Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetfulness


Have you ever watched a train begin to move?  The engine fires up and the train begins to move forward, slowly at first, then faster and faster until it reaches full speed.

If you were to disconnect the engine while the train was moving at full speed, the train would continue to move for some time, but gradually, gradually it would come to a halt.

The train demonstrates the law of inertia.  Inertia is “the tendency of all objects and matter in the universe to stay still if still, or, if moving, to go on moving in the same direction.”

Advertising is like hooking an engine to your train and starting the engine.  It takes a while for advertising to get to full speed.  It will then continue at full speed as long as the engine is attached.  When you disconnect the engine, advertising will continue to generate sales for awhile, but these will gradually slow to a halt.  Then, the law of inertia states that it will take time to get the train moving again.

Without Advertising, People Forget You!

In 1885, researcher Thomas Ebbinghaus did a study on people’s ability to retain information. He called the results the “Curve of Forgetfulness.”

Ebbinghaus found that a person forgets 75% of what he or she has learned in the previous week. After three weeks, he/she forgets 90%. After four weeks, he/she forgets 95%.

The Ebbinghaus study is an illustration of retentiveness; the brain retains information it considers important to the individual and “forgets” information not deemed relevant.

In terms of advertising, it is crucial for the advertiser to make the message important enough for the individual to want to retain it and act on it.

Marketing experts agree:  If your doors are open, you should be advertising!  Otherwise, your business will run out of steam fast!