Why your two week holiday is pointless. Cognitive traps; experience v memory | DMA

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Why your two week holiday is pointless. Cognitive traps; experience v memory


You’ve booked a two week holiday to go away for a bit of R&R, great news, well done you.

Unfortunately you’ve made a mistake as it won’t contribute any more to your long term happiness than a one week holiday and might be the death of you.

According to Nobel laureate and founder of behavioural economics Daniel Kahneman, we derive our happiness from two key aspects of ‘self’:

- Our experiencing self – the feeling of life in the moment and how we experience it
- Our remembering self - our memories of experiences we’ve had when we think about our lives

Happiness and our emotional associations work in very different ways in relation to these different processes. One is about being happy in your life (experience) and the other is about being happy with your life (remembering).

"The remembering self is a story teller but the focusing illusion means we can’t think about any circumstance that affects well being without distorting its importance."
Here’s a test for you…

You’re choosing your next holiday and you’re not limited by money or destination. Where would you go? Have you got somewhere in mind? Now you find out that at the end of your holiday all your pictures will be deleted and you have to take a pill that will erase the whole memory of the holiday. Would you still go to the same place with the same set of experiences?

If not then why?

Back to your two week holiday...

If the second week is just as good as the first then you would think that the vacation would be remembered as twice as good, right? WRONG. The remembering self is not able to measure time in this way and if the second week was similar to the first it won’t determine much difference to a one week holiday, it’s barely better because there are no new memories added.

The other area that impacts our remembering self is the feeling at the end of the experience. This can either distort or amplify the emotions associated with it. The remembering self follows the peak end bias forgetting most events, remembering only a few extreme incidents and allocating disproportionate value to more recent happenings. For example imagine having an amazing week away but on the way back getting delayed at the airport, treated unfairly and subjected to a night of no sleep. Does that ruin the experience, or the memory of the experience, or both? How would you tell the story of that holiday?

It’s exactly the same with customers interactions with brands, there’s the experience and there’s the memory of the experience.

So the question is how are you thinking about this in line with your customer journeys? Are you making sure your customers' “remembering self” amplifies the experience with your brand to build long term value?

P.S. If you want to create longer lasting memories, then either go on holiday for one week or do something dramatically different on the second week!

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