Your memory is highly attuned to visual images — knowing how this visualization works will ensure you can put it into practice in your daily activities.

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer is a book I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a few years old and if you haven’t read it yet, I’d suggest it. It’s about memory and the author’s journey to understanding memory and ultimately competing in both the U.S and International Memory Championships (yeah, they’ve got those).

Now, if you’ve read the book or done any training on memory, then you know one of the techniques involves what are called “memory palaces.” I’ll explain it a little because it plays into understanding our visual memory connection.

A memory palace is a physical location (or one you create in your head) that you know with a great degree of detail (think of the home you grew up in). When you want to remember something, you mentally walk through your palace and attach various visions to items.

For instance, let’s say you want to remember all the countries in the world. Let’s start with Australia. As you walk through your memory palace, visualize you’re at the foot of the driveway (as Joshua points out in his book, let’s use the home you grew up in).

Now, when I think of Australia that Crocodile Dundee guy pops into my head. (If you’re from Australia, you have about another generation before this image dies.) OK, there I am at the end of the driveway and Mr. Dundee is standing there. Now let’s consider Austria … the first thing that comes to my mind is Arnold Schwarzenegger (he’s Austrian). The key is to attach those images together, so I’m seeing Croc Dundee with his “that’s not a knife” pulled on Arnold in his Terminator outfit.

You see how this works? Now, when you want to remember something, you walk through your memory palace and the images you created will give you flashes and connections. It seems the key to these images being effective is to be creative and outrageous (and, in most cases, to have some sexual content … uh, I’m not even going to go there with Arnold and Dundee).

You Remember Visually

I recently caught this in action by accident. I had to struggle to remember my daughter’s teachers’ names for 1st and 2nd grade. (OK, I’m not getting a Dad of the Year award there.)

But recently, when we drove by her old pre-school, I knew right away the teacher’s name — a big red dog flashed in my head — Ms. Clifford. I bet in 10 years I’m still going to remember Ms. Clifford, probably even 20.

How’s That for a 500-Word Setup?

That night I thought a little bit more. I thought if our memory is tied so strongly to these visual images, why am I not spending more time finding ways of creating this in our marketing? My reflex answer was, “Well, I’m already doing it.”

There are times when we naturally know something has to look a certain way. For instance, we work hard to ensure the things we sell and market have a high perception of value. We’ve tested this recently with a whitepaper. We had a simple image with the title of the whitepaper. We then created an image of a full book with the title of the whitepaper right on that image. The response rate was 4 times that of the simple image. A win for perceived value.

Then I asked myself, “Could we do better?” and that’s when I realized there’s an opportunity to go deeper.

The memory techniques I just discussed work because you’re attaching things that are typically really hard to remember (or memorize) to unforgettable visual cues. Well, there’s more to it than that, because in a way we are wired that way. But let’s keep it simple.

So I did what I usually do and I asked myself, “How can we ensure this consistently gets implemented?”

Here Are Some Questions I’ve Put Up on the Wall

  • What do I want people to remember and why do I want them to remember it?
  • What visual can I present that would act as a trigger to help make this connection within someone’s mind?
  • What visual can I add that would be so outrageous and unique that they would only assign it to me, my product or the idea I’m getting across?

That last one is a kicker and something you should really think about.

Some of This Is Branding 101

Sure, much of what I’ve outlined is branding 101.

If you want a good illustration of just how well images have been implanted into your mind, play the logos quiz game. I was amazed … no I was almost appalled … at how many brands I recognized and I can barely remember my daughter’s teachers’ names.

But I’m going beyond the brand. I’m talking about your everyday marketing communications.

Adding visual imagery to something allows for longer retention and increases the chances someone will remember it.

Here’s Why This Really Matters

Attention is a form of currency.

It really is.

The more attention you can gather for your ideas, products or services, the higher the likelihood of you moving to the next step — monetization.

The more little triggers you build around you and your business, the greater the probability others will remember you and your value.


Image by deniedart