The Narrative Provides the Truly Tasty Bits

Heard a cool piece on NPR this morning about a seemingly fantastic epicurian experience in Washington D.C.  The chef set off to create a dining event that would be remembered in vivid detail by all who dined.

The chef, Bryan Brown of Sensorium, was sure he had the chops to make the food savory and memorable, but he needed to consult with someone to add the finishing touches relating to the brain and what actually helps people remember.  That someone was Ed Cook, a memory champion and founder of the site, Memrise.  Ed suggested three steps for Bryan to make his meal truly memorable: Make it Vivid; Ensure that each course is Distinct; and, what I found most to be most important – Extend a Narrative throughought the meal.

Bryan and his team addressed the first two and disregarded the third, narrative thread, as being cliche.

From the description that can be read or listened to on the NPR Morning Edition site, the event sounded quite spectacular.  There were actors and dancers, a circus-like host, imaginitive set pieces and presentations for the food, music, savory foods – and Pop-Rocks.  Diners left the 12-course meal full and certainly entertained, but when asked the order, what they ate and other details, the memory was just not as clear as Bryan and Ed would have liked.

The key ingredient that was left out was the Narrative, and had that been included, the memories would have been much stronger.

We see it all the time in advertising, movies, television, experiences and even product development where there’s a high-impact piece or a collection of them but no solid narrative to be found.  Because of this, the individual events might be remembered, but the whole is not. Cirque du Soleil is known for wrapping their mystifying circus feats in stories – whether clear or convoluted – for this very reason.  People can still recount the order of events from shows seen years prior due to the show’s narrative and theme.

As such, presenting a product or experience as one or a series of eye-catching features with no narrative string through them is counter-productive to instilling memory, recall and affinity within your audience.


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