Why That Ad Sucks: Marketing and Memory Science

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By: Dr. David Bridwell, People Scientist and Jake McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer

Only 16% of advertising is remembered and correctly attributed by consumers. Yes, you read that right. Consumers don’t remember the majority of ads they see, and when they DO remember the ad, they can only identify the brand 40% of the time (Sharp, 2010).

What can marketers do to make sure 84% of their budget isn’t going to waste? It starts with an understanding of the way consumers process ads through emotion and memory systems. It starts with an understanding of consumer psychology and behavior. 

To begin, we understand that the majority of the information that we encounter throughout the day is processed with little or no awareness. We encounter advertisements repeatedly, and each of these ads serve to give a gentle reminder that the brand exists and to build familiarity and trust through repeated exposure. Essentially, we get nudged so we’re slightly more likely to think of the product or service or see the product or service on the shelf, on a website, or at a physical location. 

In our latest webinar, we took a deep dive into these details of consumer psychology and behavior, with a particular focus on memory. And when we look at memory science, we essentially see that memory is formed either tied closer to the senses or explicitly related to language and more effortful processing. Briefly, implicit memory is how we recognize that it’s you, and explicit memory is what we think about you. 

As marketers, we often aim to initially reach our audiences through implicit memory because it creates strong trust and affinity for brands, and it takes much less effort on the part of the audience. We can create implicit memory associations through repeated brief exposure to our ads as a first step, and secondarily, we can make sure that these cues are associated with the right ideas that represent your brand. 

These mental associations become really important in helping the customer see how your product or service is unique, and they help them come up with a reason why they made the purchase (often, our behavior comes first, and our rationalization for that behavior happens later). And because we can only keep a few pieces of information in our working memory at a time, it’s critical for marketers to hone in on the really important information to make sure it gets communicated to the largest audience possible. At Intermark Group, we call this “simple distinction”.

As a brand grows, the customers begins to create many different mental associations as a result of their many different experiences with the brand, their different exposures to the brand advertising, or their experience with all the different products from that brand. 

At Intermark Group, we’re happy to help you create advertisements that will leverage these insights from memory science to build strong connections with your brand and your audience. Feel free to give us a call at 833-578-1314 or email us at [email protected] for more info.