RAB Insights

RAB Research Archive

Climbing the Ladder

Yesterday, we shared research about the human brain and its capacity to store and retain information from Harvard Psychologist Dr. George A. Miller. While there remains debate on how powerful the brain is and how much it can store, Miller’s research was about the recall. This is particularly important to those of us in the advertising world because recall is critical as we guide our clients and prospects and create strategies for growing their business. As we teach, the purpose of advertising is to help your clients:


Miller’s research identified that we can only remember up to seven items in any given category or area of importance to us. Al Ries and Jack Trout’s groundbreaking book, Positioning, likened this process to a ladder in the mind. They posit that the purpose of advertising is to get on the ladder.


Linking. Linking is the process of taking something already known and linking it to new information you are trying to get the brain to store. As Ries, Trout and Miller all suggest, the mind has limited capacity. We block out most of the information we see and hear unless it’s a threat or of interest to us. As advertising experts whose job it is to help clients, we need the minds of the consumers to accept new information, and this is where linking comes in.

Some examples…

The first cars off the production line were referred to and marketed as “horseless carriages.” This took what people already knew about transportation, the horse-drawn carriage, and linked it to this new form of transportation.

You live in a neighborhood, you have neighbors. State Farm wants to sell you insurance, so they link what you know to their product and say, “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is there.

Typically, when someone is coming to visit, you tell them you’ll leave the porch light on or some other light so you’re easier to find. Motel 6 capitalized on those good feelings of having visitors and leaving lights on and started telling you, “We’ll leave the light on for you.”

These are three classic examples of advertisers who took something with which you were already familiar and linked it to something new. And now, you know those slogans and likely will never forget them.

The challenge and the opportunity for you and your clients is to find ways to link information potential customers already know with the new information the client wants them to know. “Familiar” tied to “new” is how new products and services get on the ladder of the mind.

Applying this type of science and psychology to your strategy can dramatically improve the results you can achieve for your clients. It’s also great information to share with your clients as it positions you as an expert in the science of advertising.

You might have noticed the title of this article was “Climbing the Ladder.” You’ve no doubt heard the phrase climbing the corporate ladder. So, your desire to grow and maybe earn a promotion might have prompted that title to stick out for you – something you already know. And now, you know even more because you read this far, and you have proof that linking can draw you in.

Jeff Schmidt is the SVP of Professional Development. You can reach him at Jeff.Schmidt@RAB.com. You can also connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB