Realised I forgot to mention something while working on the promotional side that is important (mostly on a tactical level, though some strategic understanding is required).

The Rule of 7

That is, the Rule of 7 (or 20 or 5) for ads. Specifically, the idea that you need multiple interactions  or views with an advertisement or brand before an individual will take action.

I put the other numbers in brackets because I’ve never seen actual research (and I’ve looked – but not lately) to back up those numbers. The idea, at the end, is that you need repeated repetition to break-through the noise that an individual experiences (some research studies show that individuals are exposed to hundreds of brands within a few hours of waking). 

The first instance of this rule came back in the 18th century by Thomas Smith.  This is the full quote :

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 neighbors 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 prospects see the ad, they buy what is offering.

Since then, we’ve had other people come up with various numbers. But how true is it?

First Things First – You are not the Market

As usual, I’ve seen a lot of comments about how ‘they buy things immediately or not at all’, or ‘I’ve never bought anything from an advertisement’. Setting aside the significant amount of research that shows people do not know what they are doing, it’s worth remembering – you are not the market.

It’s why Paco Underhill spent hours and hours watching security camera recordings of how people moved through a store. Why Usability Designers do eye-tracking studies.

When you’re marketing, put aside your own predujices and conceptions of what you’d do. Look at the data and research.

Real World Experience

That being said, didn’t I just say that I couldn’t find research showing the number of repetitions required? Yes.

But, research has shown that you need repeated repetitions to increase everything from sales to brand recognition. I’m not going to dig through the numerous marketing studies to find the information, instead, I’ll just tell 2 stories. 

Firstly, a long time ago (2006? 2007?), HSBC (I’m pretty sure) were running advertisements in print papers. Specifically, they were running a couple of full page and half-page advertisements, for the usual brand awareness reasons. 

A smart marketer decided, instead of running a couple of large ads, let’s test something out. They took their advertising budget, and without making it smaller, worked with the newspaper to create multiple smaller advertisements. These advertisements were split into across the entirety of the paper, from the news to entertainment sections to classifieds. Instead of 2 or 3 ads, they  now had 10 or 12 (or more. I don’t actually recall if they ever gave the number). 

Guess what? Brand awareness and recognition shot up by a significant number after they started doing this. Significantly enough that the organisation actually won the Canadian marketing award for the year.

The story struck me, because a short time before that, I was running a test of my own.

We’d created a new website for a product I was selling. 0 marketing or advertising, so it had almost no visits and definitely 0 sales.

We then ran an advertisement (print ad, half-page) in a single magazine. That’s it. 1 advertisement in 1 magazine. It came out once a month, we booked for 3 months at that time. All to test the magazine.

Here’s the interesting thing. First month? $350 in sales. Month 2 – $500 in sales. Month 3 – $1200 in sales or so. 

What changed? Nothing. Other than the repetition of the advertisement. 

Now, there’s an argument that people couldn’t afford what we sold (it was a bit expensive) and so had to wait for the first few months to get their money. And that might be true. But… I have a feeling it’s more the constant repetitions.


The Takeaway

Consistency and repetition of your brand is important. When building a promotional campaign, build out for the long-term with multiple touchpoints. You need to do so, to push people down the sales funnel.

A single campaign ‘burst’ might see quick results, but a long-term campaign will see bigger results in general. You have to keep touching your demographic, making them aware of you before they’ll act.

Which should influence what you intend to buy, because some markets (see print newspaper ads) are too expensive to do on the regular.

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