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How Does the Brain Store a Phone Number?

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We've all been there. You hear a set of digits that you know you need to remember and ten seconds later, poof, they're gone. Although it's easy for individuals to shrug off this kind of short-term memory blip, small business owners and marketers have no such luxury. Taken as a single customer, it's a lost lead or sale. Assessed across a full promotional campaign, it could be the difference between a runaway success or your marketing dollars going down the drain. With that in mind, how can we help potential customers keep your phone number fresh in their memory?


The Models of a Memorable Number

A recent article in NPR's Health News section examined competing explanations from two neuroscientists, Earl Miller and Christos Constantinidis, both of whom researched the processes behind how the brain stores a phone number.  You can listen to the article's audio via the player below for the intricate detail, but it boils down to whether our brains are using only immediate memory functions to process sudden requests for recall, or if short-term and long-term functions work together to store this information.   For marketers, both theories boil down to the need to create a mental hook that removes as many barriers to recall as possible. With the Constantinidis theory, which is referred to as a more standard model, this mental hook is necessary because distractions can easily disrupt the working memory focusing on the phone number. Because of this, the number can quickly be lost unless there is something for our immediate memory functions to latch onto. In the Miller model, which finds short and long-term functions working together, that same hook helps link immediate working memory activity to latent memory storage much more quickly. We've covered the intersection of memory and marketing in the past, but both of these models help businesses to understand the cognitive functions at work when customers encounter their communications  

Custom Numbers Add a Memorable Hook

Custom phone numbers provide that hook that helps potential customers remember your contact details. They have been proven effective because they simplify the way customers process your contact details and commit them to memory. By creating an easy-to-recall name, phrase, or sequence of digits for your phone number, you do the mental heavy lifting for your callers.     Left to the random set of digits provided by your phone company, customers will typically only use the number if they take the time to add it to their phone or when they have it stored somewhere, like on a business card or promotional flyer. Few people have time for those activities today and it adds more work to the process of using your business. Furthermore, if they have to search for your company online but can only remember the service and area, all of your competitors are going to come up when they turn to Google. A custom phone number helps you to hurdle all of these barriers, leaving the customer a clear and direct way to remember your company and get in touch when the time is right for them.  Knowing what we do about cognition, memory, and the increasingly distracted consumer environment, making it easy for your customers is more important than ever. Heed the advice of neuroscientists: our brains need help to store a phone number, so get your business a more memorable number today!  

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