Boosting Recall: Why you need to focus on the beginning and end of your content

Do you remember the last advertisement you watched or heard?

Perhaps a little? If so, which parts?

Usually, I’ll recall the beginning and the end of an ad fairly well, but the middle is jumbled up in my memory. If I’ve seen the ad multiple times, I sometimes can recite verbatim the words from the beginning and end parts.

How does this happen?

According to psychological research, when given a list of items, an item’s position relative position greatly affects our ability to recall at a later time. This, also known as the serial position effect, occurs due to the limited holding capacity in our short-term (working) memory.

When we watch, hear, or read something, we are continuously processing information in our working memory, but we can only hold a limited amount at each moment. This perceptual information is further processed and encoded into our long-term memory, but a large portion of it may be lost if there is no active rehearsal or attributed meaning.

Part of the serial position effect is the primacy effect, an increased ability to accurately remember the items towards the beginning of the list. This often happens because there is less processing effort involved during the beginning of a sequence, as opposed to later in the list, where there is more cognitive burden from the preceding information being processed.

We also have better recall towards the end of a sequence — the recency effect. Items that appear towards the end are more accurately remembered because they are still freshly preserved in our working memory.

How does this apply to marketers?

When you create content, think carefully about where you will place the most important parts of your message. Your audience will most accurately recall the information towards the beginning or the end.

Emphasize your key points in the first few seconds. If you are working with video content, place your most breathtaking shots in the beginning. Remember that drop-off rates are high in the first few seconds. So make the first seconds count; immediately capture your audience’s attention and spark their imagination.

As for the end of your content, consider reiterating your main points. Rehearsal (or repetition) is key to consolidating information from your short-term memory into the permanent long-term memory. Most importantly, keep it simple so you don’t overburden your audience’s cognitive load.

The digital revolution has allowed us to reach our audience in unimaginable ways. Content is at our fingertips. Brands can now build strong relationships with consumers on and offline.

However, this also means that it is extremely hard for marketers to cut through the clutter and make their content memorable.

At the end of the day, it is all about creating meaningful and compelling content. But it is also wise to test and find ways to reach your audience most effectively.

Research and experimenting is key. But yes, you have a tight budget and limited time.

So what can you do?

Subscribe to some websites that provide you with the latest news on marketing practices, trends, and tools.

Google’s Think With Google has some cutting-edge insights on current video and consumer trends. Take a moment of your day to read through some of their articles and case studies. You’ll be surprised at the amount of knowledge you acquire. Think with Google will also keep you up to date with the micro-moments that shape your consumer’s journey.

The inbound marketing company Hubspot also has a great email newsletter with marketing tips and content ideas. Personally, I find the Hubspot blog to be less useful for video marketing research since they do not own a video platform website that conducts experiments in-house. Nevertheless, take a look at what they offer. They actively manage their blog and house massive amounts of diverse content.

But don’t forget that it’s all about creating relevant, valuable, and unique content. Then, you will be able to reach your target audience efficiently and most importantly, be remembered.

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