I enjoy watching movies and also am very good at forgetting them. The benefit to forgetting movies is I enjoy re-watching them. The quicker I forget, the sooner I can re-watch. This phenomenon was recently studied and provides considerable implications for building brand experiences.

New Research Shows Larger Memory Capacity Increases Rate of Satiation
A recently published Journal of Consumer Research study highlights the adaptive benefits of forgetting. Nelson & Redden (2017), in a series of four experiments, illustrated the link between working memory capacity and satiation. They found that greater capacity of working memory (ability to encode and recall experiences) resulted in faster satiation (had enough, get tired of, move on, or stop consuming). Applying this result to my movie watching - my poor memory of movies (less satiated) makes me more likely to re-watch.

Better memory can lead to less buying.
If I eat a sandwich on the way to the office, the quicker the memory of the sandwich dissipates from working memory the sooner I am likely to consume again. My memory will be impacted by many factors including attention (distracted by driving, talking to friends), past consumption, variety of consumption, energy levels, and the context.

Brands Can Benefit by Shifting Consumers Focus
The salience to aspects of the customer experience plays an important role. For instance, if I am eating Oreos while immersed in the latest Netflix series I may not even remember eating. Alternatively, if I am dunking each Oreo in milk to get the perfect taste, I will likely remember eating but also how many I ate. This can be applied to service experiences as well. When at Disney World am I taking pictures non-stop or laughing and enjoying the experience with family? Whether eating Oreos or visting Disney, once a memory is no longer a source of pleasure, we can license ourselves to re-eat and relive the experience again. 

2 Takeaways:

  1. Customers enjoy things less after repeated exposures and by not helping them remember their experience can help fuel repurchase.
  2. Brands should focus on building positive long-term memories by making sure the net experience is positive. (e.g., just because I forget the details of movies, does not take from the fact I enjoy watching them). This can be achieved by removing pains of the experience (difficulty with parking, purchasing, packaging, etc.)

Nelson, N. M., & Redden, J. P. (2017). Remembering Satiation: The Role of Working Memory in Satiation. Journal of Consumer Research.