BBC StoryWorks reveals how brands can create powerful moments that lead to long-term memory creation in new Science of Memory study

Commissioned by BBC StoryWorks, the content marketing division of BBC Global News, the Science of Memory uses the latest neuroscience techniques to investigate how emotions impact memory, and how brands can create powerful moments that lead to long-term memory creation.

Published: 11 October 2018
As our new Science of Memory research shows, there is real science that underpins effective brand storytelling and helps us drive the way we create content.
— Richard Pattinson

Commissioned by BBC StoryWorks, the content marketing division of BBC Global News, the Science of Memory uses the latest neuroscience techniques to investigate how emotions impact memory, and how brands can create powerful moments that lead to long-term memory creation.

The research takes the award-winning emotion tracking tool, Science of Engagement, which BBC StoryWorks developed in partnership with emotion specialists, CrowdEmotion, to track the impact of branded content on BBC.com. This has been combined with the latest methods for measuring long-term memory, developed by neuroscience specialists, Neuro-Insight, to test six branded videos on over 2000 respondents in four markets around the world.

The study fused facial coding data with the neuroscience technique, Steady State Topography, which captures electrical activity in your brain and was able to track second by second, the emotional state, degree of emotional intensity, and level of long-term memory encoding of the respondents.

Emotions are an integral part of creating impactful content and can drive long term memory of the content and brand. The use of intimate personal narratives - stories with one to two main protagonists or content that is personally relevant to the viewer - can make brand stories more memorable.
The three key learnings are:

1. Emotions are a key driver of memory

  • Our research demonstrated that, if you’re watching a brand film, the bigger the emotional spike, the more likely it is to trigger long term memory.
  • When it comes to triggering long term memory, there is no such thing as a bad emotion. The Science of Memory shows us that the influential factor is the intensity of the emotion being experienced, not the nature of the emotion being experienced, that ensures long-term memory encoding.

2. We can fine-tune emotions to maximise and ‘colour’ memory.

  • We found there are certain strategies to employ emotional spikes and make content more memorable.
  • Emotions colour memory. The emotions experienced when consuming content are encoded into long-term memory. So stimulating and engaging audiences with storytelling that delivers truly emotional engagement leads to really powerful outcomes for brands.
  • Set the emotional stakes early - brand films that triggered their highest emotional intensity in the first third of their duration ultimately delivered stronger memory of the content overall.
  • With emotional peaks, quantity is important. Our research has shown that content that provokes numerous peaks of emotional intensity throughout, rather than slow building to a singular event, delivers a higher memory impact.

3. Brands can ‘ride’ memory moments.

  • Emotion often precedes memory. A sudden spike in emotional intensity causes memory encoding to rise shortly afterwards. Seamlessly integrating a brand in the memory window after moments of high emotional intensity allows the brand to ride the wave of the narrative into memory.

Richard Pattinson, SVP BBC StoryWorks, says: “We already have a tool that enables us to assess the emotional impact of the branded content we create - our Science of Engagement toolkit - and we use it to help our key clients deliver engaging and effective brand films.

"With the new findings from Science of Memory, we are able to add another level to this tool. For the first time we can assess the memory impact of that content.

"As our new Science of Memory research shows, there is real science that underpins effective brand storytelling and helps us drive the way we create content. But there is also an art to great storytelling - an art that has been part of the BBC’s DNA for almost a hundred years, and continues to resonate in every innovation in storytelling we embark upon. And it’s that combination of art and science that makes BBC StoryWorks uniquely placed to help brands tell their stories.”

The study also suggests practical ways that brands and filmmakers can use these techniques to help create long-term memories in viewers. For example, cinematic devices also serve as a way to keep viewers engaged and lead to memory events. Things like lighting changes, unique camera angles, and changes in music can all help keep the viewer engaged and create a larger opportunity for memory encoding.

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Methodology

The research combined two award-winning methodologies:

1. Emotion tracking from BBC Global News’ own branded content tracker ‘SOE Toolkit’, using technology supplied by emotion specialists, CrowdEmotion. This uses second by second analysis of emotions using facial coding of 6 key emotional states, eye-tracking and exposed/control brand metric analysis.
2. Second by second measurement of long term memory encoding using a measurement procedure known as Steady-State Topography, conducted by neuroscience specialists Neuro-Insight.

Six BBC brand films were shown to a total of 2,179 respondents in USA, Germany, Australia and Singapore. The test was followed up with a questionnaire to capture brand metrics, and results were compared to an unexposed Control sample.