Marketing's Coveted End-Game

Why is long-term memory a marketer’s coveted end-game? Because our minds are wired to remember certain types of messages. If you want a favorable outcome, your marketing and sales success is more likely when you instill long-term memory in your prospects. Creating long-term memory enhances your ability to make the sale and close the deal.

In today’s world of relentless distraction, it’s become challenging for our marketing and sales pitches to stick. So for today, here’s a look at three levels of memory, and where you can plug in to channels and approaches that will help create long-term memory of you and your product.

For a couple of years I have become increasingly intrigued with new discoveries of brain research. Parallel to that research is my analysis of the brain’s pathways of thinking and decision-making, and ultimately how people move themselves to take action.

It’s my belief that to be successful now, you must first create at least short-term memory, with the most desired and successful level being long-term memory.

Synthesizing memory to three levels, marketers often begin with glance and forget marketing, moving to short-term memory, and the ultimate place you want messaging to breakthrough is with long-term memory about your organization and product. 

In a post from earlier last year, explaining in detail why direct mail won’t die, I shared these three stages of memory:

  • Glance and Forget means that in seconds we forget what we just saw or read. The vast majority of social media and mass media, just to name a couple of channels, is just that: glance and forget. That’s why in these channels, repetition is key to move the prospect up the ladder to short-term memory.
  • Short-Term Memory evaporates in just minutes or hours. This may be just enough time to move a person to action, but with the risk that there may be a misunderstanding of your product leading to cart abandonment, underutilized product potential, or cancellations.
  • Long-Term Memory lasts several hours, a day, maybe a week, and in a few instances, a lifetime. Once you achieve long-term memory, your odds of closing the deal are significantly enhanced. Moreover, this is how your customer becomes an advocate and sticks with you in the long run.

How do you move your prospect to long-term memory about you? Start with a unique selling proposition to create differentiation for new memory. It begins in the hippocampus region of the brain. Use stories to reinforce your USP and solidify your message, leading to a deepened memory groove. Interpret your offer for the metaphorical left-brain. And take your prospect to an emotional right-brain place where they give themselves permission to take action.

How can you accomplish all of those steps? Often it takes a combination of channels. Unlike only a couple of decades ago, people consume information in a wide swath of channels. Channel choice options distract us now to the point that the average attention span has dropped to just eight seconds. We’re multitasking like crazy (and losing the brain’s gray matter) while bouncing from a text on a mobile device to a computer to television to what just arrived in the email inbox. 

Even with all of these channels, I still believe direct mail won’t die: it’s tactile. Reading comprehension is higher. It is, in my opinion, one the strongest—if not the strongest—channel a marketer can use to get to the valuable depths of long-term memory.

On the other side of this thinking is from marketers who only use digital. They, in my opinion, are on shaky long-term ground. That probably explains why marketing strategy and creative firms, like my own, are hearing more and more from digital firms who want to use direct mail. They now realize that an online-only play may reach a prospect in a glance-and-forget stage and only creates enough short-term memory to snag conversions. But for stronger sales that don’t result in cart abandonment, poorly understood product benefits, and fewer cancellations, direct mail is still what creates the status of coveted long-term memory.



Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.