Memory theory relates closely to learning theory, and is influential in marketing. When marketers want to alter attitudes and behaviours, specific learning theories can be utilised to facilitate these changes. Learning theory application is most effective with the understanding of memory in the perception, attention, and memory storage of the information. This essay will outline memory theory and its usefulness to marketing, followed by learning theory analysis. Examples of heuristic clues, classical conditioning and operant conditioning are used to illustrate concepts. Successful marketing should also take into account segmenting factors, such as demographics, to analyse consumer’s potential involvement in their decision making or information processing, which will affect the learning and memory of the consumer hugely. A useful model to relate learning concepts and involvement is the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM). In this essay, I will explain memory and learning theory, and their relations to other consumer behaviour theories, but will avoid detailed explanations of these other theories.
Memory is the collection of prior experiences, and the recollection of these (Neal et al. 2006). It is important in building self-schemas and knowledge structures, from which consumers build attitudes and base judgments. These functions relate closely to marketing objectives as we aim to influence or add to knowledge structures, and alter attitudes. Also, learning theories rely on memory, or the building of experiences, to influence behaviour.
To analyse the memory process, the standard human information processing model (Conroy, 2008) outlines memory formation according to time and content. Firstly, sensory memory is the holding area for information, which includes attention as a filter to allow a restricted amount of information into the working memory. This is the active thinking centre that holds short term information, and maintains memory through maintenance rehearsal, by way of repetition. From here, elaborative rehearsal involving the categorising and coding of information will transfer this information to long-term memory. The long-term memory holds information of sequential events (episodic), general feelings about a concept (semantic) and state dependent knowledge (procedural). Information stored in the long-term memory has been ‘learned’ and is more permanent (Neal, et al. 2006).
As information is processed into memory, it is assigned into knowledge structures that create relationships with other relevant information. Grouping attributes and brands together by forming them into cognitive maps or knowledge structures, can aid in recall of the brand and enhance relationship building (or association) between the brand and its attributes (Noel, 2006). Prompting the consumer to actively establish a brand with its attributes or associations in their knowledge structure leads the consumer to create relationships between the new information. This can aid maintenance, or even elaborative, rehearsal – encouraging the consumer to store this information in their memory. Furthermore, the new associations made will enhance the consumer’s recall of the brand. This will occur through increasing the stimuli that will prompt the brand recall, and the relevance between the consumer’s knowledge structure and the brand.
It is important in marketing to build consumer knowledge structures in memory. These structures determine a brand’s image and positioning in the consumer’s mind while also influencing attitudes and behaviours. They influence the consumer’s sense of self, which can dictate purchase decisions, particularly through intrapersonal processes. The consumer will transfer meaning from products that are positioned appropriately in their knowledge structure. For example, if a consumer’s self image or desired self image is similar to