Make Your Content Impossible to Ignore

Carmen Simon

People act on what they remember, not what they forget.

The latest scientific research places memory at the heart of decision-making. Studies show that in the process of making a decision, your brain predicts the rewards of a choice based on past memories, and then uses that information to make the most favorable decision.

Simply put: Your brain is a prediction engine. Memories are the fuel that help it make better decisions. Memory doesn’t just keep track of the past; it helps you navigate the future. So, if you want to persuade your buyers to act in your favor, you need your content to stick in their minds — you need your message to become part of their memory.

There’s just one big obstacle in your way.

A psychological concept called the “Forgetting Curve” suggests that people lose information over time when they make no effort to retain it. Most people will forget up to 90% of what you communicate within 48 hours, and the little they do remember is completely random.

Thankfully, there’s a framework backed by brain science for getting people to act on the 10% you want them to remember. It’s called the Prospective Memory Model.

Using the Prospective Memory Model

Your buyers’ decision to purchase will happen in the future, but you can influence those decisions in your favor now. Prospective Memory means “remembering a future intention,” and using this model has remarkable advantages for every seller and marketer.

Imagine this: You create content at Point A, hoping your audience remembers and acts on it at Point B. The skilled presenter knows how to communicate information at Point A, so it creates a future intention at Point B and motivates their audience’s decisions based on that intention.

When you ask your buyer at Point A to act on a future intention, they strike a tacit deal with you. They implicitly say, “I will stay with you to Point B as long as you keep me rewarded.”

No rewards, no action.

Your buyers will look for rewards at all three stages of the decision process: when they notice cues, when they search their memory for connections between their intentions and those cues, and when they decide to act.

Building Cues to Influence Decisions

To understand the power of cues, consider a simple example in which people are asked two rapid-fire questions and to blurt out an answer to a final statement. It goes like this:

What continent is Kenya in?

What are the two opposing colors in the game of chess?

Name any animal.

In studies like these, roughly 20 percent of people will answer “Zebra” to the last question. About 50 percent will respond with an animal from Africa. But if you remove the first two questions and ask someone to simply name any animal, less than 1% will volunteer a zebra. By directing people’s attention to specific stimuli (Africa, black and white), you can influence what they will say or do next.

This is because memories are stored in an associative way — related concepts are linked. The reminder of one spreads through a network of related concepts, making recall of a particular concept more likely. This is a subconscious and automatic process called “priming.”

Becoming Part of Your Buyer’s Future

When you design and deliver your content using the Prospective Memory Model, your goal is to become part of your buyer’s future.

You create content and share it at Point A, connect it to your buyer’s intention, and encourage them to remember to act on it at Point B. Using this approach, you can intentionally place memories in people’s minds and use intentional cues to guide them toward future action.

Memory works on the basis of associations — one thing can trigger another. What cues exist in your buyers’ world that can trigger memories of you? How will you influence what you want them to remember, instead of leaving the process to chance?  

Carmen Simon, PhD, is chief science officer at Corporate Visions and founder of Memzy, an agency that helps teams create and deliver memorable content. She is the author of “Impossible to Ignore: Creating Memorable Content to Influence Decisions.”