Media Redefined: The genius of frequency
by Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) How many times do you have to hear a message to understand and remember it? It depends.
It wasn’t more than two days into this year’s FIFA World Cup and I started to hear people muttering about getting annoyed by Adam Levine, Maroon 5, Hyundai and “Don’t worry about a thing”. Except that the muttering people remembered the ad, the message, the brand, the song and the singer.
What is going on here? It is the very underrated genius of frequency.
I don’t know how many times I’ve had clients contact me after an ad has flighted for its first or second burst and asked if I think it’s reached wear-out already. Millward Brown studies usually help to allay these fears, but I think even it often falls short of actually how much frequency is required to really land a message.
There’s a perception that frequency is a blunt and unsophisticated tool that is essentially a brand trying to make up for a lack of creative product to ram a message down the consumers throat. This is probably because the brands that use it are often unsophisticated themselves. Think beer brands — and Donald Trump.
I believe it annoys the liberal world a lot that it can state verbatim exactly what Trump stands for. Make America Great Again, Drain the Swamp & Build a Wall are messages that, whether you like it or not, have landed and stuck. Since the election, multiple times, Trump has used frequency to get people to remember a core message. It’s a brilliant strategy which speaks to a far more strategic mind than anyone is willing to admit exists.
The right time
Radio is often touted as a frequency medium and it does allow for clever tactics that very quickly build high frequency. More than often, it’s not so much about buying multiple spots across the day but finding the time when the targeted consumer is most likely to be in the car on their way to or from work.
I’ve often flighted an ad just once a day at a key time on radio. The ad is heard four or five times a week by the same consumer and almost definitely remembered. This may be a smaller audience but rather that than an ad washing over a broader market once.
The other key to effective frequency is simplicity of message. Hyundai has a single-minded objective that it wants to land during the world cup : Hyundais are innovative and safe cars. It’s not something I would’ve associated with the brand before, but I definitely know it now.
And, of course, pick music or a sound that is catchy and positive. There are outer limits to listener and viewers patience.
Every brand should be using frequency in some way to consistently land their core message. It’s a very simple strategy but therein lies its genius.
Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) is managing director of Connect, an M&C Saatchi Company, with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Martin has spent 18 years in the industry, and has previously worked at Ogilvy and was MD of MEC Nota Bene in Cape Town. He contributes the monthly “Media Redefined” column, in which he challenges norms in the media space, to MarkLives.com.
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