go – to you?
While Dr. Simon had real science to share with us, it made me stop and just think about what makes something memorable.
Memorable is subjective, so of course it depends on your audience. This is why researching your audience is critical before beginning a content program that seeks to connect with them.
Thankfully, I was able to redeem myself about the Brené Brown presentation after a few moments of sounding like Nancy Pelosi who had just been asked if she’ll miss John Boehner. What helped me recall was the personal story she began with. Once I got into the story, I remembered EXACTLY what her points were and everything fell into place.
Our brains are programmed for stories. They give us context that allows us to follow a progression.
Metaphors and examples
I knew I’d want to remember the things Dr. Carmen shared with us so I did my best to take notes. Notes aren’t comprehensive however, and we have to rely on memory to fill in the gaps.
According to those notes, habituation competes for our customers’ attention. In fact, it kills marketing because when we get used to something, we no longer notice it. Like the background music playing while you work.
She attributed two factors to habituation and I wrote them down as such:
- Stimulus internal variation – degree of change over time
- Subjective arousal – perceive novelty and familiarity
But I couldn’t remember what either of those meant until I focused on each one individually and recalled the examples she provided. For the first, I remember her talking about a frog in water not noticing the water very gradually changing to boiling and dying. (I hate that metaphor by the way, but it doesn’t matter if I like or hate it. I remembered it)
And with the second, I recalled her story about TV and movie shots and how we became so familiar with them being long (like Gone with the Wind) but now, take for example, the most recent James Bond film and shots are much shorter, on average four seconds. which drives me crazy, but that’s beside the point. It’s done to capture attention.
While Dr. Simon’s point is to change things up more frequently and unexpectedly, my point is, by using examples and metaphors (which are stories), you help your customers understand and remember.
Clarity of message
This is the toughest battle, despite it sounding so simple. Many of us are guilty of packing too much into whatever medium we’re using whether it’s a presentation, a print ad or the home page of your website. They are only going to remember 10 percent! “But we have to tell them about x feature, and y benefit! and do they know z?”
Think about what that 10 percent is you want them to bring home. This means you’re going to have to kill some of your babies and it hurts. I know. Identify three supporting points, and re-visit them repeatedly in the content. Make it nice and easy for your audience to know what it is you hope they take away. After all, if people don’t even remember you, how will they know to go look for you when they need it?
In order for you to be unforgettable, use stories to illustrate your point, examples and metaphors to dig deeper, and be super clear on your message. Give them enough to recall, and they’ll fill in the gaps. Now don’t forget it.[ssba]