Taking a beach holiday this summer? It could teach you something about writing vivid and memorable content.
Whenever I go near a beach, it short-circuits to my childhood. Why? Because it triggers memories from all 5 senses:
Touch: the comforting feeling of warm sand; the uncomfortable feeling of bobbly pebbles.
Sound: seagulls clamouring; children shrieking; waves rolling in and out.
Taste: chips, ice cream, sandwiches – all with a generous side helping of sand. (When I was very little I thought that the word sandwiches came from early beach holidays, rather than the 4th Earl of that Kent town.)
Smell: chips, strawberries and sea spray.
Sight: distant horizons and different sorts of footprints in the sand.
Lots of prompts, making vivid images in my brain.
Why are childhood memories like these so powerful? There is a passage in one of my favourite communications books – Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. The authors describe it as:
The Velcro Theory of Memory
It includes an exercise which asks you to remember a variety of things. As you work through these commands, make a mental note of how you approach your answers and how you feel. Here is my summer holiday version of this exercise:
- Remember the 1st line of Oh I Do like to Be beside the Seaside.
- Remember the capital of Spain.
- Remember the definition of an ice cream cone.
- Remember the definition of laziness.
- Remember a childhood holiday.
As you respond to these requests, you’ll notice different things happening in your mind. You might have to think about how you explain the idea of laziness. Recalling the name of the capital city might mean rifling through a mental fact file and/or remembering different images and feelings. It depends on whether or not you have actually been there.
Dan and Chip describe memory like a piece of Velcro, with a hook side and a loop side. Our brains are home to countless loops and, I quote:
The more hooks an idea has, the better it will cling to memory.
I am willing to bet that recalling a childhood holiday conjured up the most images and feelings. Or, in Heath terminology, lots of hooks. The brothers also point out, wryly, that a new credit card number usually has only one hook… if it is lucky.
How a beach holiday helps your content.
Childhood nostalgia is a good example of how sensory details make any type of content more vivid and memorable. Dan and Chip call it concrete. If you give your reader a real sense of how a service or product looks or feels, you will make it tangible for them.
Take your holiday. You could describe it in general terms and say it was great. Or you could focus on something more concrete and specific: how you made a huge sandcastle, so vast it needed planning permission. Or how the seagulls are cheekier than ever and managed to make a quick getaway with your chips.
Do this, and like the sand on your chips / ice cream / sandwiches, your content will successfully stick in the mind of your audience.
Images by Vervate www.vervate.com.