Mere Exposure — Frequency in today’s marketing.

April 9th, 2014 by Beth North

I listened to an interesting NPR piece about the brain’s preference for repeating music themes earlier this week.

‘Play It Again And Again, Sam’ by Alix Spiegel, mentioned the “mere exposure effect.”

Then I saw “mere exposure effect” again in a blog ‘The Popcorn Effect: When Do Brand Ads Fail?’, thanks to my neuroscience marketing friend, blogger Roger Dooley. People eating popcorn in a movie theater during an ad remembered less than their fellow theater-goers who were NOT eating popcorn (or nachos) during the ad.

So, repeating themes and mere exposure affect what we remember? Absolutely.

It got me thinking about these very important psychological tendencies that come into play for corporate and product brand-builders, because, at the end of the day, what matters is how well we influence gray matter.

Consider the ‘inbound marketing’ world, and Hubspot. Hubspot, who offers software and strategies to agencies, consciously uses mere exposure to their advantage — they bombard my email box with great regularity and valuable content. Even if I never fill out one of their forms to download something they’re offering, they’ve got me thinking Hubspot. (and, telling you about it, no less!). This is frequency and mere exposure.

The NPR piece was applying the science of mere exposure effect to the world of political brand-building — i.e. election campaigns. Campaign managers and privately-funded entities have quite a war chest to draw from. And, they know where the key battles for winning will be fought. They bombard the geographic space with television and radio spots hoping voters (whom we know aren’t listening very carefully) may not remember the topic, but WILL remember a name when it comes to voting. Again, frequency.

Then consider “signature music” (the new jingle). The best ones repeat the melody over and over. Your brain prefers repeating note series over a string of original notes. Hence, jingles, (and unfortunately most popular music construction) contain simple repeating themes, so your brain will like it and remember it — or download it or buy the CD (remember those?). That’s Frequency (mere exposure), and repeating themes, (that’s frequency too!) at work.

As marketers, we’ve always considered frequency for media buys and other tactics. It’s even more important today. The brain is bombarded with images and sounds throughout the day. Frequency is important because your audience is half listening/half watching your TV or radio spot while doing other things — breakfast, dinner, chores, remote office work — The popcorn effect.

Frequent messages, repeating phrases and music target your audience – and the “mere exposure” effect does its job. Great content? That’s a topic for another blog…:-)

and serving as a comfortable
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