Advertising Your Brand: How Many Times Do Consumers Need to See/Hear It Before They Buy?


Mad Men-era advertising wiz, Herbert Krugman (Ted Bates, Inc., GE, and Raymond Loewy), took a special interest in consumer behavior. In order to plan efficient TV media buys, he did research in the late 1960s, on how many times consumers needed to see an ad for the same product or brand, before taking an action (i.e., buying). This is how he came up with his famous Theory of Effective Frequency for advertising.

Intuitively we know that repetition (frequency) is the basis of any learning process, and it’s no different for consumers learning about a product. However, since cost optimization is an important consideration in media planning, the issue for advertisers is to limit the frequency to the point where diminishing returns occur.

After some research, Krugman initially concluded that the magic number was three. In other words, after seeing or hearing about a product or brand three times, consumers would take an action. As he explained it,

  • “The first time someone is exposed to your ad, you attract their attention, but nothing is really taken in, thus “What is it?”.
  • The second time is when the consumer begins to engage with the relevance of the ad, and asks “So what?”
  • And the third exposure to the ad is when the viewer decides whether “This is for me”, or whether they will choose to forget it.”

Of course, a number of factors impact this ad frequency theory, for example: how well known the product or brand is already, the audience category, the complexity of the product or message, the cost structure of the product, the saturation level of the market, and more.

brain, advertising, theory of effective frequencyLater research (including some done by Krugman) suggested the number was more than 3 . For example, Canadian Grant Hicks  decided it was five touches, based on his research on financial advisors and their clients. Nielsen media guru Erwin Ephron’s work lead him to conclude it was three to five touches. More recently, a Nielsen study claims ten social media touches are needed to effect a behavior change.

Whether the number is 3 or 5 or more, the point here is that you’ve got to get your product in front of your customers multiple times in order for them to take the action you want.

Surprisingly, this isn’t always obvious to all businesses – I worked with a CEO once who wondered why the ONE direct mail campaign he approved didn’t bring in the results he wanted. And his product was fairly complex and new to the market – it would have benefitted from multiple advertising touches. Instead, he concluded that marketing wasn’t working for his product.

The great thing about digital marketing today is that there are many cost-effective ways to achieve your multiple marketing touches: email, social media, display advertising, websites, microsites, sponsorships, content marketing, etc. And you can test each channel in order to find the right combination for your customers and brand, with much less cost and effort than Herb Krugman could back in 1969 when TV, radio, and print were the primary advertising channels.

Sources for more information:

  • Herbert E. Krugman. “The Impact of Television Advertising: Learning Without Involvement” Public Opinion Quarterly, volume 29, page 349, 1965.
  • Herbert E. Krugman. “Why Three Exposures May Be Enough.” Journal of Advertising Research 12, 6 (1972): 11-14
  • Batra, Rajeev, Donald R. Lehmann, Joanne Burke, and Jae Pae. “When Advertising Have An Impact? A Study of Tracking Data.” Journal of Advertising Research 35, 5 (1995): 19-32

Image Attribution: 

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The Only Content Map You’ll Ever Need | Content Strategy

Content Mapping, Content Strategy

One of the things I frequently do for clients is to create content for their website, for social media, for PR, or for other marketing pieces.

When I start a new project, I often hear statements like “we already have most of the content”, or “just write a few quick blog and social media posts and that’ll be our content”, or “our intern is handling the blog and social media”, or “our CEO wrote the copy for the homepage”. Aaargh.

The ROI on that type of “content marketing” is pretty darn low.

Real content creation and marketing needs an upfront strategy, in order to:

  • Ensure the content achieves business goals, like conversions or activation,
  • Keep it flowing and current,
  • Make certain it’s SEO-optimized, and
  • Meet customer needs.

I use a CONTENT MAP to develop a successful upfront content strategy. I map the content types to user emotion and intent. This way, the content follows a typical sales funnel to ensure it is set up to deliver the goals of the business.

Once the content map and strategy is complete, content creation and delivery flows efficiently and effectively.

content strategy, content map, content marketing templateI’m sharing my Content Strategy Map template for you to use for your next content marketing project or website design. I developed it based on lots years of learnings in digital marketing! You’ll find it captures most, if not all, of the kinds of content you’ll need. As you can see, its filled in with placeholder copy so you get the idea behind the different parts of the map.

Feel free to download the Content Strategy Map now (it’s in PDF form). I’m confident it will be the only content map you’ll ever need!

[Of course, if you want help with content creation for your website, blog, or social media, just fill out the form on the left to contact me, and I’ll be happy to get your content flowing!]

NOTE: I can’t claim to have invented the business of content strategy, and these smart marketers were great resources for this post: Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web, Kane Jamison of Content Harmony, and the folks over at Wordstream.

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Why Images Are So Important for Social Media Engagement

Why Images Are So Important for Social Media Engagement

You know the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”? The other day, I wondered two things about it:

  1. Where did the saying came from? and,
  2. Is there real research behind it?

A little Google-ing got me the answer to the first. It turns out that its ‘introduction’ is  attributed to Frederick R. Barnard, who published an article touting the effectiveness of graphics over just copy with the title “One Look is Worth a Thousand Words“, in the Dec. 8, 1921 edition of the advertising  journal, Printer’s Ink.

Fred was clearly on to something.

I found the answer to the second question in scads of consumer market research, backed up by my own experience helping businesses get more results through social networking and blogging.

