Recognition vs Recall


A recent article in Fast Company (link here) discusses an experiment in which people were asked to draw the Apple logo from memory. Their efforts were generally pretty poor (you can see examples in the article), with a few notable exceptions. The authors conclude that maybe this means that Apple don’t need to spend so much money on advertising and placing their logo.

However, I think the authors have crucially missed the important difference between what people can recall, and what they can recognise (a common mistake in much market research too). Our perception as well as our memory for detail is generally poor, relying on overall patterns rather than specific pieces of the puzzle. More importantly, we are very bad at recalling past events, unless memory is triggered by very specific context. However, we are very good at recognising things that we have seen before or that we associate with other ideas, events or  contexts.

Thus recognition is a much more useful determinant of our knowledge of something than recall. As the authors point out, repeated exposure to something is known to build familiarity and liking, even if subconsciously. In fact, Apple’s focus on a distinctive and known logo as well as a consistent message is good for the brand. Just because someone can’t draw your logo accurately, isn’t an argument against using one!

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