Making memories


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Understanding how memories are made and the impact for brands.

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Making memories

  1. 1. Brain GameOpinion LeaderMaking memories Share this In Focus
  2. 2. Making memoriesMemories exist to help us makedecisions. Understanding how theydo it promises to give brands andmarketers a powerful edge. Share this In Focus 2
  3. 3. Making memoriesA young man walks into his local bar and as his These are all examples of the power of affectiveattention focuses on a bottle of Corona, his mind memories, powerful associations that cansuddenly turns to a girl he kissed on a beach leap unbidden to our attention through theholiday in Mexico five years before; a 21-year- activation of patterns of neurons in our brains,old girl walks out of the cinema after watching often by seemingly unrelated triggers. TheThe Social Network and feels an overriding urge first two are everyday examples of the ways into eat a Big Mac; a taste tester swiftly changes which these memories influence the fortuneshis preference when told which of the drinks he of brands. The final two are taken fromis comparing is Coca-Cola; and in Switzerland, groundbreaking experiments that have soughta student of wine stares incredulously when he to shed light on told that the vintage that he has just praisedprofusely is in fact the same cheap plonk thathe has tasted and dismissed as worthless a fewminutes before. Share this In Focus 3
  4. 4. Making memoriesMemory games had been poured into two of the bottles: one reviews when poured from an expensive bottle,In the first of these experiments, a famous the bottle of a prestigious vintage; the other and scathing ones when associated with ataste-off between The Coca-Cola company a younger, less prestigious label. The labels cheaper label. When told what had happened,and Pepsi orchestrated by the neuroscientist exerted a great influence on the scores this all students had a hard time believing theySamuel McClure in 2004, tasters were first wine received: it drew positive scores and had actually tasted the same wine on bothasked to sample the two drinks in a blind test. occasions.When they did so, preference was split roughlyequally between the rival colas. However,when they were then served the drinks frombranded containers, Coke became the favourite.Interestingly, fMRI scans of the tasters’ brainsshowed significantly different brain activitywhen knowingly drinking Coca-Cola than whenconsuming it blind. When it comes to enjoyingCoca-Cola, something other than tastebuds isclearly at work.The wine experiment provides more evidenceas to what. In it, students of oenology werepresented with four different bottles of wineand asked to taste them, rate them and thenjustify the scores that they gave to each.Unbeknownst to them, their drinks had beentampered with. A mediocre wine of poor quality Share this In Focus 4
  5. 5. The remembering self and the experiencing selfIn his landmark book, Thinking Fast and Slow, how the event itself is remembered (in this case asDaniel Kahneman explores the potential a negative experience). Likewise a bad experiencedifference between our “experiencing self” and that ends well will be remembered positively andour “remembering self”, pointing out in the recalled as a positive memory. As Kahneman putsprocess that our memories of an event can be it: “The remembering self is sometimes wrong, butreconsolidated while the event itself is still on- it is the one that keeps score and governs whatgoing. If a diner in a restaurant experiences a we learn from living, and it is the one that makeswonderful five-course meal only to have a waiter decisions. What we learn from the past is tospill a glass of red wine all over his finest suit at maximise the qualities of our future memories”.the end of it, it is this final memory that dominates Share this In Focus 5
  6. 6. Making memoriesThe triumph of memory over (present) But our understanding of exactly how it forms – this is the hippocampus at work. Its business,experience and how brands can act to improve their position the business of memory, is connecting differentBoth the wine tasters and their cola equivalents within the brain – is only beginning to emerge. elements of our experience together.had been fooled by the powerful role that tracesof the past play in preparing our brains for the The busy librarian At the intersection of past and presentfuture. As neuroscientists come to understand Our knowledge of how memories are recorded, This process of connecting one set of informationmore about how memories form and re-form, they consolidated, recalled and reconsolidated has with another is as relevant to our future as it is toare realizing that anticipating experiences in this been transformed in recent years. We now our past. The evidence of fMRI scans shows thatway is a vital part of their role. So much so that our understand that memory is dispersed, with the parts of our brain we use when rememberingmost powerful memories may actually supplant or various representations of an experience encoded overlap substantially with the parts that weoverride our experiences in the present. in different parts of the brain simultaneously. use when anticipating or imagining the future. These different perspectives on our memories Memories are the basis of our learning andIn our wine example, the brains of the students are connected together through the direction of planning, and their intersection with the present iswere already equipped with knowledge of the the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped structure a complex one. It is our present circumstances thatprestigious vintages and this memory trumped located near the brain’s temporal lobe. Imagine a influence which memories rush to our minds andactual taste when it came to experiencing the librarian surrounded by shelves that contain not the form that they take when they are Could brands play a similar role, acting not carefully bound, complete books relating different And as our wine example shows, present andjust as the promise of enjoyment but actually episodes and aspects of our lives, but simply remembered experience can compete with onecausing us to experience that enjoyment as well? piles and piles of individual pages. When a visitor another when it comes to establishing what isThe cola example appears to show that they can, requests information on a specific subject (when a actually happening. Evidence is even emerging thatwith the presence of a favoured brand bringing memory is evoked), the librarian must fly around our present experiences may cause certain partsmemory networks into play and producing a more these shelves, pulling together as many pages as it of our memories to be “reconsolidated”, editingpositive experience. Such influence within the can find that were recorded at the time and then associations, replacing them with new ones andmind is a powerful asset for any brand to possess. compiling them together into a coherent volume: colouring our recall of the past. Share this In Focus 6
