The human mind is a busy place.
Getting the attention of another person is always a complex process, but it’s the cornerstone of marketing. Fortunately, the basic concepts of learning theory and memory can assist advertisers in their mission. Domain Branding leverages your domain name, making it a powerful marketing tool. There can even be almost measurable financial benefits to meaningful & easily remembered corporate identities!
How can you communicate a message that will be seen, heard and most importantly, remembered by your audience? And how can you do it cost effectively, when media evolves before our eyes on a daily basis? Like other advertisers, you need to navigate through the cluttered marketplace and have your message remembered. Domain Branding is the solution.
Let’s look at the elements that affect the communication of your message. First, we’ll explore what’s known about mind, memory and learning. Then we’ll apply this to the business world, with examples that use these theories to get messages remembered cost effectively.
New Media – Same Brain
The means of communication change dramatically, on a continual basis. Mixing new and existing media is the marketer’s latest challenge. Online marketers discover with each new campaign that traditional assumptions about communication fail to succeed in the electronic environment. However, while the media evolve, the less easily controlled factors of brain structure and memory capacity do not.
In fact, understanding the historical evidence as to how people learn may now be more important than ever.
A customer’s phone call to your business in direct response to an advertisement is a learned activity. However, not all the factors of learning can be influenced by the advertiser. For instance, you can’t control the prior experiences, brain structure, intelligence and genetics of your target audience. And each of these factors can impact on learning.
The theoretical limit of human memory is two bits per second(1), which means that your audience can learn up to two little pieces of information each second. This provides each individual with only a few hundred megabytes of memory for their entire lifetime – and, as you can imagine, there are far more stimuli available for our learning than what we can actually manage to take in. This memory limit also has direct implications for advertisers, who must obviously fight for very limited space.
The challenge is to be that communicator who successfully grabs those two crucial bits. But what happens once your message is learned?
A message that’s not remembered is a dollar spent without a return. The audience’s rate of retention will increase with repetition, especially when that repetition brings with it associated memories of satisfying experiences. So, if you can tap into a pleasurable sensation within the minds of your audience members, you’ll enjoy a greater chance of having your message remembered.
But the rate of forgetting is greatest immediately after learning occurs. Fortunately, we can use learning theory to help make our promotions more memorable.
The Basis of Learning Theory
Learning theories, and the techniques advertisers use to motivate their audiences, are based on four assumptions:
- Drive – an internal state of tension that requires action
e.g. The user thinks ‘this computer’s too slow!’
- Cue – an environmental stimulus
e.g. The user sees your ad for new computers.
- Response – the reaction
e.g. The user thinks ‘hey, that looks like good value!
- Reinforcement – a reward given to the respondent for their response
e.g. You provide quality service which causes the user to think ‘What a good choice that was’ â€“ and can encourage their return custom.
Variations of Learning Theory
The major theories of learning are split into two groups:
- the various forms of behaviorism and
- the more recent cognitive theories.
Behaviorism assumes that we learn, and are conditioned, through outside influences. Cognitive theories place more emphasis on the internal choices made by the individual.
Behaviorism’s bottom line is that we will respond only as we have been conditioned to respond, and that a greater amount of conditioning produces a greater response.
These assumptions imply that whichever advertiser has the most money – and can buy the greatest number of media spots for their communication – will win. To the advertiser with a limited budget, this would be very limiting and discouraging indeed.
The more recent theories of cognitive learning accredit the individual with a great deal more complexity. These theories argue that the learning process is more complex: people are not simply conditioned, but also employ problem solving and insightful thinking while they learn. These two processes are crucial to the effectiveness of an advertiser’s message, given the speed at which the media now evolve.
Recent cognitive theories of memory(2) suggest that there are two factors involved in learning: the conscious and the unconscious. While we are used to the idea of conscious remembering, there are also automatic, unconscious processes going on in the mind that assess how familiar an item is. And this theory suggests that those advertisements that leverage an individual’s existing familiarity will be more effective than those which merely seek to condition the audience to remember something completely new.
