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The Frequency Illusion
It’s happened to all of us.
You hear about something new – a restaurant, a TV show, whatever. All of a sudden, you start noticing references to that thing everywhere.
The same thing happens when you buy a new car. The second you drive that Rav-4 off the lot, it seems like every car on the highway is also a Rav-4.
This effect has been dubbed the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon, also known as frequency illusion or frequency bias.
After noticing something for the first time, there is a tendency to notice it more often, leading someone to believe that it has an increased frequency of occurrence.
The frequency illusion has far-reaching implications for communications and marketing.
Manufacturing Frequency with Marketing
The first time we’re exposed to something new, it may or may not catch our attention. But when additional references occur in quick succession, frequency bias kicks in. Our brains recognize a pattern and pause. We stop scrolling, or reading, or talking. For just a moment, our undivided attention is on that new concept or offering.
That focus is the name of the game in brand awareness of top-of-funnel marketing efforts. It’s a singular opportunity to make a lasting impression.
Today, the frequency illusion has taken on a decidedly digital component with algorithms, site cookies, retargeting, and other advertising tactics. If you search for a product, you really will start to see more instances of that product pop up across the websites and social platforms you visit.
The frequency illusion makes the case for these digital efforts along with campaigns that span multiple channels.
The trick is coming up with the right timing and platforms to foster the frequency bias effect with minimal spend and outreach efforts.