  7. 7. Making memoriesProust on Neuroscience his mind. The sensation that Proust describes Neuroscientists think of our memories asDespite this impressive recent accumulation of is powerfully emotional, enough to make him collections of independent but interconnectedneuroscientific knowledge, the best evocation shudder and pause, even though it seems sub-systems that deal with different types ofof how memory intersects with present to relate to a very ordinary experience. It is a information and knowledge: autobiographicexperience remains that written by Marcel classic example of an affective memory, which memory storing personal events and detailsProust in Remembrance of Things Past (1913), in takes its power from emotional resonance and (such as the memory of the aunt hidden awaywhich he describes how the unfamiliar taste of deep personal relevance rather than the detail in Proust’s head), semantic memory handlingMadeleine biscuit mixed with tea causes happy of what it describes, and which has immense general knowledge about the world (whichmemories of a long-forgotten aunt to rush to potential to influence actions in the present. informed him that the biscuit he was eating was known as a Madeleine), procedural memory governing how we carry out tasks and routines (which helped him to sip his tea) and perceptive memory relating to images, sounds and other senses (which helped him to recognise the taste of it). These memories become “affective”, with the ability to spring powerfully to mind and influence our experience and anticipation in the present, when they are associated with events of emotional or other significance to the individual in question. In Proust’s case, he recognises the emotion of happiness that connects the different aspects of his Madeleine memory together – even though it refers to events so long ago that his autobiographic memory cannot recall the detail of them. Share this In Focus 7
  8. 8. Marcel Proust on affective memoriesAn extract from Remembrance of Things Past (1913)One day in winter, on my return home, my And suddenly the memory revealed itself. Themother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some taste was that of the little piece of madeleinetea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at which on Sunday mornings at Combray (becausefirst, and then, for no particular reason, changed on those mornings I did not go out before mass),my mind. She sent for one of those squat, plump when I went to say good morning to her inlittle cakes called “petites madeleines,”. No sooner her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me,had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane.touched my palate than a shudder ran through me And as soon as I had recognized the taste ofand I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoctionthat was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure of lime-blossom which my aunt used to givehad invaded my senses, something isolated, me (although I did not yet know and must longdetached, with no suggestion of its origin. I feel postpone the discovery of why this memory madesomething start within me, something that leaves me so happy) immediately the old grey houseits resting-place and attempts to rise, something upon the street, where her room was, rose upthat has been embedded like an anchor at a great like a stage set to attach itself to the little paviliondepth; I do not know yet what it is, but I can feel opening on to the garden which had been builtit mounting slowly; I can measure the resistance. out behind it for my parents. Share this In Focus 8
  9. 9. Making memoriesThe power of affect We have long known that emotion plays aThe connections between the neurons powerful role in directing our attention, andconstituting our memories can be strengthened prioritising what we remember. Emotion signalsor weakened by chemical processes. It is well to the brain that we care about somethingestablished that “neurons that fire together, – and therefore that our attention should bewire together” reinforcing their connections focused on it. Through the chemicals that itthrough a process knows as Long-term releases, it strengthens neural connections,Potentiation (LTP) and thus springing to mind as increasing the chances of memories beinga cohesive memory more readily than others. In recalled as a powerful, cohesive whole toour library analogy, the hippocampus-librarian help guide our future actions. It is often thequickly finds that some pages stick together most emotion-inducing elements of an eventautomatically, making it easier to organise them that dominate our recall of it (explaining whyinto the right book – and that these books witnesses to an armed robbery can oftenstart to fall open at the same pages time and describe the gun in far more detail than thetime again. In this way, our brain begins to person holding it). However, it is not simply theclassify certain memories as more relevant and emotional content of a memory that categorisessignificant than others. Over time, these well- it as important. Memories that intersect closelyestablished memories can even be accessed with goals, motivations, ambitions and identityindependently of the hippocampus, since the can equally become strengthened throughconnections between them are so powerful. Long-term Potentiation. The most powerful is particularly significant to the individualAnd the memories that dominate this ranking affective memories occur when these two forces concerned, ensuring a strong and regularlysystem are those strengthened by affective align – when an emotionally resonant memory reinforced memory pattern.forces. Share this In Focus 9
