The importance of repetition for successful marketing results

In advertising, the effective frequency is the number of times a person must be exposed to an advertising message before a response is made and before exposure is considered wasteful. Effective frequency is the number of repetitions of an advertisement or brand that is necessary before a customer buys a product or service.

In 1885 Thomas Smith wrote a guide called Successful Advertising which stated:

  • The first time people look at any given ad, they don’t even see it.
  • The second time, they don’t notice it.
  • The third time, they are aware that it is there.
  • The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it somewhere before.
  • The fifth time, they actually read the ad.
  • The sixth time they thumb their nose at it.
  • The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with it.
  • The eighth time, they start to think, ‘Here’s that confounded ad again’.
  • The ninth time, they start to wonder if they’re missing out on something.
  • The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbours if they’ve tried it.
  • The eleventh time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
  • The twelfth time, they start to think that it must be a good product.
  • The thirteenth time, they start to feel the product has value.
  • The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.
  • The fifteenth time, they start to yearn for it because they can’t afford to buy it.
  • The sixteenth time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
  • The seventeenth time, they make a note to buy the product.
  • The eighteenth time, they curse their poverty for not allowing them to buy this terrific product.
  • The nineteenth time, they count their money very carefully.
  • The twentieth time they see the ad, they buy what it is offering.

The lesson from effective frequency is that advertising and branding must be repetitive to achieve results. This means the potential customers seeing the advertisements seven, ten, or twenty times. The research shows that the more repetition over a longer period, the better the long term results. McDonalds has been advertising on Australian TV every day for the last thirty years.


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