There are three key psychologies that work on all of us (even you, Derren Brown) when forming memories. We are programmed – whether we like to fight it or not – to respond better and form stronger memories if we are spoken to in certain ways. We can’t help ourselves – hormones are released when we feel these three emotions and all rational thinking goes out of the window. These include:

  • Feeling fearful/ outraged
  • Being flattered/ having our egos built up
  • Nostalgia

For example, there is a certain British tabloid newspaper (who shall remain nameless), who employs a “sidebar of shame” to share judgemental, fear-mongering news and celebrity gossip on their desktop and mobile platforms. After being surveyed, 46% of the readership of this newspaper said they actively disagreed with the politics and viewpoints shared in this publication... but they weren’t going to stop reading it. We enjoy being outraged! If you’re creating intense feelings, whether that’s joy, anger, humour or confusion, the chances of your audience remembering you is greatly increased.

Here we take a closer look at how your product can become more memorable to your audience through using a few clever tricks when you speak to them – and it’s all about how you make them feel.

Strategy 1: It’s a scary world without your product

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Causing a stir, creating strong reactions to stories, releases hormones that remind humans they are superior thinking beings, capable of outrage. These hormones are addictive – so next time you find yourself tuned into Keeping Up With The Kardashians or I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!, don’t blame yourself – blame your ancient reptilian brain.

  • How might you create strong reactions in your own writing?
  • How can you be provocative, without merely doing it for the sake of it?
  • How can you give people something worth talking about?

One strategy is to create the idea that, without your product, your audience isn’t reaching their greatest capabilities. Now if your product is good – this will be true. Eddy Lawrence, the journalist who ran The Guardian Masterclass we attended, explained that:

“By inspiring fear in audiences, and the feeling of ‘missing out’, you encourage them to leapfrog over their rational, thinking minds and get them to take action: feeling instead of thinking.”

Do you remember those Cadbury’s adverts from a few years ago where a gorilla played a drum kit to Phil Collins? What did that have to do with chocolate? Ostensibly – nothing. A chocolate bar didn’t even appear in the advert, but it was memorable for the confusion – and even anger – it created in audiences. It was a risky tactic but one that paid off: it increased the sales of Cadbury’s chocolate by 5% that year.

Eddy Lawrence also explained that all people want to save the same three things:

  • Time
  • Stress
  • Money

If you can show your audience a world without your product is difficult, expensive, time-wasting or stressful, then they are far more likely to form lasting memories and engage with your products, fearful of the version of their lives that doesn’t contain your brand.

Strategy 2: Speak to them at a higher level

Looking up at a very tall tree

Too often we over-simplify our language for consumers. It’s a common misconception that people don’t want to have to think or work too hard to learn new things. Humans are programmed to be problem solvers: the satisfaction we feel when overcoming something a little challenging is far greater than the feelings we get when we find something too easy. Therefore, don’t talk down to your audience: talk slightly up to them and they’ll remember you far better.

Not only does this show you’re a brand who really knows their stuff, is intelligent and ambitious, but if your buyer does have to research a word or terminology then you’ve inadvertently just taught them a new piece of information and your product will be what they associate with this new learning. You’re also doing something clever: by assuming your reader already understands the language and terminology you’re using to speak to them, you’re showing that you assume they’re clever enough to follow you. This is a form of flattery and plays to our vanities: we all like being treated as more intelligent than we are.

Be careful though – as Eddy Lawrence reminded us, it can be done too heavy handedly and become a deterrent:

“This doesn’t mean grabbing a thesaurus and changing every other word into a more “high brow” option – speaking up to your reader in a flattering way means trusting them with progressive, intelligent and rigorous content, not losing them through pretentious – or worse – nonsensical writing.”

Strategy 3: Use your shared nostalgia

Superhero comics lined up on a shelf in a store

How many of us – even if you try not to get sucked in – enter debates about the major chains’ Christmas adverts each year? From the middle of November onwards, we start the race to see as many as we can, comparing and contrasting, deciding which ones are keepers and which ones are duds. This is because Christmas is such a highly emotive, memory-making time of year, associated with childhood, that we all feel we have ownership over it. Bringing out high-budget, controversial, sentimental content at this time of year is a clever ploy which increases sales for these brands, no matter how the adverts are perceived.

Happy memories are a clever way to make someone else see something your way – if you can get them to attach a familiar, long-ago-collected memory to your brand, people will prioritise your product over something similar they saw from another company. You want to make your audience feel warm and happy when you speak to them, like they’re putting on their favourite old jumper and being handed a mug of steaming cocoa. Nostalgia sells – here’s some further proof from CMS Wire:

“Coca-Cola used nostalgia to double its sales volume with iconic bottles shaped like those vintage contour ones from 1923….Jack Daniel’s BPI (brand power index) rose 27 percent when it promoted a special edition to mark Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday and his 50-year relationship with the brand.”

If you know your biggest buyer persona is a male aged between 35-45, then talking about superheroes or TV-show characters of the 1980s would be a great way to create this nostalgic storytelling style to help engage them. If, however, your main audience is a female in her 50s-60s, you’d need to take another approach, perhaps researching the biggest teen magazines and film icons from the 1960s-70s. Whether you were actually there in these eras or not isn’t important, but using pop culture references to create familiarity and bonds between you and your reader helps to make your brand more relatable.

By tapping into the three strongest emotions that help us humans form memories, you’re enabling stories to be associated with your brand, trust to be built between you and your audience, and ultimately sales to increase. If you neglect the human side of selling, the parts going on inside our heads without us even realising, you’re at risk of missing out on opportunities – so reach out and take your customers along on your journey with you.