I believe that as humans, memories are some of our most precious and fascinating resources. Our memories allow us to revisit happy times, to learn from our past mistakes, and to pass on our life stories to future generations.
Some might consider memory exclusive to the realm of science and medicine, but memory has always been central to my work. As an interior design student at Arizona State University, I researched how to utilize the senses and human nature to design spaces that would leave a meaningful impression on those who visit. And nowadays, I apply that same principle to my work in branding and design.
It’s why one of our core values here at Miss Details is our commitment to making a memory: to help business owners create brands that will leave a lasting impression on their clients and encourage them to return time and time again.
The Power of a Positive Memory
So, what exactly does memory have to do with branding? As it turns out, quite a bit. Let’s start with the basics: brand recognition + visibility. The more often clients see your brand, the more likely they’ll be to remember it when they need your product or service.
Say your dermatologist recommends you start using a facial moisturizer, so you head out to the drugstore to purchase one. You’re feeling overwhelmed by all the options, when you spot a jar with a familiar name and logo: Dove. As you pick up the jar, you remember the other Dove products you’ve used, recalling their pleasant scent, gentle ingredients, and reasonable prices. So, even though you have no reason beyond your own memory to believe that Dove’s facial moisturizer will be better than that of competing brands, you decide to purchase it.
There are two main factors at play in this scenario: positive past experience and the convenience of familiarity. You can remember having positive experiences with Dove’s other products in the past, so you conclude that you’ll likely have another positive experience with this product. In addition, your familiarity with Dove’s brand adds convenience—you now don’t need to expend any further time or mental energy deciding which product to purchase.
When brands can expertly leverage these two core aspects of memory, they often see wild success. For a prime example of this phenomenon, we need look no further than one of the strongest brands of all time: Disney.
The Most Memorable Brand on Earth
You’ve undoubtedly seen countless advertisements for Disney World, positioning it as a magical place for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. And yet, there is a surprisingly large group of people who make going to Disney World an annual or even semi-annual event—the ones who collect novelty Mickey Mouse ears, who have Disney World bumper stickers on their minivans, and who keep detailed checklists to plan out the very best Disney trip.
Unless you’re one of these people yourself, you might find this phenomenon excessive, or even irrational. With the exception of new attractions released every few years, Disney World stays exactly the same. Why go multiple times if your experience will be virtually identical?
The reason is simple: Disney has invested billions of dollars into designing a theme park experience so memorable, it compels its visitors to repeat the experience again and again. “The Happiest Place on Earth” isn’t just a throwaway tagline—it’s intentional branding with careful attention to detail.
The obvious magic of Disney World comes from seeing beloved characters from favorite childhood films brought to life. But what elevates the experience from amusing to iconic are the tiny sensory details interwoven throughout the park. The charming storefront facades of Main Street, the thrilling music playing through hidden speakers, the nostalgic smell of carnival food, the cool, sweet taste of Dole Whip … these intricacies are what cement the experience of Disney World into your memory and make it so strong, so powerful, so unforgettable, you can’t help but want to repeat it.
And, as illustrated in the Dove example, there’s a certain comfort in familiarity. In today’s chaotic world, there’s a welcome security in knowing that some things will always stay the same—that you can return to Main Street in Disney World year after year and it will look, sound, smell, and even taste just the way you remember.
Three Tools to Make a Memory
Despite its overwhelming magic, it’s easy to get cynical about Disney World’s runaway profits—this is a place that charges working class families nearly $20 for a cafeteria cheeseburger. But it wouldn’t still be running successfully today if it didn’t create extraordinarily happy memories for its visitors.
This principle is at the heart of my work at Miss Details. Yes, I take enormous pride and satisfaction in helping entrepreneurs and small business owners achieve their goals. But I also want to help design memorable brands to enhance the lives of their consumers—to stimulate human senses through carefully crafted details that transform a positive brand experience into a treasured memory.
