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H_w this one trick can make y_ur brand m_re memorable

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Have you ever seen an ad that confuses your brain a little bit, making you pause to figure it out?

These tiny mental puzzles actually help boost recall of the brand, by as much as 14%.

The Generation Effect refers to a phenomenon where information is better remembered if it is actively generated from one’s own mind rather than passively received.

Essentially, making someone figure out the answers or solutions, rather than merely reading or listening to them, enhances their memory retention and understanding.

The Science

In 1978, researchers Slamecka and Graf conducted a groundbreaking study that unveiled the Generation Effect.

Participants were asked to either read pairs of related words (like “king-crown”) or generate the second word given a hint (like “king-cr___”).

Those who generated the second word had significantly better recall than those who simply read the word pairs.

This effect is rooted in deeper cognitive processing.

When you generate information, your brain engages in more active encoding processes, which leads to stronger neural connections and better memory consolidation. 

This active involvement requires more mental effort, making the information more meaningful and easier to retrieve later.

Cognitive psychologists believe that generating information activates multiple memory pathways. 

This multifaceted engagement enhances the encoding process, making the generated information more accessible and durable over time. 

This is why actively participating in the learning process, rather than passively consuming information, leads to better retention and understanding.

Science in the wild

When it comes to marketing and content creation, leveraging the Generation Effect can make your brand and products more memorable to your audience. 

By getting people to actively participate and engage with your content, you can leave a lasting impression that sticks with them long after they’ve seen your ad.

At first glance, you might think this ad says “guess who,” but here’s the clever twist—it actually makes you fill in the brand’s name, Guinness.

By requiring you to take a closer look and figure it out, it becomes much more memorable and engaging. 

It’s a subtle yet powerful way to get people to stop and think about the brand.

But the Generation Effect isn’t just about filling in the blanks, it’s about tiny mental puzzles.

Clever wordplay and wit can also make your ads more engaging and boost recall. The Economist is another great example—they use bold, thought-provoking ads that require a moment to “figure out.” 

These kinds of ads not only capture attention but also make the message stick.

By incorporating the Generation Effect through creative and interactive elements, you can take your brand from invisible to irresistible.

Using the Generation Effect

The Generation Effect can be a powerful tool you can use to make your brand, product, and marketing messages stand out in a crowded digital landscape. 

Fill in the bl_nks

Engage your customers by having them complete a sentence or phrase. This interactive approach encourages active participation and deeper connection with your content.

One classic example of using fill-in-the-blank techniques in advertising is Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign. 

By replacing their iconic logo with popular names and encouraging customers to find bottles with their names or the names of friends and family, Coca-Cola created a highly engaging and personalized experience. 

This not only boosted sales but also increased brand loyalty and recall.

Engaging copywriting

Create ads that require a bit of thought, encouraging customers to solve a simple puzzle or riddle.

Keep it straightforward enough to be solved quickly, making it fun and memorable.

Clever wordplay and witty copywriting can make your ads stand out. Take, for example, the famous VW Beetle ad campaign from the 1960s. 

One of their ads featured the simple yet thought-provoking headline “Think Small.” 

This clever use of reverse psychology challenged conventional car advertising norms and made the ad memorable and effective.

Challenge-based content

Develop content like quizzes or product finders that prompt customers to think and interact. This not only engages them but also helps them remember the information better.

BuzzFeed quizzes are a great example of this strategy.

These quizzes not only entertain but also provide valuable insights into user preferences and behaviors. 

By encouraging users to actively participate, BuzzFeed ensures that their content is both engaging and memorable.

Interactive experiences

Create dynamic content that invites customers to interact. Interactive surveys or product recommendation guides can engage your audience and help them find the perfect products.

Using tools like product configurators, virtual try-ons, or visualizers to help customers see how products fit into their lives. 

For example, Sephora’s virtual makeup try-on or Havenly’s room design visualizer.

Encourage user generated content (UGC)

Encouraging User Generated Content (UGC) is a powerful way to boost engagement and build a strong community around your brand.

By involving your customers in creating content, you not only enhance their connection to your brand but also leverage authentic testimonials that can attract new customers. Here’s how you can effectively encourage UGC:

  • Reviews and testimonials
  • A branded hashtag
  • Contests and giveaways
  • Social proof videos

This not only boosts engagement but also builds a community around your brand.


The Generation Effect is a powerful cognitive principle that enhances memory and learning by requiring active participation.

Ads that require a bit of mental processing will encourage your prospects to stop, think, and engage, which boosts recall and retention of your brand.