Does bombarding people with your logo actually make it memorable? Apparently not.
Scientists at UCLA put 85 students in a room and asked them to draw what you’d think would be one of the most recognizable symbols of our times: the Apple logo. The results, published in the Quarterly Journal Of Experimental Psychology at the end of February, were surprisingly dismal. Just one person out of 85 drew the logo accurately, while seven others drew it without major errors (and only 11% of the students were not Apple users). Though most people got the general concept (apple with a bite taken out) others were hilariously off, drawing things that look more like a pomegranate or a deformed orange. Almost no one knew the orientation of the stem, or the logo’s real shape. When asked to pick out the real logo from a selection of similar options, only 47% of people passed the test.
If you work for Apple’s marketing division, don’t worry, the results aren’t particular to your brand. A similar experiment in the 1970s showed that most people had no idea what was on a penny either. “People’s memory, even for extremely common objects, is much poorer than they believe it to be,” researchers of the Apple experiment wrote in their report.
As for why: Research Digest, a blog by the British Psychological Society, explains that when a symbol is “overabundant” in our environment, our brains place low priority on remembering its details. It’s enough for us to know that the logo is an apple with a bite taken out of it; we don’t need to remember which way the stem is facing.
So exposure to branding isn’t everything. The researchers say that “increased exposure increases familiarity and confidence, but does not reliably affect memory . . . attention and memory are not always tuned to remembering what we may think is memorable.” Much of what our brain does is still a mystery. So perhaps shoving your new logo down people’s throats isn’t the brilliant idea you thought it was.