A Customer Retention Tip: Use the Power of Memory

What Makes Something Memorable blog image

As a kids’ program director, you know that students and campers return, at least in part, because of how they remember the experience. That’s why you care about the quality of every aspect of their involvement with your organization, from beginning to end–and back again!

Learn the 3 stages of crafting happy experiences

Interesting fact: Because of the ways our sensory, short term and long term memories work, it’s possible that any one aspect of the customer’s experience can override the overall memory. For example, a frustrating registration experience may be completely forgotten by the delightfulness of your program. Or vice versa.

Are You Memorable?

With all the visual noise you’re competing with, this is the question! The good news is, you can influence your participants’ memories.

3 Types of Memory

  1. We all have sensory memory, which is made of the constant snapshots we take of everything we see and experience, the majority of which are immediately forgotten. The ones that move us, capture us or surprise us for even a second stand the best chance for moving deeper into storage.
  2. Short term memory is for active information that is needed now, but may not be needed later. (Think about the majority of the tests you ever studied for.)
  3. Then there’s long term memory, “a complex human attribute…[that] allows us to store information almost permanently with virtually unlimited capacity.”1

To have an impact on your program, scientists tell us you need to influence sensory and long term memory.

3 Places to be Memorable

1. Design. Your logo, your website, the colors, styles and imagery you use in your messaging and even in your program setting are all playing a role. Are people just taking a quick visual snapshot without engaging? Or do you capture their attention for just a moment with something unusual, beautiful, or unexpected?

2. Your messaging. There are a lot of words out there. Can you make yours clever, heartfelt, funny, relevant, moving, evocative, unexpected, and above all: REPETITIOUS? (That’s how something that’s not particularly captivating moves from sensory memory to long-term. Think of every commercial jingle you’ve ever heard.)

  • Learn how to use sensory descriptors rather than labels–
    • “Happiest Place on Earth” rather than “Disneyworld.”
  • Present core benefits that appeal to your customers’ emotional needs rather than just features of what’s included–
    • “It’s not just a burrito. It’s a foil-wrapped, hand-crafted, local farm supporting, food culture-changing cylinder of deliciousness.” (Chipotle)
    • In a recent Ford Fusion TV spot, a young girl wearing a striped shirt and Converse tennis shoes pumps her legs to swing high. With the swing at its highest, she jumps, landing on her feet in front of a black Ford Fusion as a grown woman. A voice-over tells us this car is the feeling the girl experienced midair, recaptured. The message: Delivers Joy. By Design. The tagline: Go Further.

Even if you didn’t rush out and buy a Fusion, that feeling is highly evocative of childhood exhilaration. If you remember the ad, it’s because you remember that feeling. (Or you’re interested in how marketing works)

3. Your Program

The highest level of sensory memory influencing will likely come from the actual experience of your program.

Here you’ll have the opportunity for repetitive sensory experiences that may make their way into long-term memory, which helps your program come to mind again later. Although you can never create or predict the memory to be made, your very program has created a stage for it.

Since you’re dealing with kids, you’ll have innumerable ways to engage their sense of sight, smell, hearing, touch, humor, belonging, adventure, and creativity! Since you’re also dealing with parents, activating their sensory memory is equally important and impactful.

Influencing Memories

The hardest part of becoming memorable is switching from your logical, business-brain. Take a walk on the sensory side to find ways to make your program and your marketing memorable.


1Skywire blog: How the Science of Memory Can Affect Your Marketing Campaigns.