Frequency is a key element of campaign design, especially in retargeting efforts. Multiple touches usually do better than one-off messages. But additional impressions will increase the rate of spend too. It’s a balancing act to find an efficient rate of spend and a satisfactory return on investment.
Credit: Neil Patel
That’s if you’re paying for additional impressions. It works better if you can get them for free.
While adding external impressions will increase costs, mental repetitions are free. By developing creative specifically designed to enhance recall, you can increase the returns on your campaigns without breaking the budget.
Mental recall by design
There are myriad techniques for improving recall including classic advertising tactics like repetition and setting slogans to music. For more creative ideas, and to get the most drastic effects, we can look to memory champions and the mnemonics they use.
Each year the top mental performers in the US gather to compete in the USA Memory Championships. Performing feats of memorization such as recalling entire blocks of poetry upon a single exposure to it and committing hundreds of digits of random numbers to memory, they use mental tricks to help enhance recall. Our target audiences may not be focused on memorizing details but we can still employ some of the techniques used.
There are a lot of techniques that competitors use to store and recall large amounts of random information. One of the popular and effective is the Method of Ioci or constructing a mind palace. A mind palace is a mental image of a fictional place that contains rooms and other structure features that you can place items within. By leaving memorable items to trigger you memory within your palace, you can evoke memories by walking through your palace.
For example your palace may contain a kitchen, a pantry and a dining room among other rooms. To recall a 3 of clubs and 5 of hearts when memorizing a deck of cards, you might place 3 cavemen at the dining table, arguing about dinner. (Cavemen carry clubs.) They could be eating their favorite artichoke dip (fave = five, artichoke = hearts). And the story goes on from there as you walk from room to room through your palace.
According to memory experts the key to selecting effective characters and events is making them remarkable and out of the ordinary. The more absurd or emotional or personal the events the better. So cavemen are better than golfers because you don’t see them every day and artichoke dip is better for me than candy conversation hearts because I happen to actually like it. Those valentine hearts are nasty.
We can borrow that best practice for memory by using familiar settings in the creative, incorporating absurdities and using known personal preferences. Create visual ads that accomplish this by incorporating visuals that crazy, personal or emotional, or all three.
This one’s easy. Just make your creative a little more bizarre to add more potential for recall. You don’t have to go all the way to deranged, just make it something you don’t see every day.
Here’s a well put together ad campaign from Mutual Jewelers Insurance.
It takes what could be a mundane topic in insurance coverage and ads an absurd twist: a ring stealing crab. This campaign gets bonus points for using animated display ads, which grab attention, and for adding absurd words as well as visuals. There are a series of ads that each use an obscure vocabulary to describe the theft, with alliteration to boot. “Criminal crustaceans” and “beach bandits” are memorable because they’re unusual and kind of weird.
Adding emotion doesn’t have to mean making people weep or being overly serious. Your ad should evoke a feeling, the stronger the better, to boost memorability.
This image from Granite Gear is actually from their Instagram feed but is a good example of tapping into the emotions of the target audience.
The image is paired with the copy “Hang on summer, don’t leave just yet…”. Every backpacker knows the bittersweet feeling of summer winding down. Plus the image itself shows why summer is worth savoring. It depicts one of the rewards of a long hike: a peaceful sunrise after a good night’s rest in the tent. This makes good use of an emotional reaction unique to the target audience rather than going for a completely syrupy ad to try and make general consumers misty eyed.
The notorious Puppy Monkey Baby Super Bowl ad combined emotion (repulsion) with absurdity and got double the recall. But don’t let the desire to boost the stickiness of the ad overtake the brand message you’re trying to convey. It is possible to overdo it.
Memory champs incorporate their own meaningful spaces and memories into their palaces. Experiences unique to you are more likely to be recalled when referenced externally. If you’ve ever caught a whiff of a unique smell from your hometown’s factory or a special dish your mom used to make when you were young, you know how it can take you back to a host of memories.
It can be a challenge to pinpoint personal settings since everyone’s experience is unique. But you can work with experiences that are shared by your community, your experiences unique to a profession or your geography. SCUBA diving enthusiasts probably all remember the feeling of getting their certification card in the mail or downloading their underwater photos from their camera after a dive. If you are a real estate agent you probably know how it feels to cash a commission check on a hard-earned sale, memorable because of the hurdles overcome. And people within a local community probably have memories attached to the local landmarks that are popular within the area.
Spire Credit Union is squarely focused on the Midwest, and the Twin Cities in particular. Their storytelling ads are peppered with landmarks and any local will instantly recognize. This helps their brand connect as ‘one of us’ but it also helps their message stick. The next time someone in the neighborhood walks by a building or vista featured in an ad, it has the potential to trigger recall.
