Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The importance of reflection

I'm a big fan of Ira Glass (of "This American Life" fame). Presentation Zen posted a couple of clips sharing his insights into the art of storytelling.

One thing that made me think was the 'moment of reflection' - that point when we take a breather from the story, action or drama, and have a chance to reflect on what we are being told. Being interesting is not enough unless we can also make sense of it and understand why it is important.

I was reminded of this again a few weeks ago: My wife and I watched a few episodes of Lost. It was just too easy to click on 'Play' again and watch an episode after another. Even though I was completely into the story, I could not remember any of the details a few minutes later. In my mind, the storyline became a big mess and it was hard for me to make sense of it all.

This is another side of the a 'moment of reflection' and the need to make sense of a story: its importance for moving memories from short term to long term memory. Short term memories are registered literally (visually, accoustically, etc.) whereas long term memories are registered semantically - it is the association and the meanings that are tied to the memories - and without the opportunity to reflect and make sense, these memories become washed away.

That's why it's so hard to remember movies on planes - the movie is immediately followed by another form of entertainment: iPod, magazines, food, conversation. Because your stuck in a god awful seat in a god awful plane, you have no opportunity to reflect and consider.

What does it mean? The question for marketers is how often consumers have a 'moment of reflection' with advertising? How many ads truly provoke reflection? Is engagement without reflection enough?

On the other hand if it is important for long term memories how many pre-testing models take this into account?

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