I work in an industry where often the goal is to create something memorable or viral. I’ve recently come across a counter intuitive way of delivering a memorable experience. Help your customer forget. As strange as that sounds its actually more natural for someone to forget you, your product or website, than remember you.
Forgetting is a mental operation, not the break down of one. It is good to forget. It plays a big role in our cognitive processes. I’m not advocating that you purposefully create a message or design that is not worth remembering. I’m saying you can create a more memorable experience by taking advantage of the brains remarkable ability to forget – not by wilfully tuning out, but subconsciously just forget most of what we see, hear, smell, touch and taste. Most of it gone for good, while some is magically stored in our subconscious to be recalled later when our brain thinks its relevant to our current experience.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arselectronica/6943972882/sizes/c/in/photostream/
Bare with me for a moment and imagine if you remembered the colour and brand of every car you drove past this morning or the dozens of faces you have seen today – everyday. “Our mental health depends on a mechanism for editing the moment by moment ocean of sensory data flowing into our consciousness down to a manageable trickle of the noticed and remembered.” (1)
Forgetting Helps You Focus
In his book The Botany of Desire Michael Pollan briefly explores the effects of marijuana on our cognitive processes. One thing “smoking up” does is enhance very common and simple experiences so they become sensational. For example someone who is high, who has eaten the same vanilla ice-cream hundreds of times will say something like “this is the best vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had.” What is actually happening is the part of the brain that helps you forget becomes more active then normal allowing you to experience something in a more focused way.
What an interesting lens to use the next time you examine a user experience, marketing tactic or marketing collateral. How can I eliminate all of the extraneous processes and information, to help my user focus, forget everything else and when they are done, remember the message, the design or the experience?
(1) Michael Pollan, the Botany of Desire page 161.