Crafting Memories


The persistence of tattoos
Persistence: the length of time in the state of engagement, usually expressed as enduring or situational.

The subjective state of engagement has three main properties (Andrews, Durvasula et al. 1990; Lawson and Loudon 1996; Wirth 2006): intensity, persistence, and duration. This post discusses persistence.

Persistence of customer engagement is related to relevance (based on Interests, Values, Impressions or Outcomes, as discussed in other posts). For example, a wine connoisseur's interest in wine is enduring -- he will find the notes of graphite, black currant liqueur, incense, and camphor in a bottle of 2006 Chateau Malescot St. Exupery lastingly engaging. A habitual beer drinker's interest in wine is likely to be situational -- she will stop thinking about the taste after the first few mouthfuls.

Value- or interest-relevant propositions are more likely to be enduringly engaging. Impression- or outcome-relevant propositions are more likely to be situationally engaging.

Novelty often fades fast.
A proposition may be intentionally designed to be either enduringly or situationally engaging. Hospital way-finding systems (signage), for example, are designed for situational engagement; they do the job and are then forgotten. A luxury watch, in contrast, is designed to connect with enduring aspirations and values. It does more than tell time.

Persistence of engagement is related to memorability.
Research into the phenomenon of duration neglect shows memory of an experience is determined by only two factors:

  • the quality of the highest moment of intensity (discussed in the previous post) during the experience, and 
  • the concluding moments of the experience. 

So, to craft a happy memory of an experience, designers should create a moment of high positive intensity, and a pleasant conclusion. This applies even when designing a first use experience (aka, "out-of-the-box," "first use," "unpacking," or "onboarding").
way-finding systems are situationally engaging

In practice, this means that less engaging (often lengthy) parts of the experience, such as filling in a form or indexing files, should be situated early or mid-experience, and offset with a moment of humor, personal encouragement, or quantified achievement (see the previous post for the mechanics of intensity). The conclusion of your customer's experience should be differentiated from the rest of the experience -- so to be untainted by any preceding unpleasantness -- and emotionally positive in tone. This is why movies usually end with an upbeat song: your memory of the movie is more positive when you walk out of the cinema singing.

Bottom line

  • For enduring customer engagement, make sure your proposition is personally relevant to your customer (via Interests, Values, Impressions or Outcomes).
  • To engineer a strong memory of your proposition, design to create a moment of high positive intensity, and an emotionally positive conclusion.

Did I get it in the box? Before you forget, leave a comment below. Please engage.

This post is part of a series on Design for Customer Engagement.

If your interests extend to theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.


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