  10. 10. Making memoriesBrands and memoryReturning to our everyday examples, we cansee how individual emotional significance, andthe way in which it creates affective memories,can work to the benefit of brands. Our visitor tohis local bar is affected by the bottle of Corona,not just because it is associated with emotion,but because it is associated with a particularlysignificant emotion for him personally. He wasdrinking Corona when he kissed the girl. Itbrings vivid memories, thoughts and feelings notjust of a beach and the sun, but of a younger,more romantic version of himself.But the association of Corona with his Mexicanfling isn’t just the result of his memory ofthe event itself. On various occasions in thefive years’ since, he has encountered Corona In understanding the context in which its target belong together; it has ensured that this is aadvertising linking the brand with sunny climes, audience experiences its brand, and reinforcing book that is very easy to recreate when thepartying lifestyles and sexy women, and this the resultant affective memories through circumstances suggest it. Corona is in control ofadvertising has reinforced the connections consistent advertising messages, Corona’s its brand narrative and can predict with somebetween these constituent elements that form advertising has regularly reminded the pages certainty how the narrative will play out in thehis affective memory. in the hippocampus-librarian’s book that they mind of a great many individuals. Share this In Focus 10
  11. 11. The Jennifer Aniston neuronIn a recent experiment, the neuroscientist Quian outfits; even in response to the mention of herQuiroga demonstrated how single brain cells name; but never to, for example, Katie Holmesmay become associated both with specific wearing a dress previously worn by Jenniferconcepts and broader memories, through Aniston. Intriguingly though, in the case offollowing the activity of what he termed the some people, the Jennifer Aniston neuron alsoJennifer Aniston neuron. This is the neuron that fired in response other actors or actresses fromfired within the brain of a subject when they Friends. As well as being associated with Jenwere shown pictures of the Friends actress, specifically, it also appeared to form part of abut not when they were shown pictures of network of neurons that related to the TV showother famous actresses or completely unrelated as a whole. For this reason, some researchersobjects such as the Sydney Opera House. believe that small number of cells in our brainThe Jennifer Aniston neuron was associated might become attached to a concept (eitherspecifically with Jennifer Aniston. It fired in Jennifer Aniston or a particular brand), firingresponse to photographs of her in different whenever that concept is evoked. Share this In Focus 11
  12. 12. Making memoriesNetworking with Justin are particularly resonant and relevant to the reinforcing affective memories does not inThe affective memories reinforced by McDonalds individuals constituting a target audience. The itself guarantee outcomes. In both cases, thein the mind of our cinemagoer are rooted less in strategies are not simply emotional; they are circumstances of the present have a powerfulpersonal experience than in association with an affective, aligning with personal motivations, role to play in influencing how the memory willemotionally resonant figure. The girl in question goals and identities. However, creating and be perceived and acted upon.has been a Justin Timberlake fan since herearly teenage years. Back then, a sight of Justinwould reliably trigger a flood of hormone-drivenemotions and in her early twenties, the legacyof those hormones are especially strengthenednetworks of Timberlake-related memories.McDonalds earned a place within theseaffective memory networks when it hired JustinTimberlake to perform the vocal for its “I’mlovin’ it” global advertising campaign. When our21-year old girl saw Justin playing a supportingrole in The Social Network film, her Timberlakememory networks fired up, and McDonaldssprang unconsciously to mind.Both of these examples show the power ofdeveloping brand strategies that do not justtrigger emotion, but recall emotions that Share this In Focus 12
  13. 13. Beyond Justin:audio hooks and affective memoriesIn investing in Justin Timberlake as the audio to appeal to established national stereotypeshook for its brand, McDonalds has followed a in their minds). When the “French” music waswell-established strategy. The power of music played, French wine outsold German by fivein influencing choice has been demonstrated by to one. When the German music was heard,an experiment in which supermarket shoppers German wines achieved double the sales of theirwere played “recognisably” French or German French (featuring accordians and oompah bands Share this In Focus 13
  14. 14. Making memoriesCircumstance takes a hand Our cinema-goer’s memories have learned strong and relevant enough to override presentThe likelihood of the young man actually over time that Justin Timberlake is no longer experience when they believed themselves to beordering the bottle of Corona that he sees connected to Britney Spears, despite their once tasting that wine. Among amateur wine buffs,in the pub depends upon his present social being the most famous couple in the world. If with weaker memories associated with thatcontext – and how he views the younger the association is not consistently reinforced, vineyard, present-day experience may have wonversion of himself that rushes to mind when he they may one day learn that he is no longer out instead – and caused the prestigious label tosees it. Does he view this self as immature and connected to McDonald’s. In the case of our become associated, cruelly and unfairly, with thereckless compared to the present day? Or does Swiss wine students, the affective memories taste of cheap plonk.he see him as a youthful ideal with emotions associated with the prestigious vintage wereand experiences with which he would love toreconnect? In dealing with affective memories,an understanding of their present context fora target audience is equally as important asunderstanding the triggers that are likely torecall them to mind.Some researchers have suggested that incertain situations, the changed circumstancesin which a memory is recalled can actuallycause the memory itself to be changed or“reconsolidated”, with certain connectionsbeing eroded, others being reinforced andnew ones being added (bearing in mind thatwe remember things far more effectively whenthey relate to something we already know). Share this In Focus 14
