Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday and are excited by the possibilities a new year brings.

And now on to our continuing discussion of memory…

The difference between the memory of a brand and the memory of an ad is that brands form “open” memories while ads form “closed” memories.

The memories one may have of their spouse are different in a fundamental way from the memories one may have of their wedding. The memory of a husband/wife is a work-in-progress, but the memory of one’s wedding remains stuck in the past.

It is the difference between an idea and an event. An idea branches out fractally, like a tree growing in a forest, while an event is closed and bounded like a leaf on the tree. Memories of events can be part of an idea—those that never really happened and were only imagined. The mind chunks the streaming experience into stories that have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Of course, that does not mean that the way the mind remembers an ad-like event is fixed and unchangeable. The memory of a wedding may be revised and reinterpreted by a story told from the point of view of one of the guests at the wedding.

However, brand memories are collected over a whole lifetime of experience. Describing what the memory of a well-established brand is in the mind of a consumer cannot be done in one simple story. Mathematicians who study complex systems might describe a “brand” as an attractor, which is the limit state of a non-linear dynamical system, like the vortex of a whirlpool or a constellation of memories.

Understanding how to manage brand memories is the new challenge in the age of social media. An analogy is the difference in business models between open source software code like Linux and closed source code like the Microsoft operating system.

The open source approach treats the memories of a brand as an unpaid collective enterprise of a large community of users and commentators. It casts the brand manager in the role of a community organizer.

The problem with the open source approach is that it is difficult to control the meaning of what the brand represents and difficult to measure and monetize the value of the brand memories being created.

The closed source approach is the command and control model of the current advertising business. Advertising agencies are the wedding planners who pre-package brand memories for the happy marriage between the consumer and the products she buys.

For more information, please contact Sonya Duran (sonya@ameritest.net)