The human brain is a wondrous thing. If compared to a computer hard drive, the brain is estimated to have a memory storage capacity of 2.5 petabytes (1 petabyte is 1 million gigabytes). And yet, even with so much memory capacity, we still forget an average of 50% of information within the first hour of receiving it. What’s more astonishing is that the percentage rises to 70% within 24 hours and 90% within a week.
So why do we forget so much in such a short period of time? It’s because our brains avoid memory overload by forgetting things that are no longer useful. That’s why we have no problems remembering things we need to know for a specific time frame – like a restaurant’s address or the location of a parking spot – but can’t seem to recall the information a few days later. Forgetting clears our memories for things that are more relevant. However, it often also causes us to forget important information.
Marketers and advertisers today are fighting for their information to be memorable. Memorability is a key factor in purchase decisions as market research has identified that most consumer decisions are memory based. After all, how can you buy something if you don’t remember what it is or why you need it?
Taking a Long-Term, Strategic Approach
Because the one-and-done approach is unsuccessful in achieving memorability, advertisers have long practiced effective frequency – the number of times a person must be exposed to an ad or message before responding or taking action. But as consumers become more and more wary of brand advertisements (only 1% of millennials today trust them), it’s imperative to find another way to stay top of mind.
In place of effective frequency, some have opted for a spaced repetition strategy. While similar in that both rely on multiple exposure attempts, effective frequency traditionally applies to exposing an audience to the same ad or message over time while spaced repetition is a psychological learning theory that uses nuanced narratives over spaced intervals to help people remember information. Studies on spaced repetition found that people recalled things for longer periods of time and with greater accuracy because narratives are more memorable than facts alone.
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