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The Power Of Brand Memory: A Conversation With Matt Lurcock, Creative Director, Turner Duckworth, London

Updated: 5 days ago

Memories associated with brands are powerful things. Maybe it’s that cologne your dad always wore, the chocolate your first love gave you, the paper towel brand your grandmother always had on hand. It hardly matters whether one product is better than another, it’s about the memories and emotions they trigger. 

Today, with consumers overwhelmed with information daily, and making faster buying decisions, it’s crucial that brands today create new memories, and nurture older ones. That’s where the power of visual distinctiveness, emotional connections, and brand storytelling that alludes to a larger narrative remains the goal. 

“For brands to stay relevant and engage new consumers, they can’t rely on loyal customers,” Lurcock says. “Brands that have successfully sustained long-term relevance differentiate themselves through consistent design and storytelling.”

Branders Magazine spoke exclusively to Lurcock about this topic.


Q. You talk a lot about building brand memories and how they influence choice. Can you expand on that?

ML: Take a brand like Cadbury. It is a brand memory of everything you think Cadbury is about – the purple wrapper, that square of chocolate, the one-and-a-half glass of milk on the package, maybe the old drumming gorilla ads. You might not even be thinking of the current packaging, but the packaging you remember from your childhood. Maybe it's the fruit and nut bar that your dad liked when you were a kid. All of those things become your memory of the brand. When we are building brands as designers, brand owners, and marketers, essentially we're building memories, and those memories influence choice.

Think about shopping lists. Rarely do we ever actually write down brand names, you just write ‘yogurt’ or ‘shampoo.’ Yet we walk into stores with hundreds of thousands of products and know almost instinctively what we’re looking for. 

Q. So, what's the difference then between product greatness and brand greatness?

ML: Think about health food stores. Their shelves are filled with products that are better made, better for your health, better for the planet, and yet for the most part you've never heard of them. Why? Great brands are not necessarily great products, and great products are not necessarily great brands. Great brands are however memorable and loved by consumers. 

Q. So, where does branding fit into purchase decisions?

ML: For the most part, consumers shop visually and make decisions quickly. The exception is what we call ‘system 2’ buying decisions, like when you’re buying a new iPhone or car and you research and ask questions, etc. It’s very draining and time-consuming. No one puts that type of thought into buying toilet paper. For that, it’s strictly ‘system 1’ decisions – ones made in seconds based largely on past brand associations and packaging.   

Q. If consumer brand knowledge is vague, outdated, and muddled up with competing brands, how can they change the dynamic? Or perhaps more accurately, what do the successful brands do differently in this area?

ML: As brand marketers, we all love seeing a fantastic logo, a great ad, a perfect website, or a clever social media presence, but the reality is consumers that don't see brands like that. It's a whole mishmash in their mind. ‘Salience’ is the secret to the success of great brands because great brands are always building and refreshing those memory structures so they come to mind quickly in a consumer's mind when they’re shopping.

Q. What do you mean by 'Salience'?

ML: Salience is the fundamental objective of marketing. It's the ability to come to mind first in a buying situation. When you think about jeans, you think of Levi's. If you think of soda you think of Coke. The way you achieve that is through distinction. That ability to come to mind quickly is helped greatly with visual distinction, whether from logos or packaging, illustration, or icons, they all work to get attention. 

Q. Any good example of salience you’ve seen?

ML: If you look at the yogurt aisle, particularly Skyr yogurt, you will see many brands saying the same thing: clean ingredients, real food that tastes good. The problem is rationally communicating those values makes your brand look like everyone else's. You have to be distinct to be able to stand out. Our recent redesign for Icelandic Provisions yogurt is a smart and simple solution that articulates those same values through design in a much more distinct way. 

Q. When you speak before audiences you often emphasize ‘distinction, emotion, association, repetition, and scale,’ Can you walk me through the importance of these ideas?

ML: We know that distinctiveness is important. It's the thing that's going to turn heads and get you noticed, like Liquid Death’s heavy metal typography or Icelandic Provisions yogurt incorporating the Viking boat and Nordic symbols. It's the thing that helps make memories because it is the symbol that sticks in your mind. Emotion is a powerful area to dial into because it's so crucial to the way that we make memories. 

We know from consumer data that emotional advertising, emotional design, outperforms the rational. Combine distinction and emotion that associates to memory in a repeatable way and the sky’s the limit to how big that brand can be.

Q. Meaning it’s not just about pursuing a great logo or visually distinct package?

ML: Exactly, it’s about equipping brands with the ingredients, the creative assets, they need to be able to tell great stories – ones that entertain and become components of memory playing out across all media. Great brands play out in our memory as much as they do in real life. As Winston Churchill once said, ‘The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.’ 

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