It’s been over 23 years since the original Coca-Cola polar bear commercial aired during the holiday season, but I still remember it clearly.
When I think about it, I suppose a big group of CGI polar bears, gazing up at the Northern Lights, and drinking bottles of Coke, is pretty unforgettable—especially back in 1993, when computer graphics were still in their infancy.
This leads me to wonder: Of all the commercials I watched as a kid, why did this one stick with me after all this time? I probably watched thousands of commercials as a kid, but I remember very, very few of them. The answer is wrapped up in the science of memory: how we form memories, how content creates new memories, and how memories are reinforced over time.
Because Coca-Cola created an ad that was so novel and cutting-edge for its time, it stuck with me beyond short-term, working memory. I consolidated these memories, and they were then reinforced by years of consistent advertising. Every year, I add new memories to my Coca-Cola-Polar-Bear memory bank. And every year, I get a little teary at whatever new commercial they release, which is guaranteed to feature a heartwarming story of friendship and connection.
Now Coke may have a bigger advertising budget than most of us marketers do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t create content that’s just as memorable and impactful. By understanding how the brain works and how memory works, we can optimize our creative and distribution plans to make a long-term impact on our audiences.
As illustrated by the anecdote above, there are four key factors involved in creating a memorable marketing campaign:
1. Sensory Data
Memories are enriched by visuals, videos, and immersive or interactive elements. The more sensory data you can provide around your brand, the more memorable your content will be.
2. Visual Distinctiveness
Having a visual identity that’s unique and consistent can help you enrich memories consumers have already formed from previous interactions with your brand.
Getting your content in front of the right people, at the right time, on the right channel, can increase its stickiness when it comes to memory.
4. Emotional Appeal
Creating content that makes an emotional impact will live on in your audience’s memory much longer than factual marketing copy.
Want to learn more about the science of memory? Check out our full interactive infographic created in partnership with Percolate.