DESIGNING EXPERIENCE - THE DETAILS OF DISCOVERY
4 WAYS TO BE MORE MEMORABLE IN THE AGE OF EXPERIENCE
20 OCTOBER 2016
SENIOR STRATEGIST | MANIFESTO
The goal of any advertising campaign is to earn a special place in the hearts and minds of the public. This is how we earn market share, after all. “Mindshare” is that top of mind recall that puts your brand on top when someone finds themselves in want/need of your product or service. It’s the only way to build brand equity. But what is it that makes a brand truly memorable?
Manifesto is a brand declaration agency, which means we work hard to uncover the key truths of what brands stand for. However, our work doesn’t end here. We work with brands to uncover the overlapping values between who they are and the humans (you may know them as consumers) they want to engage. Our ultimate goal is to identify these core truths and bring them to the surface in meaningful ways that are instantly identifiable, implicitly understood, and ultimately memorable.
DESIGN FOR EMOTION
Emotion and memory are intrinsically linked. Emotions can make us remember, and memories can make us feel. Deep-seated memories have a way of popping up with almost no effort at all, as if they’re right on the surface. This is usually due to the fact that the message has been supercharged in a way that makes it stick. Messaging can be supercharged in one of two ways: 1) it can create an emotional connection or 2) it creates a physical, biological response.
Emotional and physiological stimuli both prime the brain for learning. They both work to activate the hippocampus, the area in the brain that is responsible for sorting, storing, and recalling memories. I’m sure you can think of an example in your own life when you were in a state of intense emotional arousal - perhaps it was a hike or activity that was just a little bit outside of your skill level. This sensory rich experience lives on in your memory because it was supercharged with adrenaline and excitement (ie. emotion). In this case the amygdala in your brain told the hippocampus to wake up so that it could process new information coming in (probably so you wouldn’t die). The most beloved brands activate against this human insight incredibly well. They are the ones who can make your heart beat. They are the ones who can make you think different. They are the ones who can conjure your aspirations, longings, hopes and deepest desires through impactful messaging while simultaneously demonstrating their brand’s fit into your world view. These brands have a way of teasing out the best of us and showing us how we can return to and/or augment that sense of satisfaction.
DESIGN FOR DISCOVERY
SURPRISE AND DELIGHT
One of the biggest marketing truths that came out of the last decade was the insightful call to arms that urged brands and marketers to “surprise and delight” their audience. The world’s best brands employ this tactic at several stages throughout the consumer journey as a means to keep people interested and engaged throughout the sales funnel. Nike has developed a genius for leading people through a journey of discovery that rewards visitors with small insights and revelations that help consumers paint a portrait of the person they’d like to be. Rather than trying to fit into the consumer lifestyle, Nike actively encourages consumers to augment their lifestyle - to be better.
HOW NIKE DOES IT
Consider Nike stores. Nike has perfected the science of keeping your attention through their three step approach of attract, engage, and connect. Their initiative zones at the front of the store grab your attention with dynamic mannequins and staging that lure you into discovering what’s inside. They make you contemplate your own optimized self and by doing so, they open the funnel to discovery. The engagement zone refers to the areas toward the sides of the store where they consciously design interactive product displays that detail their latest technology and styles. These zones are meant to create a sense of participation - they make you feel like an athlete. Suddenly you’re reminded of the moments where your lungs were full of oxygen and your body was full of endorphins and the memory is triggered. A memory of your ideal self.
THE AH-HA MOMENT
This is the magic spot, the point where you start to think of yourself running or playing basketball with the esprit of a college athlete. This is the point where you actually start to see yourself wearing and using the product. The aha moment is that point of connection where the feature and benefit tie the memories of your best self to the future self - who you could be.
A NEW (MORE COMPLETE) TRUTH
Generally speaking, consumers are only aware of their immediate state of being. Henry Ford famously remarked that if he had asked people what they wanted they would have said “faster horses”. Good marketers know that great brands inspire people to be more, to move beyond their current state of being. In a deep and mostly unconscious way, consumers are all interested in the same thing: they’re not interested in discovering who they are, but rather who they could be. Where self discovery used to carry the idea that you could better understand your place in the world and understand your core attributes (think StrengthFinder personality test), the word has become more of a call to create a new and better version of who you’d like to be.
IT STARTS (AND ENDS) WITH THE CONSUMER
One of the most incredible aspects of Nike’s consumer journey design happens in the one-to-one experience that Nike employees offer guests. When store guests are approached the conversation immediately starts with a warm greeting (when it’s done correctly) and is immediately followed by a series of get-to-know-you questions. By putting the consumer in the center of the conversation, the store associate is able to tailor a shopping experience around the unique needs and wants of the consumer standing before them. By validating the consumer as a uniquely nuanced human with individual pursuits and interests, the sales associate begins to build rapport while simultaneously gathering proof points to aid in the sale of Nike products. Validation – making the consumer feel special and seen – is a critical part of the personalized sales process. In the end, the consumer has to feel as though they are the hero as the brand outfits them to take on their quest of personal transformation.
