3 ways to harness its power

The more you encounter something, the more your attitude towards it is enhanced.

In 1968, social psychologist Robert Zajonc called this the mere-exposure effect. Today, we know it as the familiarity bias.

It’s hugely influential in the purchasing decisions we make – one recent study found that 82% of participants selected a familiar brand from a Google search.

It makes sense. But as marketers we clearly need to understand and use this bias.

Here are three ways we can.

1. Email useful content regularly

In 2018, four in five businesses doing content marketing used email to nurture their consumer audiences.

This data comes from 229 businesses surveyed for the 2019 B2C Content Marketing Report published by the Content Marketing Institute. It’s both good and bad news: clearly email is popular and effective as an approach, but that also means almost everyone is using it. So it’s a question of how to separate yourself from the pack.

The solution is to create great content that solves customer problems, that avoids direct promotion, and that aligns with your product/service. In short, it builds trust. This type of useful, high-quality content can then be part of your mailout, interspersed with more promotional-style emails when needed.

All together, these emails become a great way to enact the familiarity bias.

How can you implement this?

Sending a useful email every week is a perfect way to enact familiarity bias. And if there isn’t the time to produce this amount of high-quality content, there are plenty of people out there who can. Content writers and designers can produce a wealth of emails, infographics, articles and videos that keep your customers interested, and keep your brand familiar.

2. Target and boost your social media

In just over one month, Clinique France achieved a 13-point increase in brand awareness via their Facebook and Instagram advertising.

How did they do it? Well according to Facebook Business it was by using targeted advertising combined with boosting adverts. This is about as simple an example of using the familiarity principle as you can get.

Clinique France started out by targeting their adverts. They got their online video in front of the right eyes, then boosted advertising only to those who watched it or showed an interest (eg, via a like). In this way, an interested audience gets regular exposure to the brand.

How can you implement this?

Get to know your audience before starting any social media advertising. Ideally, you should know their age, location, and even gender in order to hit your demographic nail on the head.

This information can be fed into platforms, like Facebook, so you can target this pre-selected demographic. You can then run and/or boost your posts easily. You can set how much you would like to spend each day and how long you would like the boost to run.

The key to building a relationship, regardless of the channel you’re using, is content. It’s content that breeds familiarity and trust. Give your audience something that helps them. Become that trusted advisor they turn to. Then when the time comes to purchase, they’ll turn to you. 

3. Employ the power of retargeting

Retargeting adverts appear immediately after browsing a website (rather than hours later) and can increase banner click throughs by 3%.

This research is from Uppsala University in Sweden which tracked the impact of retargeting adverts on a local retailer. The 3% translated into 1,326 extra sales per month.

But what do we mean by retargeting? Well, when someone visits a website they can be tracked even after they have left. A reminder banner ad could be placed on the next site they visit.

All sound a little ‘stalky’? Businesses do worry about this and it’s something that needs to be approached with care. However, using this technique immediately after someone has left your website (rather than doing so hours later) can act as an effective reminder. Essentially, using familiarity bias to your benefit.

How can you implement this?

It requires adding a snippet of code to your website. This places a cookie into the visitor’s browser that then becomes activated when they leave. In fact, if you use Google Ads, this tracking can be set up via your account.

You can then define who will see an ad based on how they have interacted with your business. Note that doing this is likely to require an update to your Privacy Policy.

Stay digitally familiar

In Robert Zajonc’s 1968 paper, he admits that his mere-exposure effect wasn’t an entirely original idea. And that “The foremost proponent of this hypothesis, the advertising industry, has always attributed to exposure formidable advertising potential”.

So even back in the late sixties, people were utilising the power of the familiar. Our job is to keep it going in the digital world.

Posted inContent Marketing Posted on
written by

Alex Ionides Managing Director, Silx