Posted by: Heather Coleman | February 18, 2010

How Memorable Are You?

My best friend from high school called me the other day and told me that she had just run into one of our classmates at the local pharmacy. She couldn’t remember him, but he had quickly recognized her. He was there with his wife and went on to tell his wife how he fondly remembered performing a song together with my best friend in his wild high school days. My best friend was calling to confirm that THAT, in fact, had never happened. I would have remembered it for sure, so I confirmed that he was mistaken. What do you do in that situation? She just smiled and said nothing. I would have been speechless too!

Speechless. Which is what I was for most of my high school days. I was extremely shy and kept to myself. Never went out of my way to join groups, go to parties or meet new people. I had my close group of friends and that got me through those years quite nicely.  So how might I be remembered (if I was remembered at all)? Probably as being far too quiet – a frequent comment in my yearbooks. Or possibly as being a total bitch (who knows).

We all know there is short-term memory and long-term memory. But did you know there are three main stages in the formation and retrieval of memory? The first is encoding or registration (receiving, processing and combining of received information). The second is storage (creation of a permanent record of the encoded information). I call this our filing system. And finally, you have retrieval, recall or recollection (calling back the stored information in response to some cue for use in a process or activity). It is typically thought that our short-term memory limit is 7 items, but new estimates put the number closer to 4-5. Another theory proposes that our limit for relationships is 150 people. Given the shorter and shorter attention spans of Americans, how do we become memorable? Whether we are talking about as people or as a brand.

The answer for me is honesty. The truth is TRUTH is easier to remember. But we all have different filing systems—often a problem for eye witness testimony which can be at times meaningless due to faulty recollection, a person’s bias, or due to lying. When I am being pitched something. say a book or movie from a friend, a song from a reality show contestant, experiences from a job applicant, or a new product from a company, I am always drawn to those that just seem the most honest, the most REAL. In this new age of social media, I truly do believe that we have to be real. I think that the best and brightest will always rise to the top.

Now is the time to have truth in advertising. Cut all the marketing BS. Figure out what you can and can’t do and be honest about it. Don’t oversell. Don’t cover up. The customer is smarter than that. And has a longer memory. We could take a few lessons out of the movie Crazy People. What if your phone company told you the truth? “You may think phone service stinks since deregulation, but don’t mess with us, because we’re all you’ve got!” Well, maybe not that honest…but you get the picture. Toyota might have had a better chance at recovery from these recalls if they had started with the truth rather than the floor mat story.

So as you head out into this brave new media world, figure out what do you want to be remembered for? And how memorable are you? Be honest with yourself first, it will make it easier to translate the message to others.


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