Remember that thing on Instagram?
Penny Hurd, Communications Strategy Director
In 2019, Facebook reported over 1 billion people used augmented reality on Facebook and Instagram combined.1 Brands are spending hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to capture their audiences’ attention with AR, but how many are doing so effectively? And even more important, in a way that forms strong, trusting relationships? This is critical because overall trust in U.S. business dropped more than 37% in 2017, making brand resonance more important than ever.2
At Signal Theory, we help brands through a systematic understanding of human behavior, data science and the applications of social and behavioral psychology. The degree of resonance a brand establishes is based on the strength of the users’ psychological relationship with the product or brand and their ability to recall it from memory at consumption moments. This article will detail how psychology’s three-store-memory model can be used to increase brand relevance through the immersive experience of augmented reality.
How AR Experiences Can Increase Brand Recall
Augmented reality is an experience, and experiences actually change brains.3 Every experience you have leaves a memory trace, or an engram, on your nervous system. Thus, when you’re working with experiential content like augmented reality, it’s helpful to know how memory works in order to ensure maximum impact and brand resonance.
Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin, esteemed cognitive scientists and psychologists, proposed the structural memory model that consists of three types of memory storage: a sensory store, short-term memory and long-term memory. Information moves through the three stores in a linear progression.4
In the sensory store, memories can last less than a second. The primary function of this store is to subconsciously detect the vast and fleeting multitude of sensory information of varying stimuli we encounter at any given moment, rather than to process or assign resonance. By nature, our attention is selective. There’s no way to move everything we sense to the next store. Only the inputs and experiences we deem relevant get promoted to short-term memory and, even more selectively, eventually into long-term memory.
Psychologist George Miller theorized that we can only store five to nine pieces of information in our short-term memory, which means most content people come in contact with is forgotten.5 Online and offline, we are constantly bombarded with subconscious stimuli, making it difficult for brands’ messages to enter our short-term memory. Conscious interaction with stimuli increases the likelihood that information passes through to short-term memory. Immersive content experiences like augmented reality create opportunities for people to consciously engage with their senses in a way that increases the chance a brand will be recalled from their memory at a point of purchase or decision, but the experiences still have to pass the relevance test.
How can you infuse relevance into augmented reality effects or any immersive content experience?
1. Self-reference effect:
We are more likely to produce more elaborate memory traces when an input is more connected to our sense of self.6
People want to see how the product or brand will influence their life, and augmented reality in any form is an ideal means to that end. Give your audience tools in the form of shareable, immersive content to tell their own story through the lens of the brand or product.
2. Spreading activation:
Resonance increases when experiences are built around memories that influence one another and act in semantic networks.7
When considering the subject for an Instagram AR filter, start by creating a mind map. On a piece of paper or whiteboard, write the brand or product in the middle and branch out from it with associated words, behaviors, ideas, traits, etc. People can’t retrieve things as well if they are not connected to anything else they know, so make sure some of the words and traits that surround the product/brand line up with values, interests, goals, beliefs and ideas that your audience is already attached to. Make as many associations as possible to cast a wide net, and sync your brand with experiences already stored in their memories. You’re not asking people to remember everything you come up with, but instead you’re trying to create a pattern.
3. Memory rehearsal:
We need to rehearse information for it to be stored as a memory.8
Just because the stimulus you created was deemed relevant enough to move past the sensory register to short-term memory doesn’t mean that you’re done. This is where an augmented reality filter can play a critical role. When created effectively, AR effects are a medium that people often use more than once. People are more likely to reuse your filter if you’ve built the content to prioritize the user over the brand. Combine this theory with the self-reference effect to give people a way to express themselves on more than one occasion. Think of their lives and moments in their lives that reflect the human circumstances they often find themselves in and build an effect that is optimized for repeat engagement.
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— Mercedes-Benz (@MercedesBenz) May 8, 2019
Our ability to retrieve information decays over time unless we are constantly applying what we learn.9
An augmented reality filter should be one part of a larger campaign. Craft your integrated communications plan to cross channels and include strategic media mixes. People will forget things, but multichannel campaigns increase the odds for elevated brand resonance and recall. You can’t win a war with a strategy intended for a battle.
5. State-dependent memory:
Our ability to retrieve an event depends on our state at encoding.10
Spend time researching your users’ experience journey with your brand or product to help you identify what emotional states they pass through. Give people a tool, in this case, an immersive content experience, that allows them to express a mood or internal condition like hunger. Later, when your audience is experiencing that same condition, the connections you’ve made will cause your brand to spring to mind.
6. The Von Restorff Effect:
We’re more likely to remember things that are out of the norm.11
Our brains can get so accustomed to repeat stimuli and brand messages that we don’t even see them anymore. Build lasting resonance by using channels in unique or surprising ways. It doesn’t have to be complex or elaborate. Look to the user journey for hints as to what is outside audiences’ mental, emotional and even environmental norms. Consider which experience points and physical items they interact with that could be used as extraordinary, unexpected vehicles for connection.
Interactive experiences like Instagram AR filters can be powerful tools for brands, both on Instagram and beyond. And there’s no magic to creating an experience that your consumers are going to love – just engaging art sprinkled with a little behavioral science. With proper consideration for what we ask users to do, and why we want them to be part of an experience, we can use these tools to create memories that stick with people well after they log off.
- http://www.rca.ucsd.edu/selected_papers/2_Human%20mem ory_A%20proposed%20system%20and%20its%20control%20processes.pdf