Consumer Memory

Memory is an active constructive process involving acquiring, storing, and retrieving knowledge for decision-making. According to a forward-framing hypothesis, previous knowledge functions as a memory schema and affects how a current event is perceived. Memory schemas can subtly alter how information is encoded in the current learning environment. These schemas have been observed to influence how customers understand sensory product experiences in marketing.

Memory Processes

Advertising has little influence on decisions since buying decisions are frequently made hours, days, weeks, or even months after the customer was first exposed to the product information and has little memory of specific product qualities. Consumers need to encode and store any information about a product or service to remember it later. Our minds may work like computers because of how information is encoded, stored, and retrieved. When consumer encodes information, they turn the stimuli they are exposed to into a representation that can be remembered.

At this point, it is crucial that they thoroughly comprehend and recognize the stimuli they have been exposed to. The consumer would only make sense of the stimuli if they are clear, preventing them from remembering the information. The consumer then saves the information in their memory after it has been encoded so that it can be later retrieved as needed. The activation of a node (a specific piece of data that has been kept in long-term memory initiates the retrieval of product information) initiates the retrieval of product information.

Previous Work on Consumer Memory

There has been a 30-year history of interest in memory functions in consumer behavior. Several early papers on this interest were based on information processing theories. Bettman's seminal work from 1979 devoted a chapter to analyzing memory theories and formulating conclusions. Lynch and Srull (1982) echoed the argument for highlighting the importance of memory and explored memory theories that might be relevant in the area of consumers. Many empirical studies have concurrently confirmed that memory is a critical factor in consumer decision-making and advertising.

Measures of Memory

Given its significance in the consumer space, researchers have looked into what makes a practical test of consumer memory. Early research prioritized recall. Other researchers expanded the definition of "advertising effectiveness" by including recognition measures because recall scores are frequently very conservative estimates of actual memory. Because the stimulus is presented for identification while there are distractions, recognition memory scores are typically greater than recall memory scores. These criteria are analogous to the commercial tests used in marketing. For instance, starch recognition scores, such as magazine advertisements, are frequently used to evaluate print advertising.

On the other hand, advertisements in broadcast media, like television, are assessed using memory metrics like day-after recall. Initial discussions focused on the relative advantages of various measurements, but later studies clarified each measure's specialized function. When people tried to recall brand information without any indications, the recall was considered a more relevant test. In contrast, recognition processes are more likely to be involved in choice in a store setting when the packaging offers a visual cue and perhaps other brand information. Hence, whether recall (high participation) or recognition (low involvement) should be used to measure memory, involvement in choosing became crucial.

Memory Reconstruction Hypothesis

The current study suggests that advertisers can influence customers' reconstruction processes by using postexperience messaging that obscures knowledge gained through direct experience. By highlighting sensory details and conjuring pleasant images of the original experience, post-experience advertising might establish a relationship with it. In the event of a direct taste experience, respondents' memories of the real taste will be overshadowed by the representations evoked by the recently received postexperience advertising, resulting in their memories of a more flavorful juice than they experienced.

One may think of this as an example of a typical source-monitoring error where the actual flavor is mistaken for the mental representation of the taste. Respondents will experience the advertisement-created recollection as accurately as an actual memory. Because own-experienced knowledge is believed to be less resistant to decay than brand schema information, the memory effects will last over time.

Retrieval of Information by Consumer

The process of retrieval involves getting data out of long-term memory. People have a tremendous amount of information stored in their minds that is not always accessible on demand, as shown by the success of the game Business (Monopoly). Although most information stored in long-term memory remains, recalling with the right signals could be more accessible.

Retrieval Influencing Factors

Some physiological disparities in retrieval ability exist. While older folks may vividly remember experiences that happened to them when they were younger, they routinely exhibit worse memory skills for current objects like prescription information. Additional elements relate to the context in which the message is given and are situational. It should come as no surprise that increased message attention by the customer improves recall. According to some research, a pioneering brand—the first one to join a market—is more accessible to recall from memory than following brands because its launch is more likely to be distinctive and because, for the time being, there are no competitors to draw customers' attention elsewhere. Also, brand names that adequately describe the product are more likely to be remembered than those that do not.

State-Based Retrieval

People are better able to retrieve knowledge if their internal state is the same at the moment of recall as when the information was learned, which is a process known as state-dependent retrieval. The mood congruence effect is the name given to this phenomenon. The finding highlights the importance of tailoring exposure to marketing materials to coincide with a consumer's mood at the moment of purchase. For instance, if a consumer's mood or degree of arousal at the moment of exposure is comparable to that in the purchasing setting, they are more likely to remember an advertisement. Recall can be improved by reproducing the signals when the material was initially delivered. It seeks to make positive brand assessments and memory of brand claims easier.


Generally speaking, past exposure to an object improves memory. One of the fundamental objectives of marketers who work to spread and sustain product awareness is this. Customers may use product information more effectively with more experience with the product. There could be one probable exception to the rule, however. Extreme familiarity may impair learning and recall, according to evidence. When customers are familiar with a product or advertisement, they can focus on fewer characteristics since they do not think exerting any more effort would result in knowledge development.


The prominence or degree of brand activation in memory is called salience. In contrast to their surroundings, stimuli that stand out are more likely to draw attention and, thus, improve the probability that they will be remembered. Practically any method that makes a stimulus more unique also enhances recall (a result known as the von Restorff effect). This effect explains why unique packaging or odd advertising tends to help with brand recognition.

Using Consumer Memory in Brand Expansion

Today's business environment is highly competitive; therefore, marketers need to know how to leave a lasting impact on their target market. Marketing professionals may enhance consumer memory in several ways.


One of the best strategies for improving consumer memory is repetition. The consumer is more likely to recall a brand or message the more they are exposed to it. There are several ways to repeat anything, such as through advertising, social media, direct mail, and email marketing. To help solidify the brand in the minds of consumers, marketers should strive to develop a consistent message across all of these platforms.


Another powerful technique that marketers may use to help consumers recall is emotion. We tend to recall things that cause us to feel certain emotions because emotions are tied to our long-term memory. Marketers can build a close bond with their audience by using emotional triggers. For instance, a car company might run an advertisement that depicts a father teaching his daughter to drive for the first time and causes the viewer to experience intense emotions.


Another powerful strategy is storytelling. Because stories are ingrained in human nature, a strong story can help the consumer have a memorable experience. Customer reviews, case studies, and tales about how a brand first came to be are just a few examples of storytelling. Marketers should develop a narrative that connects with and resonates with their target audience's values and interests.


Visuals can break up text and give the user a more engaging experience. Marketers should strive to select simple images to grasp and support their points. Employing infographics, videos, and photos to help consumers remember information and leave a lasting impression is possible.


A mnemonic is a technique for improving memory that links new knowledge to a memorable phrase or image. McDonald's, for instance, employs the Golden Arches as a mnemonic to help customers remember them.

Sensory Marketing

Sensory marketing uses sensory elements, including touch, sound, smell, and taste, to give customers a more memorable experience. For instance, to draw consumers in and create a memorable experience, a coffee shop would employ the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.


Brands must comprehend consumer memory to create successful marketing campaigns. Businesses may modify their messages and branding efforts to maximize their impact and remain top-of-mind with consumers by knowing how consumers process and retain information about their products.

Updated on: 02-Mar-2023


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