Recall vs Memory

Recall is all that matters

Stealing Market Share Testing Recall Win

Recall is how we steal market share.

Recall. The answer is interesting and telling in today’s competitive advertising and marketing climate.

It can be paralleled in research on learning disabilities and can provide a great barometer for making preliminary judgments about how effective one creative execution might be as opposed to another. Let’s start with the basics.

Recall winsAll effective advertising has as its root, a strong strategic message.

To be considered as great, and to have a chance at stealing share, advertising must convey a sense of market positioning. Reinforce the brand, identify a target audience, and speak to them in terms of product or brand benefit.

In print executions (though the same basic principles hold true in broadcast) we need to have the correct message. And, we need to ensure that the message is read and read by the correct consumer.

If every agency actually owns these abilities (and all do at some time or other), why choose one over another? If every agency can consistently deliver a great creative execution, why do some campaigns fail to produce the desired share-stealing results?

What Testing of Advertising Recall Should Tell You

Recall winsThe answer can be found in research on Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). And the training of people suffering from the learning disorder, dyslexia.

It is in the evaluation and understanding of how people “learn” that some light is finally shed.

When a company tests advertising for “day-after recall” they are looking to see how well a core-marketing message is remembered. But is is some time after viewing. They are asking for recall.

Now, recall differs from “remembering” because it is not a cognitive process.

Recall happens without thinking, a memory requires thinking.

Recall tells all

For example, if I ask, “What comes to mind when I say Coca-Cola?”

RecallYour answer might be “soda,” “The Real Thing,” “Pepsi,” or value judgments like “like it” or “never drink it.”

For most researchers, these statements are marked down, recorded and tabulated. Later they are evaluated against the strategy to see if the advertising achieved what it was intended to achieve. (Read an interesting story about Coca-Cola here).

However, there is one problem. Advertisers overlook just exactly what is recalled from the advertising. And they focus on “what is remembered.”

No matter what you might remember about Coke, the first non-cognitive flash of memory was a visual picture of the product itself.


Odds are it was a quick vision of the “familiar red can” or the trademark bottle.

coke recall

Are you a Coke?

The other memories were then retrieved cognitively. Then they were added to that flash memory. Great advertising is advertising that is able to make the brand association visual.

In special education, the association learning method has been used successfully for years. Teachers taught those with learning disabilities through imagery. They are taught to use pictures as a means of organizing their thoughts, knowledge, and memories.

As it turns out, this is exactly how we all learn.

How We Learn and the Effect on Advertising Recall Testing

Human beings learn by associating. Anything they already know can be linked to a new one.

Traditional memory is always linear. If you can make an association with something you already know. You can use that “picture” to help you recall the new information. It turns out that what we actually recall is the association and not the memory itself.

Recall winsWe can use our recall to trigger a memory. But we need to tie the image it invokes to what it is we are recalling.

Association turns out to be similar to a spreadsheet. It is not necessary to remember what is located in box A-1, but that you must look into box A-1 to find it.

Memory and recall are different

Flash memory recall is your mind retrieving an image from a location. Rather than remembering a particular meaning.

It follows that all great (effective) advertising is visual in nature. That is what we want the advertising to be recalled.

This does not mean that great print cannot be all copy. Rather it means that the copy must be designed to create a visual image in your head. In the same way that great radio does.

The winner is… Recall

recallIf it is designed to generate recall, then the image produced needs to be tied into an existing association. So that the mind can “find” it again.

Recall wins. When evaluating or creating advertising designed to steal share and work even if outspent, always ask yourself this.

What is the TOTALITY of the ad (or commercial). Does it elicit an emotional “photograph” in your head?

If it does, and the message is right, the target audience identified, and the positioning and benefit compelling enough, you can be relatively sure that the message will be recalled. If it’s recalled, it becomes part of the consumer’s identity and life. It is that simple.

See more posts in the following related categories: how we learn learning recall
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