MAKE IT REAL
The final step in leading a consumer through the discovery process is to put the product in their hands - or on their feet, for Nike’s purposes. Trialing experiences are the goal in all of Nike’s stores. Once the consumer begins to believe in their new truth, the next step is to prove the viability of the vision. Nothing does this better than experiencing the product first hand. It solidifies the brand promise and creates a path to living the new reality. And of course, no consumer journey is complete without a path to purchase.
DESIGN FOR THE SENSES
While it’s true that people experience your messaging, that doesn’t mean that any of it is worth remembering. Let’s face it. Ads are flat, but the world is round. It’s easy to tune out even the best video spots. Memorable campaigns are the ones that we can touch, feel, experience and can incorporate into our own worldview. Memorable campaigns are not only the ones we can touch, but the ones that touch us. Marketers who really want to connect with their target audience are turning to designed experiences that are both interactive and evocative in nature. More importantly, these experiences must be memorable, which necessitates that they be engaging and emotionally evocative. Moreover, the entirety of the campaign must activate consumers to wake up to their own emerging truth–their constantly shifting vision of their best, most ideal selves.
So what does it take to make it into long term memory? How do we grow brand equity through story crafting and narrative over time? The answer is - we make it visceral. When consumers experience a brand through their senses, it solidifies memory to make a more complete story that consumers can believe in and hold as a part of their own personal truth.
This marketing insight is also evidenced in the science of perception - a subject I studied while pursuing my B.S. in psychology. Psychology has offered many useful insights for marketers to understand the fundamentals of the human experience and has had significant impact on the science of persuasion. Brands want nothing more than to be have a life-long relationship with their consumers. The worst thing that can happen is that a consumer hears your message, likes what you have to say, but then forgets about you two months later. This happens to me with Facebook Ads all the time. So how do we get to that place of long-term memory? Perhaps a good place to start is by examining the two types of long-term memory as described by the field of cognitive neuroscience.
DESIGN FOR MEMORY
SEMANTIC MEMORY (THE STUFF YOU THINK YOU KNOW)
Semantic memory refers to the facts and concepts that we’ve heard or read. This type of memory refers to things that are common knowledge - ideas that we’ve come into contact with secondhand that we’ve decided are true primarily based on their general level of acceptance. A good example of this is when a close friend turns us onto a new restaurant in town that has “the best steak.” Next time someone asks you who has the best steak in town, you may be inclined to say something like “Oh, I’ve heard that RingSide has the best steak in town.” The claim already carries with it a sense of doubt. It’s not the most convincing recommendation. In fact, if pressed, you may not have any supporting evidence as to why this particular restaurant is a better consideration than any other place in town.
EPISODIC MEMORY (UNSHAKABLE TRUTH)
Episodic memory is a body of knowledge that we have experienced for ourselves. It is our unshakeable truth that makes up our understanding of the world and guides our actions. These are our beliefs. A good example of this is when you first experience RingSide for yourself. You’re impressed with the tuxedoed waiters, the 10,000+ bottles of wine, the elegant ambiance, the fanciful presentation, and the way the sizzle jumps right off the steak and into your soul. Every bite is one of exquisite perfection that makes you want to eat more slowly than you usually would. It is the experience that leaves you full while simultaneously wanting more. It is an experience from start to finish - the steak is just the point of consumption. This kind of recommendation is one that might actually compel someone to investigate further. This kind of memory is so lucid and so complete that it would be nearly impossible to get you to consider going anywhere else. This recommendation paints a picture of multi-sensory experience.
HOW WE DESIGN MEMORIES:
One central truth that we employ in designing any kind of campaign is that messaging has to be tactile. That is, you have to employ as many senses as possible to forge the memory and round out the message. Again, here’s some science:
HEBB'S LAW (NERVES THAT FIRE TOGETHER, WIRE TOGETHER)
Memories are only as strong as the nerves that bind them. Weak memories are faint for a reason: Our brain had no reason to sort or process them. Sure we want to remember the facts and figures for our presentation, but the organism (our body - which really is just a bundle of nerves) had no reason to prioritize the information. You only have to touch a hot stove once to remember to never do it again. Hebb’s Law states that nerves that fire together, wire together. Another way to think of this is that memories have strength in numbers. The more sensory inputs we can design for, the better. When these senses all begin to coalesce around a central truth, the messaging becomes not only clear, but resonant. And ultimately, unforgettable.
HOW WE DESIGN EXPERIENCE
WE DESIGN FOR HUMANS
We at Manifesto design messaging campaigns that you can’t help but want to participate in. We spend a lot of time taking into account the consumer’s needs, wants, and values in order to create something that is impactful and interesting. This requires us to think of the ways in which humans perceive their world and go about collecting sensorial representations of truth.
WE DESIGN FOR BRANDS
We also spend a lot of time digging into the truth below product feature/benefit to find the overlap between brands and humans. At the end of the day, your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what the consumer believes it is. And just like a three course meal at Ringside or a trip to the nearest Nike story, it is important to lead consumers through an exploratory, multi-sensory journey that culminates in a new truth that puts them at the center of a truth you both share.
AUTHORS NOTE: Ringside in Portland, Oregon really does have the best steak in town. I know from experience.
Dan Olson is a Senior Strategist for Manifesto in Portland, Oregon who spends most of his time reading up on neurology, human behavior, decision making, and the science of persuasion between taking his dog on walks through the neighborhood. You can usually find him people watching at various grocery and department stores.