As Heath and Heath (2007) mention in “Made to Stick,” creating a marketing strategy that can be easily recalled by consumers over the long term is essential to the success of a campaign and brand. Keeping the strategy simple, authentic, unexpected, and emotional gives messages staying power, and even more so when the ideas are concrete and credible (Heath & Heath, 2007). These concepts help consumers overcome the curse of knowledge to find the important information without allowing false assumptions and misrepresentations taint the messaging (Heath & Heath, 2007).
There are many ways to help a message stick in a print ad or commercial. As the Commercial Kings explained in several of their episodes, understanding your audience through marketing research adds value to strategic planning, and a jingle, message repetition, and integration are all ways to make an idea stick (Barry, 2012). Market research of a particular target consumer segment may only be scratching the surface, however. In-depth analysis of how memory works may give advertisers an advantage in developing a media campaign.
Memories are a branch of social psychology that has been receiving a great deal of attention recently, especially by the advertising world. In particular, false memories—memories that are factually incorrect—are a common phenomenon (LaTour, Latour, & Brainerd, 2014). It is often seen in witness testimony, but it has its uses and misuses in popular media as well. A recent study by researchers at Cornell University suggests that many incorrect recollections may actually be caused by overthinking decisions (LaTour et al., 2014). Rather than a deficiency in the brain’s storage process, these “smart” false memories are actually originating when consumers think deeply about products and advertising in an attempt to make a purchasing decision (LaTour et al., 2014). Consumers who are more analytical have more trouble with false memories than those who think about marketing at a more surface level (LaTour et al., 2014).
The concept of “smart” false memories, or fuzzy-trace theory, is interesting, both in terms of advertising techniques and ethics. Policies have been put forth in an attempt to protect consumers who are considered susceptible to false or deceptive advertising (McGandy, 2014). But this study has shown that it is overly analytical consumers who are more likely to generate false memories of their own. For these individuals, it may be better to keep the message simple, visually and aurally. Flashing a logo will stick with analytical consumers better than an emotional story that requires them to engage, and gives them more opportunity to overthink and create false recollections (LaTour, 2014). This may be especially true with Internet ads seen by distracted consumers (McGandy, 2014).
Developing effective, memorable advertising is imperative to a campaign strategy, but there are so many factors to include in the planning and research phase. Combinations of visuals, sounds, messaging, and stories can be used to create lasting memories for consumers. With each new study about memory, it is becoming clearer that an exact combination for each product is necessary to reach the greatest audience. Ads must give critically thinking consumers cues that are not only engaging, but also guide their interpretation as they are forming memories (McGandy, 2014). How can Heath & Heath’s methods be used to appeal to both segments of consumers, analytical and artificial thinkers alike?
Barry, P. (2012). The advertising concept book: A complete guide to creative ideas, strategies, and campaigns. New York: Thames & Hudson.
Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2007). Made to stick: Why some ideas die and others survive. Random House.
LaTour, K. A., LaTour, M. S., & Brainerd, C. (2014). Fuzzy trace theory and “smart” false memories: Implications for advertising. Journal of Advertising, 43(1), 3–17. doi:10.1080/00913367.2013.811706
McGandy, A. (2014, March 18). Study: Ads can influence ‘smart’ false memories. The Cornell Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2014/03/study-ads-can-influence-smart-false-memories