Specifically, the following statement is included in Miss Details’ foundational brand documents:
“Miss Details believes in combining empathy, creativity, and reasoning to make thoughtful design decisions that strategically connect with consumers on an emotional level.”
Empathy, creativity, and reasoning: these are the three tools I use to create lasting impressions through the brands I work with.
Although I let data and business strategy guide much of my work, I balance out this strategy with empathy and knowledge of the human experience. My goal is to create brands that don’t just dispense a commodity, but that help my fellow human beings solve a problem or issue in their lives.
Sharing in and identifying with other people’s emotions helps us to better understand what actions to take to best support them. And when we perform these acts of kindness and support, it creates strong memories that stick in our minds.
Likewise, people don’t soon forget when others lend a helping hand, no matter how small or insignificant that help may seem. I’m sure you can clearly remember times when you were the recipient of a random act of kindness, whether it was a stranger holding the door open for you in the rain, a fellow passenger offering you their seat on a crowded subway, or a cashier telling you not to worry about the extra 50 cents you were struggling to dig out of your purse.
I’m proud to work with brands led by the kind of people who perform such acts of kindness on a daily basis, both personally and through their business, and I make sure their unique version of empathy is woven into every aspect of their brand. Not only does it benefit clients, it helps ensure they will remember the brand and keep coming back.
As a former student of art and architecture, I have a special appreciation for creativity in branding. But building a unique brand isn’t just an artistic whim—it’s a powerful strategy known as brand positioning. And you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to set your brand apart.
Let’s circle back to Disney World for a moment. Just one of the magical details Disney visitors look forward to is Dole Whip, the park’s signature dessert, which resembles pineapple soft serve ice cream. But Dole Whip isn’t just a tasty snack—it’s a brilliant and multilayered piece of branding.
Dole first debuted the dessert in 1986, when it became an official sponsor of Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room. It’s since spread to other areas, but Dole Whip continues to be exclusively available at Disney parks—a creative and strategic brand within a brand. And although Disney released the recipe during the COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to cheer would-be parkgoers, guests are still happy to wait in long lines to experience the treat firsthand.
By creating a unique food and keeping it exclusive to their park, both Disney and Dole were able to build a powerful sensory memory associated with their brands in the minds of their consumers—one far too delicious not to recreate.
Another one of Miss Details’ core values, “Follow The Science”, applies itself well to our core value of creating lasting memories. This is because, although emotion and creativity certainly come into play, memory is fundamentally a scientific, neurological function.
The brands my team and I create take advantage of this science in a couple of ways. The first step is to create an initial memory of the brand: perhaps an eye-catching logo that encourages consumers to stop scrolling when they see a digital advertisement. The next step is to continuously trigger that memory through strategic marketing, emotional connection, and specific sensory details. The more often you can trigger the initial brand memory, the stronger it becomes in the brain.
For instance, my team worked with a mortgage lending company called Bison Ventures. The company chose a bison to represent their brand because of the animal’s unique trait: rather than avoiding a storm, a bison runs headfirst into it in order to get through it faster. They wanted to pair a bison logo with messaging that described “providing comfort and clarity in a storm of complexity.”
After designing their logo, my team and I brainstormed how to best trigger their audience’s memory of the bison’s admirable behavior through sensory details. Instead of adding more images of bison and storms, we populated the brand’s moodboard with textured blue marble to represent the chaotic storm through which Bison Ventures wishes to guide their audience. While such a detail wouldn’t be apparent to someone unfamiliar with the brand, using blue marble in Bison Ventures’ future designs will reinforce their existing audience’s memories of their mission.
The concept of memory is crucial to my work at Miss Details, and not just because it’s an excellent branding strategy. Our memories—our stored life experiences—are what make us human, and what make our lives interesting and meaningful. My goal is to help build brands that create experiences so powerful, they achieve the highest place in the human mind: those memories we revisit like an old friend.
Don’t want to miss out on our articles and insights?
Sign up for the Miss Details newsletter today.