Here’s what the research says:

  • According to Kissmetrics, images on Facebook receive 53% more Likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more click-throughs on links. 53%! 104%! 84%! That made you sit up, huh?
  • In addition, the most recent Facebook redesign makes images even more important for newsfeed visibility.
  • Research from Buffer shows that using images on Twitter increases retweets by 150% and click-throughs by 18%.
  • PRNewswire found that images included in a press release expand the release’s audience up to 180%.
  • Brain research shows that almost half of our brain is involved in visual processing – and we can make sense of a visual in less than 1/10 of a second! Conversely, on average, we only read 28% of words on any given web page. Ouch.

I’ll say it again. Fred was clearly on to something.

Images used in your social media (and by definition, your blog content) are far more attention-grabbing than text or plain old links, more likely to be shared, evoke emotional reactions in viewers (and emotion SELLS), and can portray a lot of information quickly and more efficiently than text.

Google’s Abigail Posner explains why engaging with an image feels so compelling to us humans:

“When we see or create an image that enlivens us, we send it to others to give them a bit of energy and effervescence. Every gift holds the spirit of the gifter. Also, every image reminds us and others that we’re alive, happy and full of energy (even if we may not always feel that way). And when we ‘like’ or comment on a picture or video sent to us, we’re sending a gift of sorts back to the sender… this ‘gift’ of sharing contributes to an energy exchange that amplifies our own pleasure.”

Convinced? Good. Now, here are a few suggestions on how to execute:

  • Include at least one image in every blog post. Don’t skip this step.
  • I recommend sizing the image(s) to 1/2 the width of your blog post.
  • Make sure your images are high quality and relevant.
  • Edit images using visual design that attracts eyeballs, e.g., the right color, contrast, texture, shape, balance, proportion – here’s a good summary guide from Curalate.
  • Consider adding text to your images and photos – quotes are highly shareable.
  • Even better, use infographics.
  • Use images with personality!
  • If it’s right for your business, collect and post user-generated images.

As to sources for your images, you can 1) create your own – I’ll have more on this in an upcoming blog post – or 2) you can source them online:

  • Creative Commons Images (images that are legal to use in your marketing) – Try Flickr’s Advanced Search. Be sure to check the box to Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content and include a photo credit with images you use.
  • Royalty-Free Stock Photos – Try stock photo sites like Stock.xchng or iStockphoto that have a fair amount of free or low-cost stock imagery to license.

Lastly, to optimize your images for the various social media platforms, try the Social Image Resizing Tool, which has preset image sizing (!) for all the primary social media sites.

And remember Fred. Even back in 1921, he was on to something.

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A Treasure Map for Your Business: Create Your One-Page Strategic Marketing Plan

One Page Marketing Strategy

Do I really need yet another strategic document for my business?!

Yes. You do. But this may be the last one you’ll ever need! Because this one rocks!

This one will drive your business on the road from We’reAllOverthePlaceVille to Success City. This is the roadmap that will get you to your dream destination – business success!

Even better, like an old-fashioned treasure map, this one is just one page (and is much less wrinkled).

This is the One Page Strategic Marketing Plan (but you can keep calling it a Treasure Map, because following it will bring you business gold).

Here are the 5 reasons you need it:

  1. Helps you focus your energy on driving your business forward.
  2. Weeds out non-essential marketing opportunities.
  3. Prioritizes your marketing budget.
  4. Gets all staff and partners aligned on common objectives.
  5. Sets the quantitative goals by which to measure your marketing tactics.

One Page Strategic Marketing Plan by 3to5 Marketing

You can download my version here – OnePageStrategicPlan. Put it up on your wall or white board. Gather the troops and have at it! And don’t forget your BHAG (big hairy audacious goal).

For more detail on the individual elements of a strategic marketing plan, Dave Lavinsky writes a great post over at

Now, go find your treasure!

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Teaching and Learning: One and the Same? Yes, Says Thoreau

Birthplace of Henry David Thoreau, Concord, Massachusetts

“I would make education a pleasant thing both to the teacher and the scholar. This discipline, which we allow to be the end of life, should not be one thing in the schoolroom, and another in the street. We should seek to be fellow students with the pupil, and should learn of, as well as with him, if we would be most helpful to him.” – Henry David Thoreau, December 1837.

Social Media Class at SNHUYesterday, I taught a class in social media to a group of smart undergrads at Southern New Hampshire University (#SNHU).

Today, I’m writing this blog post in the room where Henry David Thoreau was born in 1817, looking out the paned glass window at the snow in the fields outside the 284-year old Thoreau family farmhouse.

What do the two have to do with each other?

Well, anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m a very big fan of Henry David Thoreau, the 19th c. American author, naturalist, philosopher, and activist.

He was also a teacher, although his teaching career was short-lived.

See, back in Henry’s day, learning was a matter of rote memorization and recitation of a set of a few approved and very narrow subjects.

Henry disgreed emphatically with this method and made his views known to the headmasters of the schools in which he taught. Hence the short-lived teaching career.

Henry believed that real education was an unending, interactive, hands-on pursuit. And therefore that teachers should “seek to be fellow students with the pupil”.

I couldn’t agree more.

When I teach digital marketing and social media, I’m open to the ideas, interpretations, and opinions of my students. It’s amazing how a continuously open mind can uncover new solutions to old problems.

Especially teaching in this industry, which evolves quicker than a cat dodging a lawn sprinkler, students are just as capable of inventing the next big thing as their teachers.

So, a big shout out to @jbwrites and his Social Media Marketing class at @SNHU: @ItsArista, @JenniferMarion, and the rest of the you! Stay curious!


Writing at the birthplace of Henry David Thoreau in Concord MABy the way, the privilege of writing in Thoreau’s birthplace was afforded me because I’m on the Executive Board of the Thoreau Farm Trust. But you too, can take advantage of this amazing literary opportunity, by contacting the Thoreau Farm.

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