The reading level for this article is All Levels

Fair question. In the persuasion business there are so many variables that come into play that it is difficult if not impossible to predict exactly if and or when a campaign will be a success or a failure. Advertising is a mature industry, however, and there has been much research done during its lifetime which offer us some good guidelines on expectations. Let’s first look at the psychological underpinnings of people exposed to new stimulus (your ad) without even looking at the persuasive, i.e. creative content of the messaging. Herbert E. Krugman, who did a ton of research on the subject describes the process this way: “One to make ready, two to get set, and three to go. The first exposure to a new stimulus (your ad), “is by definition, unique and dominated by a “What is it?” cognate response. The new stimulus, good or bad, has an initial attention-getting requirement even if it is quickly blocked out thereafter.The second exposure “permits the viewer to pick up where he left off–without the necessity of doing the cognate thing all over again”. So the second exposure is the one where personal responses and evaluations–the sale in the mind, occurs. The third exposure becomes, then, the true reminder–that is, IF there is some consequence of the earlier evaluations yet to be fulfilled. There is no such thing as a fourth exposure psychologically; rather, fours, fives etc. are repeats of the third exposure effect. Obviously the more frequency you purchase in the chosen media, the shorter the timeframe it will be for one individual to see your ad the minimum three times” So, how long after the three time exposure threshold to an ad should it take till someone is moved to purchase your product or service? For this we turn to another authoritative voice on the subject: Henry Newell in Persuasion in Advertising: “Instances about of behavioral change lagging behind attitudinal change. It took three years for Ivory liquid detergent’s share of market to catch up with consumer’s increasingly favorable disposition toward the brand. Virtually every brand is one among several almost equally acceptable alternatives. Lags are often determined by multiple factors. Variables from product to product, vitality of the hole product category, the momentum of the individual brands and the amount of new information the public is required to absorb. Couple this with the fact that individuals who have habitually purchased a certain brand, they will usually continue to do so long after the suspicion first enters their minds that other brands may be preferable.” Direct Response advertising (of which Online Marketing is an offshoot) is a highly-disciplined marketing tool which can be tracked very closely and usually and often causes very fast response rates. Direct marketing usually contains a special pricing offer and is often coupled with a time-limit in which to take advantage of the offer. Both those inducements are geared for fast action. Direct marketing’s success, however, is still dependent on consumers favorable brand perceptions. And this is where brand Image advertising often comes into play. Brand image advertising often has no direct marketing component as price offer or time limit. Brand image advertising attempts to secure a pre-determined positioning in the mind of the target consumer. Brand image advertising IS trackable through research into attitudes and “intent to purchase” studies. Another important variable that marketers must take into account is the “sales lag” factor. It is a fact that most people seldom act on impulse: and even if they are disposed to do so, the sale in the mind rarely coincides with the ability or opportunity to act. Days may elapse before the next trip to the supermarket, or for a more substantial purchase like furniture or automobiles or even a mortgage. People may simply be waiting until their personal credit picture looks better or gas prices drop or any number of reasons even though the advertising has effected the “sale in the mind”. Meanwhile, consumer are exposed to countless other demands for their attention, often including promises to satisfy the very need to which you have staked out a claim.” There are countless instances of behavioral change lagging behind attitudinal change;There are far more smokers who are convinced they should give up cigarettes than actually do. It is imperative then, that a favorable attitude toward a brand must be reinforced until a change of habit occurs. In short: Time erodes the sale in the mind. The bottom line is that there are so many variables besides the advertising campaign messaging/media selection themselves that can affect sales, the kind of formal and elegant proof that is sometimes demanded by CFO’s, CMO’s and scientfic researchers simply cannot be expected. And, contrary to what one might believe of ad agency staffers, it’s too bad. We would welcome verification of our efforts, as it will only serve to make us better at what we do.) 

This Marketing article was written by David Hanson on 9/4/2005

David Hanson, H2M Advertising.
Agency President.