• James Odene

How many times is enough? How many times is enough? How many times is enough?

Repeating your messaging is very important – as not everyone will see it first time round and also the more something is seen, the more favourably it is likely to be received. But what is the golden number?

Let’s talk about the mere exposure effect

The mere exposure effect can be understood simply as ‘the more you see it, the more you like it’. The academic most known for developing this is Robert Zajonc in the 1960s, he concluded that one’s attitude towards something can be positively impacted simply by being exposed to it more – in advertising terms, putting your brand in front of people more will increase positive attitudes towards it. Sounds great right?

But there are limits:

The first being that you have to like it in the first place – or at least not dislike it.

And secondly, there is a limit, it’s not an ever-increasing state of euphoria, if this were true, we’d all be hopelessly aroused whenever we saw say Coca-cola, Amazon and Apple branding (although perhaps some people actually are…). In reality there is a bell curve. That is to say, after a certain point, it becomes less favourable.

You can think of this as mimicking music trends. A song comes out that you really love. You listen to it on repeat – loving it more and more. Until suddenly, you’re over it and maybe even start to find it a little annoying.

The big question is, how many times is enough? (and how many times is too many?)

This is a question that will never have a perfect answer, but a pretty good one is could be roughly 10…

10 times is roughly the sweet spot for someone to have the most positive impression of your advert before it starts to drop again according to recent research conducted by Jennie Roper, Head of Insight for Kinetic Worldwide. Whilst these findings were focused on OOH ads, there is likely some transferability for the digital word. However considering the staggering amount of ads you are likely to see in one day (it’s probably somewhere in the 00’s or 000’s), in real terms – this number could be far more.

"The approach tendencies created by mere exposure may be preattitudinal in the sense that they do not require the type of deliberate processing that is required to form brand attitude."
Grimes, Anthony; Kitchen, Phillip J. (2007). "Researching mere exposure effects to advertising: Theoretical foundations and methodological implications"International Journal of Market Research. 49 (2): 191–221.

Familiarity is a key player

The more familiar a brand feels, the stronger sense of safety, connection or trust it may produce. Would you feel more comfortable buying from or

Of course, there are other things in play here – past experience, brand loyalty, risk aversion, satisficing, herd mentality… it can be explained away via many routes – but largely, the more familiar a brand is, the more likely it is to be a viable option for a consumer as building a strong brand is about building brand recognition and brand recall. What you want is to enter what it called the 'considered set' - that is, when your target consumer thinks 'I need X' and you're in their immediate metal list.

BIG POINT: There are no laws in consumer science

Okay, so here’s the thing… in truth, a magic number just doesn’t exist. As much as we might wish there are laws (like Newton's law of gravity), there simply isn't. And if someone tries telling you otherwise, they're probably trying to sell you some martech....

How many times would you need to see a yacht advert to finally buy one? How many times would you need to see a McDonald’s ad to switch back to eating meat?

Clearly there are many variables here, and the risk of running away with arithmocracy (fantastic term related to blind slavishness towards data) could leave you making some bad decisions. What is really important here is to create great ads, emotional content, stuff that cuts through the white noise.

One final point…

Beware internal message fatigue

As someone that has spent many years posting various companies messages on social media – I can attest for the fact that it can tire quickly. Surely people are sick of seeing this now…

But in truth, chances are that most people have only seen it a small fraction of the times you’ve posted it, and possibly most of those times it was for a fraction of second as it shot passed their eyes. It’s important to note the experiments for the mere exposure effect conclude that the same artwork for an ad is considered more favourably to ads they have seen less, and this could be within the same brand. So, the same artwork can be used to increase favourability rather than moving on after each design. In reality, I would say it is far more likely for the social media manager to tire of the message before consumers do and if there really is a belief that the content has gone stale quickly – it was probably not great content in the first place.

So how many times is enough? Jury's still out I'm afraid.

I just want a number too. Sadly, it doesn’t exist. Best course of action in my opinion is to make sure your content is absolutely top notch, then it's less about have they seen it enough and more, did it get them to act as we wished.

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