Marketing Communication and the Importance of Repetition


If there’s one thing this and every other election cycle has underscored, regardless of political preference, is that repetition WORKS. If you repeat a phrase often enough, many –if not most– come to accept it as fact. Its use in marketing communication is certainly no exception. 


Some of the most memorable commercials of all time have made great use of this principle. Those old enough likely remember the Alka Seltzer campaigns of the 60’s and 70’s (“plop, plop, fizz, fizz . . Oh what a relief it is!!”, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!”) or American Express (“Don’t leave home without it.”) likely had those slogans stuck in their heads for quite some time. 


Even today, many of us immediately think of Bounty paper towels as “the quicker picker-upper.” Whether or not it works any better or faster than its competitors (commonly referred to as “the other leading brands”) became irrelevant somewhere along the way. Here in Los Angeles, an attorney practice– Cellino and Barnes, has long been airing a commercial  prominently featuring its phone number (a very memorable 800-888-8888 . . though at times it sounds on the radio as if there are too many “8’s”.

One of that practice’s competitors, Darren Kavinoky, continually uses the slogan “No one looks good in handcuffs, unless you’re into that sort of thing.”


Certainly off the beaten path, but definitely memorable. 


The effectiveness of repetition has been known for a long, long time, though sometimes in this day and age of social media, we tend to sacrifice repetition for reach, often at the expense of effectiveness.  An article that ran a couple of years back in cited a book by then-famous sloganeer and marketer Thomas Smith, who espoused some interesting and still very relevant insight into the use of repetition in marketing communication.


  • Consumers generally buy on around the 20th time of hearing the message.
  • A marketing communication message of any kind only sounds familiar after four repetitions. 
  • The message isn’t even generally noticed during the first and second repetition. 

And this was in 1885!! I have to think there was a lot less noise back then.

More recently, similar studies have underscored very similar results. Microsoft conducted their own that centered on AUDIO messages and found the necessary amount of repetitions was between 6 and 20.

Some key takeaways for current producers of marketing communication:

Because money is always a factor. . .  Don’t sacrifice repetition (frequency) for reach. It’s almost better to hit an audience of 10,000 three times than it is to hit an audience of 30,000 once, though there are obviously some exceptions. 


Be relatively simple and consistent with your message. There was a time when Geico – a very heavy advertiser, featured the Geico Cavemen, the Geico Gecko and Maxwell the Pig. Reptiles are resilient, as we know and Geico eventually realized its misstep.


Not much has been heard from the Cavemen or Maxwell for a long time now.  



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