Learning Theory & Advertising
You may have already spent a tremendous amount of time and money on advertising. But you can increase the effectiveness of your communications by leveraging the learning theories, and applying them to New Media in a way that encourages users to remember your message. In short, you can make the process of Drive, Cue, Response and Reinforcement work cost-effectively for your business.
New Media & Domain Branding
Your domain name is often your first exposure to the audience, and your first chance to generate consumer response. It’s the point at which hundreds of thousands of consumers make the decision to visit your site, or move on. And it’s also the point of return. Of all the Websites you’ve visited, which do you remember? And which will you return to?
Learning theory teaches us that certain associative messages will be remembered better than others amid the clutter of communications in the marketplace. And, as we saw above, the names that are the most easily remembered are those that are associated with good memories. This has some serious implications for Domain Branding.
It’s important also to note that the decay rate for ad messages (i.e. the rate at which they’re forgotten) can be reduced in two key ways. The first method is to increase the meaningfulness of your communication to your audience. More meaningful or more vivid material is retained longer.
Decay can also be reduced by the inclusion of incongruent elements in your message. A name that creates a disparity, which in turn jogs memories of normal associations, is more likely to be retained if it is meaningful to the audience.(3)
What Does it All Mean?
A Domain Name Retention Program based on meaningful and incongruent domain names can dramatically reduce your advertising costs. How? It’s simple. Domain Branding that’s based on familiar and positive experiences tends to be remembered longer, requiring less repetition and, as a result, a smaller advertising spend. Your customers remember you easily – and they come back.
The Research Process
We performed a study to prove this hypothesis. Domains were selected primarily on memorable branding that was correlated to the underlying theories of human recall. The results aimed to identify those elements of a prospect’s bricks-and-mortar life that produced satisfying memories, and would thereby render the greatest degree of recall at the lowest cost, across all media.
We explored whether it was possible to combine and leverage the various learning theories. And we analyzed which names were most likely to be remembered the longest, and forgotten slowest. We tested hundreds of names against consumer recall and noted only those domains that were the most quickly remembered and most slowly forgotten – the most durable names.
The names that were found to be the most durable when communicated through new media were those that reminded the listener of traditional media and real life experiences.
The most successfully memorized and recalled domain names integrated familiar expressions (e.g. ACloseCall.com), and incongruence (e.g. Elarming.com). Other easily remembered, durable, and cost-reducing domain categories included:
- unique spoken phrases
- memorable one-worders
- keyword-rich domains easily found by search engines
- familiar phrases that humorously mirror culture and society.
To make an audience recall a domain name that wasn’t already within audience members’ memories would obviously cost more than it would if the name contained elements that had already been assimilated into the audience’s memory. The dotcom suffix makes effective names even more memorable because we hear, see and recall them instantly. In all cases, .net and .org were avoided as they were deemed not to be part of an audience’s everyday experience. Computer-generated names that had no associations were avoided. And attempts to use dotcoms that were simply different (OfficeSuppliersX.com) were also avoided, unless they were memorable and musical, such as ScoobieDoobieDoo.com. The motive for using slight differences between names was usually economic, as a computer-generated domain costs less to register than does the process of buying one or hiring a naming consultant.
The Winning Names
1. Unique Spoken Phrases that Jog Unconscious Memories.
Because they are read in the same way that we speak them, these names are recalled most easily and forgotten slowest. Such expressions included:
and a wide assortment of others that are indelibly imprinted on the collective psyche.
2. Memorable One-Worders
These names included neologisms from common and uncommon meanings that had already been imprinted on the collective mind:
These were the most easily remembered names – users recalled them before even hearing them. Unconscious memory was obviously at work here.
3. Keyword-Rich Domains
These names were most easily recalled when they contained familiar phrases like:
4. Phrases Mirroring Culture Humorously
These names grabbed users’ attention because they were both incongruent and familiar:
5. Generic Names Without Gimmicky Associations
These names were recalled even when they were two or more words in length.
1. Ralph Merkle: "How Many Bytes In Human Memory"
2. Jacoby (1991): Two Factor Theory
3. Karen Finlay, University of Guelph
Steven is a professional business entrepreneur. He has established specialty finance companies in New York and now owns and runs PracticalGrowth.com, which focuses on the cost-effective use of new technologies to grow new and established businesses.
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