Seeking to create more from the brand experiences you create? Go beyond the now and think long-term impact and resonance to turn moments into memories. Because when you create a brand experience that’s unforgettable, your brand becomes part of your audience’s personal story.
And if you get it right, you can become their brand of choice for life.
So let’s explore how memories are made, best practices for making a brand narrative stick, and what it takes to create a memorable brand experience today.
What makes a memory?
Memories are thoughts and information stored in the brain, which are developed through three stages.
Stage 1: Sensory
Sensory information that is stored for up to a few seconds as you experience your surroundings, including what you can hear, touch, taste, and smell. You’re only conscious of some of it, and only a small percentage of your sensations move into stage 2.
Stage 2: Short term
Your short term or active memory stores what you’re currently thinking about or aware of for around 20-40 seconds. After that, you forget the information unless you give it enough attention to progress to stage 3.
Stage 3: Long term
Your long-term memory stores ongoing information – some of it’s easy to recall, while other information is buried more. Most of the time, this information sits in your subconscious but can return to your awareness with the right triggers.
Sticky long-term branding
Being a memorable brand has significant benefits, so how do we create the kinds of brand experiences that move your audience through the three stages of memory?
Harvard neuroscientist, Professor Jared Cooney Horvath, found from his research that there are a few key things that need to happen:
- The experience must capture your audience, either subconsciously or consciously
- It has to break predictability so they pay attention and feel something unexpected
- Ideally, it should make people do something, participate, or take action so they create a deeper link with your brand and a longer-lasting memory
Now that you’ve got the theory behind memory, let’s look at some real examples of successful (and highly memorable) brand experiences.
1. Burger King’s Super Bowl “Eat like Andy” ad
Burger King’s “Eat like Andy” ad was aired at this year’s Super Bowl and despite initial mixed reactions and low metrics, it had all the makings of a memorable brand experience. The ad was unusual and unexpected, using the 45 second time slot to show vintage footage of Andy Warhol eating a Whopper. The goal behind it was to position the brand as iconic (like Andy), elevating the audience’s perception of the brand. And at the same time, create a shared brand experience, with 98.2m people simultaneously watching the televised ad during Super Bowl.
Burger King also incorporated a physical experience where fans could order a ‘Mystery Box’ via DoorDash, which included a wig, an empty bottle of ketchup, a vintage Burger King bag, and a promo code to get a free burger. This extra element was a way to go beyond an audiovisual experience, incorporating all the senses – touch, taste, and smell.
— Nathan 🤴🏻 (@natek711) February 1, 2019
The overall result was a strong shift in brand perceptions, especially among the target 18-34 year old demographic where positive buzz increased by 51.6% by those who saw the ad. Plus over 4 billion media impressions, so far.
- Zig when others zag. Doing something different will help break predictability and increase memorability.
- Sometimes short-term metrics don’t tell the full story or long-term impact.
- Think about ways to complement the main experience with a secondary one.
- Doing something unusual will get people talking, attract free media coverage, and impact an even wider audience.
2. Hyatt Hotels scent branding
Hyatt Hotels have developed specific fragrances for many of their hotel locations. They use these branded fragrances in their lobby areas, shampoos, conditioners, shower gels, soaps, and scented candles. This isn’t a one-off brand experience, but something that happens each time someone visits a location with scent branding (or takes their hotel toiletries home with them!). If you Google “Hyatt Hotels scent” you’ll see plenty of results where customers asking what the fragrances are and if they can buy them, so it’s safe to say it’s helping their brand stick in people’s minds.
- The first stage of making a memory is sensory. If a sensation is disruptive enough, the experience can move into long-term memory.
- Smell is the sense most closely linked to memory. It’s why you can catch a whiff of something and get transported back decades in vivid detail, right down to how you felt at the time.
- Think creatively about ways to engage the senses and positively associate them with a brand.
- Smell is an obvious one for some brands – like food, beverages, or perfumes. But other types of brands can also capitalise on smell by investing in their scent branding.
4. Zappos cupcake exchange
Zappos wanted to create a brand experience that would help demonstrate their core values of “deliver wow through service” and “create fun and a little weirdness”. At a conference in 2009, Zappos’ CEO, Tony Hsieh said, “Our whole business strategy is this: Rather than spend a lot of money on marketing, we take most of the money that would have gone towards paid advertising and put it back into the customer experience.”
So when Google ran a street campaign giving away cupcakes in exchange for using their app, it was the perfect opportunity for Zappos to step in, create some fun, and wow people with their service. So Zappos set up a cupcake exchange next door, allowing people to exchange Google’s cupcake for a mystery box of swag (containing either a watch, a pair of shoes, or something similar). The whole stunt was filmed and the video has been circulated widely online, helping thousands more people connect with and remember Zappos’ fun and weird brand personality.
- Piggybacking can work well (especially if brand values are aligned) – it can get more exposure for both brands.
- Make sure the brand experience fits with the brand’s values.
- Be mysterious and intriguing – it’ll encourage people to participate in the experience.
- Capture content that shows people interacting with the experience to amplify and extend reach.
Memorable experiences are driven by innovation
When planning a brand experience, approach your challenge creatively. There are so many ways to bring a memory-triggering concept to life (but don’t be afraid to innovate), then carry that experience through various touch points to build momentum.
But there’s a common thread in each of the examples we listed above – brands need to break predictability and go above and beyond what’s been done before. That’s when they’ll move their audience from a sensory experience to a long-term connection, on a deeper level.
Challenge yourself to be unpredictable! Reach out to Aesthetic and see how our unique approach can help you create memorable brand experiences.