The first time you hear an annoying advertising jingle you say to yourself, “Argh… I hate these ads!” Second time, “How can anyone actually like this?” But after the fifth time, you suddenly catch yourself humming along during your daily commute.
Whether we like it or not, people are hardwired to fall for repetition in advertising copy. While the age of mobile Internet has introduced countless new channels for reaching consumers, the fundamentals of good copy haven’t changed. The more we see or hear something, the more we like it.
Repetition breeds familiarity
Every time we read repeated words or phrases, we become more familiar with the messages conveyed. After multiple exposures, our subconscious mind begins to create shortcuts that tie these words to feelings of familiarity and comfort. Familiarity with a brand, therefore, creates a mental link that streamlines the purchasing process by associating the brand with feelings of comfort.
Additionally, the concept of cognitive fluency suggests that the more familiar we are with a brand, the more we feel at ease thinking about it – which leads to increased purchasing decisions. Nike’s iconic “Just Do It” campaign has leveraged this phenomenon for over 25 years to great success.
Repetition encourages the illusion of truth
If someone else said it, it must be true. We like to think we’re the exception to the rule but thirty years of research suggest otherwise. Time and time again, studies show that repeated statements are thought to be more truthful than statements made less frequently. Repeated exposure to ads, slogans and key phrases triggers our brains to trust the information, becoming much more receptive to the messages within (even if the source of that opinion is only a single person).
During the 1980s an exercise craze kicked off that encouraged a healthier diet and downplayed fast-food chains. To combat this change in preference, McDonalds introduced their repetitive copy led, “Wholesome, have some” campaign stressing that their meals have “ No fillers. No cereals. No Chemical additives. No tenderizers. Nothing Artificial” Why do we believe them? Because the said so, over and over.
Repetition increases perceived quality
Not only does repetition breed familiarity and encourage trust, but it also affects perceptions of brand quality.
University of Wisconsin researchers Anthony McGann and Raymond Marquardt discovered products with highly repetitive ad campaigns were rated as higher quality in Consumer Reports; and The Journal of Consumer Research found that repeating core attributes and strengths increases the likelihood of a higher quality rating. Repetitive advertising serves to convince consumers of quality because they see it as costly initiative, which reflects the company’s commitment to its product.
Case in point: when Coca Cola introduced their “Real thing” Campaign they promoted a simple yet repetitive message: “I’d like to buy the world a coke” - transforming the brand from a beverage into a symbol of universal love and sharing.
The next time you come across a bit of repetition in your copy, take a closer look before you highlight and delete it. In some situations, repetition encourages consumers to not only remember the message, but also to believe in it and regard it is as popular opinion – which is exactly what we’re trying to achieve.