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Memories of Experience influence consumer behaviour

Wayne McMaster

15 May 2014

The experience of luxury is not created by the features of a product - but by the emotions it evokes in the mind of the consumer, but experience is only part of the story.


As an avid TEDTalk video subscriber I came across a 2010 post by psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner and one of the founders of behavioural economics who gave a talk on why our experiences and our memories can be so different. His concept provides important insights about all consumers, but especially purchases of luxury brands.

Behavioral economics founder

Widely regarded as the world's most influential living psychologist, Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel in Economics for his pioneering work in behavioral economics — exploring the irrational ways we make decisions about risk.

Taken from the video:

"Let’s say you are on holiday and have dinner at the best restaurant recommended to you. Perfect table. Food is exquisitely prepared. Wonderful wine. The experience is fantastic. However, when clearing the table the waiter spills coffee into your lap. Odds are that the coffee spill will degrade your memory of the food and wine, no matter how exceptional you otherwise would have remembered them. And if the hot coffee burned a leg or damaged an expensive dress or suit, the wonderful dining experience may not be remembered at all."

Daniel Kahneman points out that the decisions we make are based on our memories, not our experiences. So for that restaurant, your memory will have negative consequences. Not only will it prevent you from returning, it will be shared with all of your friends who ask about your dinner.

Consumer experience

This distinction between experience and memory is especially important as related to luxury brands. Unlike supermarket products and neighborhood restaurants, for which price, utility, and availability are important; the vital ingredient for success in luxury product and service segments is consumer experience. Affluent consumers are more interested in deeper and more meaningful experiences in their interactions with products they purchase

Experiencing Self and Remembering Self

What we understand from Kahnemans thinking is that 'Day-to-day living' and 'Long-term quality of life' are important elements. These values are expressed in his concept of the “two selves”—the “Experiencing Self” and the “Remembering Self.”

The Experiencing Self lives in the present, processing current inputs and information from the physical and social environment. Life is a continuous series of moments of experience. Once these moments are passed, however, most are lost forever. Many don’t even leave a trace. Kahneman calculated that the psychological presence of an experience lasts about three seconds.

To us, every moment of our life seems precious. What we do minute-to-minute is important to our existence. These experiences should make up the story of our lives. But they don’t.

The story of our lives is written by The Remembering Self. But if almost all of our continuous moment-to-moment experiences are lost, what is remembered? What is the content of our stories?

Stories and their endings

Kahneman tells us that the experiences we remember are defined by change. Our stories are made up of experiences that are new, novel and those that have greater significance. In addition, our Remembering Self likes endings—how episodes and other individual experiences conclude. Thus, in the restaurant example, the spilled coffee dominates the story of an otherwise enjoyable dining experience.


The lesson for high-end interior marketers is that you need to satisfy the needs of the Experiencing Self so that your customers are drawn to you; while you also provide experiential change that the Remembering Self can use to create memories which will bring those customers and clients come back again. Transforming your showroom’s sensory experiences and elevating the quality of interaction between sales staff and the customer are changes that likely will be remembered.


“We actually don't choose between experiences, we choose between memories of experiences. And even when we think about the future, we don't think of our future normally as experiences. We think of our future as anticipated memories.”

Daniel Kahneman


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