How do we make sure that our message is memorable? What gets memories to stick?
Let’s go back to evolution for a moment.
There are other animals in the kingdom that have better or worse eyesight than we do: eagles can see 4 to 5 times better than the average human and can spot a rabbit from over 2 miles away whereas the white rhino can barely see at all. The white rhino, on the other hand, has a sense of smell way better than ours.
What if animals have evolved optimal levels of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch; not more and not less than is needed for survival?
What if we have developed the optimal level of memory for our survival?
If this is true, it would suggest that a better memory might actually get in the way of survival.
What if a better memory would make healing from traumatic events — which often involves the forgetting or at least the fading of events — more difficult?
I believe we have evolved the ability to forget.
I also believe that remembering is the default and that forgetting is something that the mind does to improve our chances of survival.
And if we want to remember something, our focus should be on figuring out how not to forget it rather than working so hard on how to remember it.
To forget effectively, your mind has to know what to forget; in other words, it would have to come up with a ranking or prioritization of memories to know which ones to release. What if that ranking is based upon your emotions?
Information or events that do not spark emotions or intense enough emotions — positive or negative — must not be particularly important and, therefore, make great candidates for memory rejection.
For example, you tend to remember the movies that triggered your emotions in some way. They made you cry, gave you hope, made you laugh, made you ponder… or you thought the movie was really really bad. You probably tend to forget the movies that were “just okay”. In other words, you tend to forget the movies that did not spark your emotions.
This suggests to me that emotions are the glue that causes memories to stick.
If that is true, you can go a step further: if you want to make sure that rour message is remembered, you should find a way to have your audience attach emotions to it.
I found myself watching the most delightful video that a friend shared with me on social media. The video was a collage of CCTV video clips of people doing really wonderful things set to the Supertramp classic, Give a Little. Someone had collected this series of these video clips together and edited them into one of the best feel-good videos I have ever seen.
In one clip a woman drops her wallet as she walks away from the bank machine and a man stoops down, picks up her wallet and hands it to her. Another clip shows an old woman trying to cross a very busy and very snowy road. The traffic will not stop for her but two young men come up, stop the traffic and carefully guide her across the street. Clip after clip of people behaving wonderfully. As I watched the video I felt my emotions rising — I even had tears in my eyes at times — and then, at the very peak of my emotional response, a logo flashed onto the screen:
Coca-Cola: Open Happiness.
To my mind, an as a reformed Coke user, Coca-Cola sells one of the least useful, most destructive products in human history. And they are very good at it.
Coca-Cola is recognized, according to Steel Media, by 94% of the world’s population.
Coca-Cola has been steadfast in their marketing approach: make people feel good when they see or use the product. They are masters at making sure we attach emotions to their products.
Emotions are the glue that causes memories to stick. This is the key to making sure that your message and your entire presentation is memorable.
The best way to do this is by telling stories. And the better you are able to tell the story, stronger emotions you will trigger.
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