Reminding people that your brand exists can be done even when your brand has nothing new to say, even when your marketing budget is crumbling. Thanks to the mere-exposure effect, your brand can even thrive in these adverse circumstances.

A pandemic, soaring energy costs, and a war close to home – the past couple of years have been tough for marketers and consumers alike, and there’s a new addition to this dream-team of horrors – rising inflation.

Prices are rising fast around the world — so fast that many marketers working today were children the last time inflation reached such high levels. – Alanna Petroff & Gerald Breatnach

People are spending less, especially on food. So you might be wondering what that means for your FMCG brand. Should you change your strategy, should you try to expand your targeting, or should you tweak the branding so it would fit better with this new reality that consumers are getting accustomed to these days?

This seems like the best time to talk about the familiarity principle.

The Mere-Exposure Effect

The mere-exposure effect is a phenomenon widely studied by academics. It refers to people’s tendency to develop a preference for things just because they’re familiar with them. This applies to words, shapes, sounds, and even people.

In advertising, the mere-exposure effect is discussed in the context of System 1 thinking, the one that does most of what is called brand choice work. Some brands just feel more attractive to us, and one of the reasons why that happens is that we’ve just been more exposed to brand A than brand B, so we prefer the former to the latter.

Advertising planners think that this simple repeated exposure can unconsciously create a memory trace in a consumer’s mind that will guide their System 1 thinking towards choosing that brand.

So, why am I bringing this up now?

Well, it’s all about our current (anxiety-generating) context. Paying for things becomes increasingly difficult, so consumers cut items off their shopping lists. Marketers do the same, giving up prized media real estate, print production, consumer engagement campaigns, and even switching agencies.

I won’t repeat it. Too many people have said it before – not cutting your marketing spending in a time of crisis will benefit you in the long run. What I want to point out is that many brands can leverage the mere-exposure effect. This is the perfect time to do more with less.

Think about it! If it’s enough to be there, maybe, just maybe, you don’t have to spend as much to make sure you’re looking like a million bucks. If you can stay on top of your customer’s mind (unconsciously, in their System 1 thinking) with a 5-second ad, why pay for the production of a 30-second ad? If you can make your brand more appealing to the masses by just being there, why create a complex consumer engagement campaign with huge web development costs? If it’s enough to have an ad / online content that will remind people that your brand exists, why choose the more expensive agency?

Buying is irrational. Accept it and leverage the mere-exposure effect.

The best thing you can do for the brand you’re representing at this moment is to make sure you build and keep share of mind. Exposure can do that.

Tara Duveanu
Tara DuveanuCreative Strategist
Creative hybrid helping build stronger client-agency partnerships that would lead to less friction, faster turnaround, and better business results.

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