A little effort for a big return
Utilizing 3rd party organizations to power retargeting ads can be a great way to get feet wet and to leverage advanced segmenting tools. It’s tempting to also outsource the development of the ads themselves too. Take care not to accept the basic templated ad shells that are available out of the box. If you go beyond brand colors and logo as the extent of your customization, you have the chance to multiply the effectiveness of your campaign by leveraging mnemonics, just like a champion mental athlete.
Getting someone else to come around to your point of view can be a tricky thing. Before you can ask your audience to act, you’ll need to make them aware of your point of view and convince them to consider it. It’s even tougher to change a point of view that they already have. You could take on the task directly and come armed with a list of arguments and facts. But that’s just the standard way of doing things.
West Coast Trail, British Columbia
Another approach is to talk around the issue, subtly shaping the decision-making landscape. Like the forestry service offering a path through the woods that fits the setting, you clear obstacles and offer the best path past hazards while still allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions. It’s more difficult to do and takes more time. But it can be a lot more effective.
Groomed Trails and Shortcuts
When planting an idea you have to be early enough to affect your audience before they take a firm position. And you can’t come on too strong or they’ll know the idea is not their own. A long term awareness campaign requires a lot of faith and patience. But we can also take advantage of shortcuts. An idea that comes from a single source can take quite a long time to wedge itself into consciousness. Having the idea reinforced by multiple, independent sources greatly increase that message’s effectiveness. And you get even further by getting your audience to agree with that message on their own, or at least recall your claim for a positive reason. (Plus the act of recalling something can deliver positive benefits on its own as well.)
Getting your audience to recall your message can jumpstart your attempts at persuasion and there are several effective tools for the job. Have you ever had to remember a phone number without having a pen to write it down? If you’re like most people, you repeat it to yourself, out loud (at least if there’s nobody else around to look at you funny.) There’s something about speaking that makes it easier to remember. There has actually been quite a bit of neuroscience research on the topic – suffice to say voicing your ideas requires additional brainpower that helps with recall.
Likewise, concepts and arguments stick when you try them on for size, either in your head or on paper. Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators said, “thoughts disentangle themselves passing over the lips and through pencil tips.” Translating an abstract thought into coherent communication requires you to process it first.
So how can you get your audience to try out your idea without putting up conscious barriers first? As a thought exercise, let’s take a look at some potential techniques and how they might play out in a creative campaign.
1. Awareness campaign plus 3rd party ask – Let’s say you’re a small Chicago based company in a competitive industry like organic snack food. You could run a two part campaign to cement your message of being a local favorite. In part one, you’d do a typical awareness effort like becoming a sponsor at a 5K or a summer festival in town. Give away samples and literature that describe how you’ve been connected to your city for x number or years or another unique and re-callable claim.
In step 2, follow up with the people that were exposed to your brand claim shortly after the event but do it through a 3rd party. Your goal is to trigger the memory of their initial interaction with you (and reap the benefits of that recognition) and to use a positive reward to solidify your brand positioning claim. Continuing the example of a local snack company, you could create a simple Facebook quiz run by Windy City Software that lets users answer questions about how well they know their hometown. One of the questions will be related to your claim. “Which of these companies based in Oak Park was one of the first organic snack options in Chicago?…” The user is motivated to dredge up the memory in order to get the question right and your claim is reinforced.
The rest of the quiz can be fun cover or you could band together with like minded complementary vendors who might also like to get involved.By the way Facebook has always made it easy to target advertising to a specific segment like residents of your city or neighborhood. They have also recently added an option to upload your own set of email addresses in order to create a custom advertising segment – as an event sponsor you might have access to just such a list.
2. Whitepaper and custom captcha – A lot of smart marketers are using content marketing to good effect these days. If you work in an industry where you can offer a helpful guide or intro to an unfamiliar issue, whitepapers are great ways to introduce your brand. Traditionally, content marketers will write a whitepaper and offer it for free on a webpage. In order to reduce friction and encourage as much use as possible, whitepapers are often offered without having to register or fill in a form at all.I agree with line ofthinking and believe it works out best in the end to avoid the temptation of requiring a name or email address. But even cynical consumers understand the need for short captcha tools to guard against abuse. Why not ditch the traditional captcha tools and come up with a custom one that works to your branding advantage? Ask them a simple question that makes them think, even a little bit, about your brand. “This guide to DIY photography is brought to you by the lighting pros at ______”
By requiring that they type the answer, you’ve added a measure of stickiness to your branding message.
3. Co-opt a common sound and link it to your brand claim. – As anyone who has had a jingle stuck in their head knows, audio can make a terrific vehicle for recall. If you were a pet food company you could incorporate the whirring sound of a can being opened into your TV or radio ads about the quality of your product. By linking your claim of being a superior brand to the common sound of a can opener working, you can encourage recall every time your audience encounters that trigger.
