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Consumer response is not all cognitive and rational; much may be emotional and invoke different kinds of feelings. A brand or product may make a consumer feel proud, excited, or confident. An ad may create feelings of amusement, disgust, or wonder. Marketers are increasingly recognizing the power of emotional appeals—especially if rooted in some functional or rational aspects of the brand. An emotion-filled brand story has been shown to trigger’s people desire to pass along things they hear about brands, through either word of mouth or online sharing. Firms are therefore giving their communications a stronger human appeal to engage consumers in their brand stories.29


Cognitive psychologists distinguish between short-term memory (STM)—a temporary and limited repository of information—and long-term memory (LTM)—a more permanent, essentially unlimited repository. Most widely accepted views of long-term memory structure assume we form some kind of associative model. For example, the associative network memory model views LTM as a set of nodes and links. Nodes are stored information connected by links that vary in strength. Any type of information can be stored in the memory network, including verbal, visual, abstract, and contextual. A spreading activation process from node to node determines how much we retrieve and what information we can actually recall in any given situation. When a node becomes activated because we’re encoding external information (when we read or hear a word or phrase) or retrieving internal information from LTM (when we think about some concept), other nodes are also activated if they’re associated strongly enough with that node.

Brand associations consist of all brand-related thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, experiences, beliefs, attitudes, and so on, that become linked to the brand node. Companies sometimes create mental maps of consumers that depict their knowledge of a particular brand in terms of the key associations likely to be triggered in a marketing setting and their relative strength, favorability, and uniqueness to consumers. Figure 5.2 displays a very simple mental map highlighting some brand beliefs for a hypothetical consumer for State Farm insurance.

Memory encoding describes how and where information gets into memory. The strength of the resulting association depends on how much we process the information at encoding (how much we think about it, for instance) and in what way. The more attention we pay to the meaning of information during encoding, the stronger the resulting associations in memory will be.30 Memory retrieval is the way information gets out of memory. The presence of other product

FiGURE 5.2 Hypothetical Mental Map

information in memory can produce interference effects and cause us to either overlook or confuse new data. One marketing challenge in a category crowded with competitors is that consumers may mix up brands. Also, once information becomes stored in memory, its strength of association decays very slowly.

Information may be available in memory but not be accessible for recall without the proper retrieval cues or reminders. The effectiveness of retrieval cues is one reason marketing inside a store is so critical—product packaging and displays remind us of information already conveyed outside the store and become prime determinants of consumer decision making. Accessibility of a brand in memory is important for another reason: People talk about a brand when it is top-of-mind.31

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