Memories Over Metrics

When was the last time you received a memorable email?

Maybe it was an acceptance letter for a new job or course of study. Maybe it was a thank you email from a supervisor wrapping up a long-term project. Maybe it was an unexpectedly welcome question from a friend or colleague that you were happy to answer. 

Or are you struggling to remember one right now?

Billions of Unread, Forgettable Emails

Unfortunately the vast majority of emails sent and received are completely forgettable. Generally not within seconds or minutes or hours but definitely within days. 

Not only are the emails completely forgettable but most people aren’t opening them anyway. As of mid-2022 more than 333 billion emails are sent per day yet the average email open rate for all industries is about 21%. You certainly can’t remember something you never interact with in the first place. 

How can we improve this situation? 

One answer is to ignore email altogether. That’s a valid decision and I respect you living life outside of an inbox if you can manage to do it. 

For those of us caught in the mesh of these billions and billions of emails, there’s a simple shift in thinking needed by the people who send emails. 

And it’s a perspective shift that can transform how people approach any medium or format for information sharing including print, web, social, experiential, product, platform, TV, podcast, movie, video, shop, program, community, school, collective, fund, and more. 

Memories Over Metrics (As The Headline Says)

Here is the bold new perspective: 

  1. Memories
  2. Metrics

Are you ready to embrace this shift in thinking? 

Too Much Attention on Attention

Too many people are misled into thinking only attention matters. However brief. People will take fleeting infamy if it means reaching millions of people during one flick of their phone scrolling session.

The analytics offered by today’s apps are all built to measure attention. Social media analytics like to measure reach, impressions, audience growth, engagement, views, click rates, and maybe even sentiment.

Why do we center these analytics around attention? 

When analytics centered on attention are used to define success, your picture of success is bound to the limitations of attention. 

The True Role of Metrics

Analytics and metrics are primarily used for evaluating performance but ultimately they are used to communicate a message or tell a story.

One lesson I was taught during my early communications studies is that any good message will strike a beautiful balance between emotion and fact, equal parts qualitative and quantitative. This is because some people are motivated by emotion and some people are motivated by logic. 

It’s an inaccurate dualistic model because emotion bests data. All day, every day. This is proven throughout history. Citation unneeded. 

People who need to see stats and figures and numbers and metrics and analytics and KPIs are simply more comfortable with a more formalized language (like mathematics) when seeking to understand something.

They don’t buy a product that’s described as “amazing” or with interesting packaging but they’ll buy a product after reading how 345,023 people collectively rated the product 4.9 out of 5 stars. This is specifically an instance of social proofing but it is a logical decision making process. 

It’s the confidence the metric fosters that drives the behavior of the more “rational” minded. People do things and interact with the work of others in search of feelings whether it’s excitement or peace of mind or clarity or security or autonomy or belonging or pride. 

Why Memories?

If emotions drive people, then what is closely linked to emotion that we should care about if we want to add meaning to the lives of others?

Memories like emotions are one of the most important facets of the human condition. In many ways our memories make us who we are. Memories form the basis of identities, worldviews, personalities, belief systems, values, preferences, attitudes, behaviors, and even life trajectory. 

It’s possible you don’t care about memories. You’re only sending an email. As long as enough people click the link and enough prospects convert, your goal is accomplished and you can feel proud of your efforts. You hit your targets. Congratulations is in order. 

But we’re sending billions and billions of emails.

What’s the point of sending a thousand emails that form zero memories if you could send one email that readers remember for the next few years? What’s the point of serving someone chicken wings if the diner isn’t going to remember the chicken wings, will never visit your restaurant again, and will never tell their friends and family about the amazing chicken wings they had at your place?

For individuals and companies interested in adding meaning to the world or providing extraordinary levels of value to their communities and networks, to truly serve people well, you need to consider memories before attention. This may seem backwards because it is. No one can remember anything they don’t initially pay attention to but the point of Memories Over Metrics is to transform how we work so that we can value and respect people beyond just their attention.

Measuring Memory Outside the Lab

Scientists measure memory. Realistically any company can do it through a mix of well-timed surveys, focus groups, or interviews. Facebook even uses an Ad Recall metric but it measures how well people remember an ad after two days.

Don’t you want your work to be remembered for more than two days?

Part of the tangle here is that memory is far too rich and complex and mysterious to ever properly measure. It is especially at odds with information technologies because a large function of these technologies is to store information for us so we don’t have to overload our memories. 

Reminder apps are useful. Notes apps are useful. Calendar apps are useful. People have been externalizing memory since the first cave drawings and instances of written language. The evolution of how we communicate is largely the art of capturing, sharing, and creating memories. 

A Test in Memories Over Metrics

If you’ve read this far and you’re interested in this new way of thinking, if it resonates with an unspoken frustration you’ve had with existing analytics and approaches to measuring success in your profession, or if you completely disagree with it and think I’m a moron, you’re invited to join a free test of Memories Over Metrics. 

The test will be conducted as follows: 

  1. You submit your email address using the form below
  2. Time will pass, you live your life
  3. You will receive one (1) email on Monday, October 23 , 2022
  4. The email will contain a brief survey to learn how well you remembered and applied this concept. There will be an honor system at play here because I can’t control if you revisit the post once you receive the email as a way to aid your recall.
  5. Your response, with permission, may be added to this post for a deeper exploration of this thinking even if it’s a compelling counterpoint or exposing a critical gap in this mindset
  6. You will choose if you want your email deleted once the test is done or if you’d like me to keep your email to share any future meaningful thinking, tests, or projects.

Join the Memories Over Metrics Experiment

You should join this test if you do one or more of the following for personal or professional purposes:

  • Send emails 
  • Update a website
  • Post on social media
  • Host events or conferences, virtual or live
  • Deliver webinars
  • Deliver presentations
  • Run information sessions
  • Run meetings
  • Lead Q&As
  • Lead workshops
  • Make designs
  • Create artwork
  • Produce videos
  • Run podcasts 
  • Design products
  • Publish printed materials
  • Direct funds or portfolios of investments 
  • Sell products or services of any kind 
  • Advise on financial decisions
  • Consult on leadership or management
  • Build and maintain platforms 
  • Run programs, classes, courses, or schools
  • Analyze data
  • Research user/consumer behavior
  • Support customers
  • Manage communities
  • Advance social, economic, or environmental causes
  • Teach students and learners
  • Pretty much anything (?)

Share this with friends and colleagues who may appreciate this thinking and would want to join the test.

And remember:

  1. Memories
  2. Metrics