Project Discussion

Share your invention and marketing plan from the Emotional Connections in Design project assigned last week.


Last week, we discussed the following aspects of human behavior:

  • The phenomenon of perception follows this path: Exposure through the Senses -> Attention -> Interpretation
  • Exposure may or may not fit within a consumer’s perceptual threshholds.
  • What we pay attention to will depend on our cultural conditioning and how novel the message is.
  • Our interpretation of a message will be influenced by our responses to signs and symbols (semiotics).
  • Some marketing which has gone too far in trying to capture our attention will be interpreted as offensive.
  • Just noticeable difference is the smallest detectable difference between a starting and secondary level of a particular sensory stimulus.

Consumer Learning and Memory

An understanding of how consumers learn and remember is vital to a successful marketing campaign.


Learning is a long-term change in behavior based on experience. Marketers know that long-standing, learned associations between products and feelings/memories are a potent way to build and keep brand loyalty.

Behavioral Learning: Conditioning

Behavioral learning is how we generally make purchase decisions for low-cost, low-involvement everyday products or services.

Classical Conditioning
  • Involves placing a neutral signal before a reflex
  • Focuses on involuntary, automatic behaviors

In the commercial for Coca Cola above, we don’t need to understand Chinese to recognize the components of classical conditioning:

  • Unconditioned stimulus: the scenes of delicious meals and happy, fun gatherings
  • Unconditioned response: memories of tasty food and joyful times with family and friends
  • Conditioned stimulus: scenes of people drinking Coke
  • Conditioned response: we associate Coke with happy sensory experiences

What are the unconditioned stimulus and response, and conditioned stimulus and response, that Carl’s Jr. is trying for here?

Can you think of some other examples of classical conditioning in your experience?

Operant Conditioning AKA Instrumental Conditioning
  • Involves applying reinforcement or punishment after a behavior
  • Focuses on strengthening or weakening voluntary behaviors
  • Trial-and-error learning

Instrumental conditioning is often used to create association between a reward and a product.

For example, the free aftershave or perfume testers in magazines. What happens if the consumer tries the sample and likes it?

perfume sample Consumer Learning and Memory

Can you think of some other examples of instrumental conditioning in your experience?


Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems. Read the following article and discuss how what Skittles achieved relates to instrumental conditioning.

Mob the Rainbow: How Skittles Used Social Gamification to Build Their Brand and Engage Fans

Cognitive Learning

Cognitive learning occurs when consumers interpret new information, and acquire new meanings and beliefs. Cognitive learning is how we generally make purchase decisions for higher-priced, high-involvement products or services.

There are three basic ways this can occur:

Direct Personal Experience

C0nsumers acquire new meanings and beliefs during or after the use of a product. This is why marketers attempt to convince someone to at least try the product. This includes the practice of test drives at auto dealerships.

Volkswagen test drive ad Consumer Learning and Memory
Vicarious Product Experiences (Observing Others’ Behavior)

When a consumer sees another using a product or service, and that it satisfies that other person, they are more likely to try it themselves. This is why celebrity spokespeople are so popular and effective. It is also why if lots of people already use a brand (such as Sony), consumers are more likely to purchase that brand.

Shatner spokesperson Consumer Learning and Memory
Product-Related Information

Consumers in the Internet age are famous for learning about products before they buy, via mass media and the Web, as well as from friends and family.

CarFax Report cognitive learning

Learned Associations

Learned associations are links between ideas based on experience. How do marketers use branding to create learned associations?

If you enjoyed these movies:

pixar-cars pixar-finding-nemo pixar-toy-story pixar-up

Are you more willing to watch this one?

Pixar's Inside Out [2015]

Pixar’s Inside Out [2015]

Why or why not?

What associations have you learned to make with the following brands? What words would generally describe their products and brand personality? How did you form these associations?

8-5-2014 3-09-58 PM 8-5-2014 3-11-05 PM 8-5-2014 3-11-19 PM 8-5-2014 3-11-39 PM 8-5-2014 3-11-55 PM 8-5-2014 3-12-07 PM 8-5-2014 3-12-21 PM 8-5-2014 3-12-55 PM 8-5-2014 3-13-04 PM 8-5-2014 3-13-17 PM 8-5-2014 3-13-29 PM 8-5-2014 3-13-59 PM 8-5-2014 3-17-24 PM

Why would a brand use a symbol like those above?


Memory is the process of storing and retrieving knowledge.

memory stages attention encoding storage retrieval
  • Encoding is what happens when information is interpreted and placed in memory.
  • Storage is the retaining of information in memory.
  • Retrieval is what you do when you locate a stored memory.

Memory Systems

There are three distinct memory systems:

Sensory Memory

The briefest memories are formed from sensory stimuli. If the individual finds the sensory experience significant enough to warrant further investigation, it may pass into short-term memory.

Short-Term Memory

We process selected bits of information and store it for a limited time. We store this information by combining small pieces into larger ones in a process called chunking.

Long-Term Memory

This is the permanent storage of information, which can be recalled at will. This occurs when we consider the meaning of a stimulus and relate it to other information already in memory.

Marketers attempt to engage our existing memories and experiences in order to get their brand message into our long-term memory. They also make use of repetition and redundancy in advertising in order to present us with many opportunities to commit them to long-term memory.

The Influence of Other Products

Associative Networks

We have organized systems in our memories of concepts that relate to all the brands and products that we have experienced through advertising or direct use. We organize chunks of information with others because we sense that they “go together”.

Experiences with other, similar brands of products affect the incorporation of new products.

associative network memory
Spreading Activation

We we recall a product through its brand name, logo, or advertising, the experience fires a sequence of linked associations in our memory.

spreading activation memory

Memory Retrieval

Products and ads themselves serve as cues to retrieve memories from storage. If the products or ads are associated with emotionally personal experiences, the cue is especially strong.

Some marketing efforts attempt to build relationships between a new product and an earlier era, to entwine themselves with presumably happy times.

More mature products often are marketed in a way to conjure up your earliest experiences with them.


The Persuaders frontline consumer learning and memory
The Pursuaders
Parts 1-3
Frontline, PBS