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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Monday 4 February 2013

NeuroMarketing: This is crazy, but I'm @GoDaddy, So Use Me Maybe?

Hey! I just met you - and this is crazy - but I'm @GoDaddy, so use me, maybe?

It all connects - we just have to look beyond the cells of our limbic panopticons to see how.

Hack the Hippocampus: Memory Principles for Ads

Rita J. King
Rita J. King
EVP, Science House

You may never forget the GoDaddy kiss, but were any of the Super Bowl ads memorable for the right reasons?
“The GoDaddy kiss is pretty hard to shake,” Adam Albrecht, Chief Creative Officer at Engauge, told me. “It featured a passionate, if not shocking kiss between two complete opposites. Depending on which side of the lunchroom you sat on in high school the kiss was either horrifying or a fantasy come true. But this uber-awkward kiss demonstrated exactly how GoDaddy wants you to think about their brand. And as hard as I try, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to erase the image or the message behind it from my memory.”

Yes, that kiss will be hard to shake — but does such a technique create a memorable message, or just a memorable ad? With ads costing $3.8 million dollars per thirty second spot (that’s over $4,000 per frame) can companies afford to overlook the ad’s sole mission: highlighting the product, service or brand and not just the ad itself?

I’ve recently been collaborating with Memory Layer, a company that works with brands and ad agencies on creating memory in ads. Memory experts James Jorasch and Chris Harwood have designed a system for improving the memorability of ads. Memory Layer “hacks the hippocampus,” (the part of the brain that lets memories in) through five principles of memory. Here’s a glimpse of the Principle WHEEL of Memory (weight, harmony, entanglement, engagement and leveraged attention) from Memory Layer, and how these principles relate to a few of this year’s Super Bowl spots:

The brain evolved to see the world through the senses, so abstract ideas that cannot be directly sensed carry little value. Instead, tangible weight must be given to an idea. Two commercials this year demonstrated this principle well. Tide’s “Miracle Stain” took the lowly stain and raised it to exalted levels - creating a solid image in the mind of the audience.

Although the first GoDaddy ad is getting all the attention, its second spot, “Your Big Idea,” succeeded in turning an abstract notion into a concrete vision. It takes the possibility of someone else stealing a great idea and filing for a domain name before you and turns into the vision of what could have been if only you had acted. By showing people in other parts of the world all talking about the same idea, the spot makes the rush to move first on an idea tangible. In classic GoDaddy style, the reward is obnoxiously portrayed by a cackling winner on his private jet--but the point is made.

Like a crew rowing in unison, the elements of an ad should operate toward a single key message. When the elements are more organized and harmonious, the brain is better able to process the message. One of the best examples of this principle in this years lineup of ads is Best Buy’s “Asking Amy” spot. Amy Poehler has lots of questions about the products. The Best Buy employee dutifully follows her around to answer them. While most of the answers are never shown, they are implied, and Amy leaves the store happy and thankful. Best Buy is advertising the expertise of their staff, which shows in the knowledgable and patient service provided in this commercial.

A commercial may be memorable without it being valuable, if what ends up being remembered is the content rather than the product or brand. You may remember a wish granting genie played by Kaley Cuoco, helping an average suburban family live out their wishes. But who or what was it for? Without firmly entangling the message to memorable content you end up with a $4 million showcase for the Big Bang Theory star and not an ad for the Toyota RAV4 in “Wish Granted.”

On the flip side is the Meatloaf-belting candy-coated commercial “Love Ballad.” The protagonist of the commercial is itself an M&M wrestling with the idea of love. In the first half, the M&M claims he would do anything for love and we see scenes of what that means to him. This is followed by what we humans want to do to the M&M’s we love: eat them in a variety of ways. This is something that he won’t do. You cannot remove the M&M from the story without ruining the narrative, as the narrative is dependent on the candy.

In order for an advertisement to be truly experienced it must engage the audience. The more the viewers imagine, the more of the brain is used and in turn the more memorable the message becomes. The Mercedes-Benz “Soul” ad for their all-new CLA car succeeded brilliantly here, encouraging viewers to dream along with the protagonist as he envisions a future of the benefits associated with the car: riches, love, fame and adventure, offered to him in a deal with the devil played by Willem Dafoe. The audience is right there with him as a vision of the future (which includes Usher and Kate Upton) unfolds. In the end he sees, through the window, a billboard with the car’s reasonable price on it. Since he realizes that the glories promised by the car are within his reach and budget, he doesn’t need the tempting deal with the devil to own it.

Leveraged Attention 
With millions of people watching a Super Bowl ad, this attention is far more valuable when it is leveraged to help remember the message. Hyundai had two commercials that used their attention in vastly different ways. The first, “Epic Playdate”, squandered most of it. It lent its focus to the guest band and the crazy antics an average suburban family can have in a day. Only after the frenetic action of the commercial do we really focus on the car, and then only for a couple of seconds. Hyundai’s “Stuck” commercial, however, took advantage of attention to bring the feature of the Sonata to the fore, illustrating why the turbo feature is helpful by having the action of the ad focus on the car passing other highway nuisances.


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