On a similar note, you could create a useful preparedness mnemonic that doubles as a recall device. 1-800-ASK-GARY is a lawyer referral service that already seems to be everywhere these days. During their radio ads, they could offer an acrostic for accident victims to remember what to do while at the same time encouraging brand recall. G – Get out of the way of traffic and put on hazards A – Authorities: call the police and, if necessary, an ambulance R – Record information including notes about the accident and insurance info Y – Your rights – don’t admit to guilt or sign anything and call a lawyer. 1-800-ASK-GARY is there 24/7 to answer your legal questions.
Each of these hypothetical campaigns use recall as a means of getting your message to ‘cut in line’ amid the clutter of traditional noise. What other creative ideas can you come up with for getting consumers to process ideas and boosting recall?
When it’s your job to decide how to spend marketing dollars and your budget is not unlimited, options that are easily trackable to revenue tend to win out. That’s easy to understand; it feels safer to choose channels that you can prove were effective, or that at least didn’t lose any money.
When you can show that A caused B, the picture is simple and simple feels good. That’s one of the reasons why Google spends so much on reporting tools for its cash cow self-service ad platform. They want you to see the connection to revenue and feel content with your ad spend. It works too – Google pulled in nearly $10 billion last quarter.
Simple methods for lead acquisition are great, especially for products with a short sales cycle, but they’re not the whole picture. Just because an effort is not easily tracked doesn’t mean it can’t be extremely effective.
When attempting to break through the noise into a consumer’s consciousness, the deck is stacked against brands. Because of the onslaught of messages that we all get pounded with every day, defenses are up. Simply asking for a sale is not enough.
Long term efforts around awareness offer a way. They have gotten a bad name lately because they don’t always show up well on a dashboard. But planting seeds of recognition early in a buying process can get around ad-blindness and deliver big returns. It’s well known that word of mouth is the most persuasive form of endorsement and trust is usually credited as the reason why. And while it’s trust that enables a Five Guys fan to make an effective lunch recommendation to a coworker, one of the reasons why he’ll go along with it is this:
He doesn’t feel that he’s being sold anything.
Persuasion is most effective when it’s invisible. The marketer’s goal should be to arrive two steps before the discussion of products starts, shaping their methods for evaluation and scoring points before the overt game even starts. If done well, the audience draws their own conclusion based on subtle hints whose influence they weren’t even aware of.
As a bonus, many brands don’t have the resources or the guts to market this way, preferring to stick to methods that deliver a tidy ROI number within a short time span. The competition will be much lighter here. Plus, if you are fortunate enough to register a message within the brain of your target customer weeks or months before she needs to consider a purchase, you will benefit from the positive connotations of recognition when the memory pops back up in her mind.
Like the Bene Gesserit, your generous, friendly content will be subtly influencing under the surface. It doesn’t have to be as sneaky or manipulative either. One example from my kitchen happened at dinner the other day. My wife brought out a new marinade from Frontera Grill for our fajitas. When I saw his picture on the bottle, my mind jumped back to years before when I had seen some of Rick Bayless’s cooking shows on PBS. I never really loved that show in the first place but part of me was proud that I connected the dots and I was able to throw out a few things that I remembered from the show in conversation while we made dinner. The marinade’s quality bumped up a couple of notches before we even sat down to dinner and I would be more inclined to buy it again in the future.
Longer term campaigns are especially useful when:
There is a long time delay between purchases
It’s difficult to select a product without technical knowledge
Purchases aren’t planned ahead of time but are urgent (e.g. furnace repair)
There’s little to differentiate between products based on features
I’m all for accountability and love to eliminate efforts that aren’t defendable. Buzz building awareness campaigns have been derided lately for being fluffy and often for good reason. But to ignore long term messaging for lack of reporting is to miss out on a proven method of influence, even if it is a little harder to recognize.
Oh yeah! Thinking about something or someone that hasn’t crossed your mind in years is a pleasant experience. I remember that! It’s kind of like scratching an old itch, an echo of the feeling you get when an answer is stuck on the tip of your tongue but then, there it is… Got it!
Sometimes that nice moment of realization is translated to the memory itself. “I remember that!” becomes “I love that!” I’m reminded of this phenomenon every time I run out and buy a song I was recently reintroduced to only to realize later that I didn’t especially like it in the first place. That’s why I’ll accept a Facebook friend request from someone I wasn’t even high school friends with. (Although I have gotten over that one in time – I ignore most friend requests lately.)
The transfer factor is multiplied when an old item is presently unavailable or if it achieves cult status. “New York Seltzer Water was the BEST!” or “I LOVED Married with Children and watched it every night!” Just don’t let it get too mainstream. “Nah, I didn’t really get into Transformers much – I was more of a GoBot man.” Our memories are unreliable and surprisingly pliable by present forces. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and the smart marketer will remember that. So will the smart consumer.