Traditional one-touch marketing has been on life support for a long time, but now it’s brain-dead, buried and gone. The high profile one-hit wallop is largely a thing of the past. Buying a full page ad in the New York Times might say something about your chutzpah or your impressive marketing budget, but casting one net won’t do much by itself to bring people in the door—especially a net that wide.
The reason is easy enough to figure out. In his book Permission Marketing, Seth Godin notes that the average person is bombarded with over one thousand advertising messages per day, of which fewer than 1.5 percent register in memory at all. Eliminate those that only register negatively—CLOSEOUT, CLOSEOUT, CLOSEOUT, EVERYTHING MUST GO!—and there’s not much left.
You don’t need to be loud. In fact, obnoxious advertising can lead the consumer to unleash his deadliest weapon on you—neglect. Better to (1) carefully identify your target market and (2) drop a lot of quiet but attractive little hooks in the water.
Research in this area is pretty conclusive: It takes between five and nine touches before the average consumer responds to an advertiser’s message. So it’s your job to find non-obnoxious ways to put your name and products in front of your prospects in as many low-key ways as possible. Depending on your business and your prospects, this might include tightly-targeted ads (online or in print), sponsorship of a charity event, and (best of all) an excited buzz on the lips of your current happy clients.
Don’t think that every touch has to include your whole product line, mission statement, and driving directions. Just encountering your name or logo several times builds awareness and curiosity to learn more, even if the prospect isn’t aware of the effect of that repeated exposure.
The subconscious effect of repetition was demonstrated powerfully in a famous experiment by Yale psychologist John Bargh. Students in Bargh’s seminar were given ten sentences to unscramble. They thought they were being tested on their ability to sort out the sentences—but no. Seeded throughout the scrambled sentences were words related to old age, such as “lonely,” “gray,” “bingo,” “wrinkle,” and my personal favorite, “Florida.” After unscrambling the sentences, students walked out of the testing room measurably slower than students who unscrambled words without those messages related to old age.
No one shouted “YOU ARE FEELING OLD!” at the subjects. If they had, it probably wouldn’t have worked.
In another phase of the experiment, students unscrambled sentences with words connoting impatience or aggressiveness or kindness and exhibited those qualities more often than the control groups.
Marketing is also an attempt to induce a certain attitude—specifically, a positive attitude toward your company and products. And the most effective way to do this is by placing your name and “face” in front of your prospective clients in a positive way, and then doing it again. And again. And again.