The Irish College Phenomenon

There is a concept which I term “The Irish College Phenomenon” which was a very common experience amongst my peers at the time.

For the first week of Irish College, everybody vehemently hated it there and everybody wanted to go home. As we moved into week two, we became accustomed to the regime, the food, the bunk beds, though we still constantly complained and we still wanted to go home. By the final week, miraculously, things would start to change. At this stage, the boys and girls had started to integrate at the evening Ceili, most people had made friends and generally everyone was having fun. In fact, we usually left Irish College on an emotional high, to the point that in the weeks afterwards, back in Dublin, we would pine for our Irish college experience and hold “reunions” in McDonalds on Grafton Street, to recapture the good times.

The fact that we had been miserable for the majority of our time there, was completely overpowered by the highs of the last few days. There was a marked difference between what we had actually experienced during those three weeks, and the memory which remained afterwards. This is the difference, according to Daniel Kahnmen (who founded the field of Behavioural Economics), between the experiencing self and the remembering self.

Many of the things we do in our lives are in service of this remembering self. Kahneman gave a fascinating talk on this distinction at the 2010 TED conference which is well worth a watch. We chase exotic holidays, interesting leisure pursuits, a rich and varied lifestyle – not because we actually have higher levels of enjoyment while we are doing these things (in reality, we don’t seem to enjoy them that much more than sitting in front of the TV). But we do remember them more positively, we like the story they create, and they lead us to think back on our lives with more satisfaction.

This insight has pretty powerful marketing implications, especially in terms of brand experiences.

Will what people remember about their experience with your brand or product, be the same as what they actually experienced?

How can we avoid the tricky little pitfalls, which will disproportionately taint a lifetime of good brand behaviour?

And most crucially, what can we do to create a brand experience story, which goes further than the actual product experience had?

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