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The brain is a powerful organ, but it’s not infallible. When marketers are designing campaigns, it’s important to keep the limited capacity of the working memory in mind to maximize the potential of these messages. Using the findings of psychology, you can improve marketing campaigns and promotional communications to make sure your intended audience fully comprehends the ideas you’re putting out there.
One of the best tools to keep in mind is Miller’s Law, also known as “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two”. According to Simply Psychology, this theory was created by psychologist George Miller in 1956. What Miller found was that most adults can keep between 5 and 9 items within their short-term memory. Short-term memory, a.k.a. working memory, can be compared to a filing cabinet where each individual has around 7 slots in which it can process data.
First of all, the filing cabinet has a limited amount of space. If you try to stuff a stack of papers into it all at once, some are going to crumple and others simply won’t fit at all. You have to make sure that you’re not overwhelming the working memory’s processing ability. The first step is to limit the amount of new information you’re presenting and then pace your information so that it gets filed properly.
Before planning out your next big marketing campaign, think of Miller. There’s a good reason that most successful tag-lines are never longer than seven words. There’s a lot that goes into writing a great marketing slogan, but the very first step is coming up with something that anyone on the street could repeat back to you immediately.
Once you’ve tackled working memory, there’s another challenge entirely: How can you craft a message that gets stored away for good, but easily accessible? The most powerful marketing messages tap into something deeper. The secret to gaining a place in someone’s long-term memory lies in forming the right associations, so the new memory can be recalled later.
One way to facilitate this process is to use visual metaphors to express your ideas. If you’re introducing an unfamiliar concept, try fusing it to something that’s familiar to your audience. Take the weather, for example, it’s a common metaphor because everyone experiences rain and sunshine. The goal is to bond your brand with an existing memory in your audience. For instance, if you think about cute, cuddly polar bears, one of your associations with them might be Coca-Cola because of their commercials. A positive association and fairly unique. We can’t think of another brand we associate polar bears with.
Next time you put a marketing message together, consider how easy it will be for consumers to understand and recall the information you’ve presented.
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