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David Johnson

David Johnson Social Media Aficionado

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Pavlov’s Dog, Associative Memory and Social Branding

pavlov_dogThe ultimate goal of branding is to establish dominance in your category, to be the company that first comes to mind when people need whatever it is you sell. By now we’ve all heard the story of Pavlov’s dog; in short, Pavolv would ring a bell as he rubbed meat paste on his dogs tongue, then after a time all he would have to do was ring the bell and his dog would start salivating. This is referred to as associative memory or in other words, branding!

With the very real threat of being labeled pithy, associative memory is a memory that links to another memory. Human memory relies mostly on association and objects frequently seen together to become linked in the mind – when we try to retrieve information one things leads us to another, and then another and so on.

The attainment of associated memories lies in the strengthening of the connections between neurons that represent associated objects in the brain. Once trained and linked, a neuron that responds to the site of a football might then move on to the thought of the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick and Superbowl XLVIII (Yes, I’m a 49er fan and am thrilled that I was able to include them in this post!).

Without getting too technical about associative memory the goal with social branding is to associate your companies brand with a specific social object. The reason being because of the very nature of social objects being, well… social, I’ve spoken and written about using causes as social objects before.

Think about it, what would happen if your company associates itself with homelessness in your local community? And by associating I don’t mean just stroking a check, but rather becoming part of the solution. You could then help to rally others around the cause through Facebook, Twitter, your blog and other online and offline social mediums. By doing that your company starts to become associated with the solution. But, not just the solution but also the feelings of pride people feel when they do something for somebody that can’t help themselves.

How would that benefit your company? Think about that a moment, how would being associated with helping to end homelessness and the pride people feel when they help others benefit you? Remember my 49er example? People are reading a news story about homeless children in your local community and are reminded about a food drive your company hosted during Thanksgiving and the pride they felt being able to help.

It’s all about creating a positive experience and linking the neurons in the brain between your company and the social object.

The Three Key Components of Implanting an Associative Memory

In his book, the Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads the author Roy H Williams says that you need three things in order to implant an associative memory, and they are:

  1. Consistency
  2. Frequency, and
  3. Anchoring

While a lot of what Williams talks about in his book will hold water with most forms of marketing he wasn’t particularly talking about social media, but the three keys still hold true.

First Key – Consistency

The issue with social campaigns is that most companies think of them as just that, a campaign. It happens all the time, big fortune 500 companies will do some sort of campaign, grow a huge community around it and then just stop interacting with the community around what they were interested in in the first place. The key here is consistency. A good rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t pick a social object, cause or not, that you’re not passionate about. If you company isn’t passionate about it then you won’t stick with it.

Second Key – Frequency

If consistency is all about sticking with it, frequency is about how often you stick with it. If you are passionate about child education then talk about it all the time, organize educational events, be part of the solution.

Third Key – Anchoring

Back to Pavlov and his dog. The anchor point was the meat paste. It was something his dog, and all dogs for that matter, love. That is why I brought up social objects, if you clicked on the link I gave you earlier you can learn more about social object and why they make great anchors or recall cues.

I’m going to end this with a passage from the Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads because it perfectly sums up the three points.

The buying public is your dog. If you desire a specific response from it, you must tie your identity to an emotional anchor that’s already known to elicit the desired response. If you make such an association consistently and frequently, branding will occur. But don’t expect too much too soon. It takes a lot of repetition to train a dog to salivate at the sound of your name.

How are you going to make people salivate?

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