If you ask an advertising guru what it takes to inform consumers and ultimately move them to action, they’ll instantly spout out their golden formula: Reach + Frequency.
This marketing truism has been captivating customers since the days of Henry Ford, and has carried its weight through every technology advance, product launch and celebrity endorsement over the last 100 years.
Decoding this recipe, Reach refers to reaching the right audience with the right message at the right time. This is how most people think of marketing. But equally important is Frequency, the lesser-known but critically important ingredient. If you saw the classic “teach the world to sing” ad from Coca-Cola only once, it might beckon a smile but you’d never remember the words 40 years later. The indelible message became part of our collective psyche due to its frequency.
Frequency is a powerful force that transcends the field of advertising. Frequency of message elects presidents, drives social change, and hoists pop stars to deity status. It’s also a critical — yet often overlooked — factor in driving organizational change.
If you lead a team or company and you’re frustrated that your folks “aren’t getting it,” examine your frequency factor. Listing off your 12-point plan at a single team meeting won’t fully deliver the message without some repetition, unless you lead a team of savants. You can’t expect people to truly embrace changes in strategy or philosophy unless they have repeated exposure to the message.
As the person who crafted the new plan, cultural values, sales pitch or recruiting strategy, you spent hours refining every word to make it perfect. So holding a single team meeting to roll out the new approach won’t carry the day. A message sent is not a message heard. The snazzy launch must be followed by the constant drip of repetition in order to effectuate meaningful change.
The same principle applies to our customers, investors, interpersonal relationships, and strategic partners. If you want people to absorb your message, they’ll need to hear it more than once. Reinforce key themes with consistency and your message will fully sink in over time.
We can learn more than just proper martini etiquette from the mad men of advertising. The content of your message is the first step, but the frequency brings it to life. If you remain skeptical, list the ingredients of a McDonald’s Big Mac in your mind. I bet you nailed it; 20 years after those memorable ads peppered the airways.