The study of human behavior has taught us that we make decisions based on memories. As Daniel Kahneman points out in his TED talk, "The riddle of experience vs. memory," we often make a decision based on a positive memory we have of a past experience. If I...

The study of human behavior has taught us that we make decisions based on memories. As Daniel Kahneman points out in his TED talk, "The riddle of experience vs. memory," we often make a decision based on a positive memory we have of a past experience. If I asked you if you'd pick the same pleasurable vacation you have positive memories of, but you'd have all your photos deleted and be given a memory-erasing drug upon your return, would you choose the same vacation?

So how do we make decisions based on something of which we have no memory? We look for similarities, and oftentimes, we look for other peoples' shared memories to base our decisions on. Just think how powerful Amazon's ratings system is for consumers. You are making a decision based on the shared opinions of strangers, based on what are now memories of using an item. We put a lot of trust in these shared experiences and memories—even if they are from strangers. We don't care what the company is trying to say to us, because they are trying to create an action, a result, a sale. Someone sharing a memory has no vested interest in the outcome, except the enjoyment of sharing. How powerful the individual has become compared to the reach and influence of an international company!

One of our biggest challenges when working with clients is not just teaching them about the importance of content, but also teaching them how to create good content once we are gone. So I want to offer some advice on ways we can put our ideas into practice. Here's one way.

When thinking about any kind of content—be it a home page feature, a profile, a blog post, or a section of a Website explaining a new "thing"—try to create that content as if it were a memory. How in the heck do we do that? Let's break it down.

Oftentimes when we recall content we would consider memory-oriented, it's in journals, quick emails to update friends and family, and, often, pictures or videos. Sometimes a song elicits a strong memory. And if we ever get the technology that can create smells—well, then we will have a guaranteed memory generator! Did you know that people who lose their sense of smell are most depressed because they can no longer elicit fond memories that only came from scent? However, I digress; we aren't capable of adding smell to the Web—yet.

So the power of the image, and the perspective of that image or series of images, is critical. Sure, we all have pictures of the perfect sunset from our vacations, but the really great memories often come from the pictures that tell a story, the email recounting a crazy adventure, the video that catches a group of friends enjoying themselves candidly. Or a single shot of a person leaping into the air off the edge of a boat. The picture doesn't need to tell an entire story, but it should feel like you were there, like a story was being made—a story that would become a treasured memory. These are the real memory generators, and the most enjoyable types of content to consume.

So the next time you sit down to write a blog post, can you make that post feel like a memory? Can you change your perspective around? Can you make sure you're talking about something as if it's a fond memory of a vacation or an experience? Using memory as a way to get you to be more authentic, genuine, and candid is a great tool for content generators. Give it a try! And especially keep it in mind the next time you're shooting photos or video, or selecting them. Were you drawn to this blog post because of the picture? If so, good—it's one of my favorite memories of spending a day in Rehoboth Bay with friends.

Share on Twitter or Facebook Published March 21st 2012