Applying The“Mere Exposure Effect” For Effective Communication Strategy

By Nonso Nnamdi – Senior Analyst at Stephanie John and Associates.

The mere exposure effect is a phenomenon that occurs in our daily lives whether we are aware of it or not. As you go through this article you will get a deeper understanding of this concept and why it holds great value for marketing and communications strategy.

To begin our little adventure into the mere exposure effect and communications strategy, I will provide two (2) basic examples that shows this effect in action.

  1. Have you noticed thatthere are times when you hear a song for the first time and not like it, but when such song is played over and over again, it tends to “grow on you”, and before you knowit,you are in love with the song?
  2. Have you also noticed thatthere are timeswhere you meeta personfor the first timeand you remain indifferent about them, but you tend to start developing some likeness for them the more you see them.

These examplesdescribewhat is known as the mere-exposure effect.By definition, the mere-exposure effect isa psychological phenomenon or process by which peopledevelop a preference for things merely because they have encountered such thing before. In other words, you become familiar with something and fall in love with it simply because of frequent exposure. The mere exposure effectis a social psychological concept that was first conceptualized and popularized by the Polish Psychologist Robert BoleslawZajonc in 1968.

What has the Mere-Exposure Effectgot to do with Marketing, advertisingand Strategic Communications?

A lot. The mere exposure effect is quite important and effective when properly applied to advertisement and strategic communications.Mere exposure affectsconsumer choice and the way consumers relate with brands. It has been observed severally that most peoplechoose certain brands over otherssimply because such brands are familiar and have been seen earlier. “Mere exposure” speaks directly to the subconscious of the consumer, and this plays a major role in decision making.This is the major insight and reason why brands must make attempts to take advantage of mere exposure.Successful businesses have managed to take people’s desire for the familiar and use it to increase sales. A prime example of this can be seen in football stadiums or malls, were brands place simple brand elements such as logo or tag lines without any further message, with constant exposure, these brand elements “grows on consumers” and sticks in their subconscious, and when it’s time to make actual buying decisionsand such products happen to be on the shelve the mere exposure effect will kick in and do the magic.

Drawing the Line between Mere Exposure and Over Exposure

In as much as mere exposure, can be extremely helpful to brands, “over exposure” makesbrands seem oldless likeable – what economists refer to as “law of diminishing returns”. Some studies suggest that becoming too familiar with something can have a detrimental effect,Robert Bornsteina Professor of Psychology found that mere exposurereaches its maximum effect between 10 and 20 exposuresand then after that the effectiveness can decline.

Using the song analogy again, when a song is played frequently for too long, the initial love for the song tend to diminish, and the next time you here the song, your hand reaches for the next button.

How Can Brands Apply the Mere Exposure Effect to their Communications?

Having understood themere exposure effectthevalueit holds for advertising and strategic communications, here are few a ways brands can infuse it into their communication strategy;

Have a Simple, Unique, Easy to remember and Relatable Brand identity (Look and feel)

The brand identity of a company is an essential tool if the desired effect of mere exposure must be derived. The unique identity of a company includes the logo, colours, tonality, and other brand assets. The brandidentity should always be consistently projectedon all communication platforms. It is important that brands make their identity easy to remember, so it can easily be recalled by their target audience. This will help the brand stay top of mind and easily recalled when buying decisions are to be made.

Maintain consistency and uniformity across all platforms

Consistency and uniformity are the main currency of mere exposure. For any brand to be noticed, recognized and identified with, it must be consistent with its message, and projection of its identitymust be uniform across all platforms. This will help such brand to be easily spotted out and patronized by consumers. At every step of the sales funnel, the brand should introduce and reintroduce the brand to the consumer. The earlier and more frequently a consumer identifies a brand, the more likely such consumer will buy products of that brand.

Identify with activities of interest to your target audience- Display of Brand elements.

Every opportunity to get the brand in front of consumers should be seized; however, this should be done in a way that the consumers’ encounter with the brand will be memorable. To achieve this, brands should sponsor or partner in events that consumers naturally have interest in. for instance, if a brand has young and fun seeking people as its target audience, it should consider sponsoring events and activities such as musical concerts and activities that are associated with pop culture. This way the brand can strategically roll out its brand elements. By that way, the brand is sub consciously registered in the minds of the audience.

Creativity and innovation

One of the major challenges of the mere exposure effect is the possibility of “diminishing returns” due to over familiarity. Remember how a song you once loved, turns into a song you do not love anymore because you have heard it repeatedly, this happens with brands too. In display ad, there is a phenomenon referred to as “banner blindness”, when web users become blind to your ad because they have seen it enough. When the same thing about a brand is experienced or seen for too long, it begins to be taken for “granted”, the mind notices it less and eventually attach less importance to it.

To tackle this, brands in their communication strategies must be creative and innovative in the way they projects and present their unique identity. Brands must be able to excite the consumer and make the brand identity seem new but familiar every time it is encountered.

Consult Professionals

To achieve business communication goals and automatically increase sales and patronage, mere exposure is essential. However, its execution is not always easy, as suchoutsourcingyour communication and marketing to experts and professionals helps to a large extent.

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