  15. 15. Making memoriesUpdating the brand narrative Neuroscientists disagree about the extent it to take place. When we recognise that anWhen our learned experience is contradicted and frequency of reconsolidation, but the experience differs significantly from our learnedby present experience, the potential emerges possibility of shifts in the form of our memories expectations, the hippocampus appears alertedfor memories to become reconsolidated, taking is a significant one for brands. Memory to the possibility of connecting it up differently.on different connotations and influencing our reconsolidation emphasises the importance of However not all new things are importantactions in new ways. understanding how consumers experience a enough to invest in updating our memories – it brand across a range of different touchpoints. is those that we care about (and that relate to It also suggests tactical approaches that can strong networks already established in our brain) keep a brand in control of its narrative even if it that are most likely to be integrated into our becomes fragmented and distorted within our memories. Balancing novelty and consistency memories. And it provides an opportunity to in brand messaging and finding new ways to associate a brand more closely with the things connect to an audience members’ affective that its target audience already cares about. networks, can help to keep a brand in control of its narrative – and it can extend that narrative to Those neuroscientists that argue for the fairly new areas, connecting it to existing memories regular occurrence of reconsolidation suggest within our neural networks. that novelty is one of the triggers that enable Share this In Focus 15
  16. 16. Making memoriesAffective brand planning our memories are very much our own. They powerful affective memories. Equally though,It is becoming clear that effective brand are the product of individual experience it requires brands to develop an individual-planning is affective brand planning. A brand and the particular paths that our lives take. based understanding of the minds andthat has established genuine power in the Affective brand planning requires marketers memories of the consumers they target. It isminds of consumers is itself a form of affective to develop strategies that reflect the different by understanding more deeply the variousmemory. As such it is a powerful asset, but forces forming and shaping associations circumstances in which affective memories areone that cannot be wholly controlled from within consumers’ brains, and enlisting tools formed, consolidated and recalled that we cana distance. As Proust understood so well, such as emotion and novelty to help create most reliably direct them towards fulfilling brand objectives. Share this In Focus 16
  17. 17. You may References be interested in... About the author Franck Sarrazit is Global Director of TNS’s Brand &The secret life of the brain – Kyle Findlay > Communications practice, focusing on developing completeThe trouble with tracking – Jan Hofmeyr > solutions that help key clients grow their brands, assess obstacles to strategic effectiveness and track performance. Remembrance of Things Past - Marcel Proust Prior to joining TNS in 2012, Franck held roles with Procter Memory in the Real World, third edition - edited by Gillian & Gamble and Synovate, as well as working in brand Cohen and Martin Conway; Psychology Press consulting, delivering high profile global research projects. The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Franck is an expert in psychoanalytic research and uses this Remembers - by Daniel L. Schacter; Souvenir Press Ltd expertise to build brands. The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Franck was born in France but has been living abroad for Making of Conciousness – by Antonio Damasio; Harcourt: the past 20 years. He obtained both his Masters and Ph.D. New York while studying in England. Thinking, Fast and Slow – by Daniel Kahneman; Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York Emotion and Reason: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Decision Making – by Alain Berthoz, translated by Giselle Weiss; OUP Oxford Neural Correlates of Behavioral Preference for Culturally Familiar Drinks - by Samuel M. McClure, Jian Li, Damon Tomlin, Kim S. Cypert, Latane´ M. Montague and P. Read Montague; Baylor College of Medicine Share this In Focus 17
  18. 18. About In FocusIn Focus is part of a regular series of articles that takes an in-depth look at a particular subject, region ordemographic in more detail. All articles are written by TNS consultants and based on their expertise gatheredthrough working on client assignments in over 80 markets globally, with additional insights gained throughTNS proprietary studies such as Digital Life, Mobile Life and The Commitment Economy.About TNSTNS advises clients on specific growth strategies around new market entry, innovation, brand switching andstakeholder management, based on long-established expertise and market-leading solutions. With a presencein over 80 countries, TNS has more conversations with the world’s consumers than anyone else and understandsindividual human behaviours and attitudes across every cultural, economic and political region of the world.TNS is part of Kantar, one of the world’s largest insight, information and consultancy groups.Please visit for more information.Get in touchIf you would like to talk to us about anything you have read in this report, please get in touch or via Twitter @tns_global Share this In Focus 18