The Brand-building Power of The Mere Exposure Effect

At the time of publishing, Black Friday is just three months away! Yessssss… it will soon be that “most wonderful time of the year.” Our people will be on the hunt for a good deal on that thing they MUST have. And, for many entrepreneurs, the time to start planning your Black Friday promotions is now!

So, let me ask you… Who do you think will get the post-turkey sales?

Will your ideal customer be pulling out their credit card for the new kid on the block? Someone who turns up in their inbox for the first time in awhile to hock something? 

Or will it be you? The steadfast, true-to-type 😉 genius who consistently demonstrates the value of her “gotta have that” service or product? Who connects at multiple touchpoints twelve months out of the year? (…or at least 10 or 11!) The one who has built a brand that’s known, liked, and trusted? 

(Obvi, rhetorical question.) 

Science (yes, science!) tells us that the person who is consistent will win the day. Because, by simply showing up with clear messaging, you position yourself as the known quantity – and you get the sale.  

Now, some teachers might just remind you of this phenomenon – and call it a day. But, not this gal. The Sage archetype in me requires a deeper understanding of ‘the why’ behind this brand psychology truth. 

So, in today’s article, we are going to be uncovering The Mere Exposure Effect – the brand psychology principle behind some of the most powerful brand-building strategies that I know. 

And – most importantly – we’ll be looking at four specific ways you can pull this lever in your brand…. So you can attract more ideal clients and ensure they remember, like, and trust you.

Ready to nerd out a bit with me? Awesome. Let’s learn. 

(🎥  As per usual, if you’d prefer to watch the video version of this lesson, hit play below! If you want to go a little deeper with me, keep reading…)

What is the Mere Exposure Effect?

The term “Mere Exposure Effect” was coined by social psychologist Robert Zajonc. He had a hypothesis that the more that a stimulus is presented to the human brain, the more favorably they would perceive it.   

So he ran an experiment in 1968 in which he showed images of random people’s faces to his subjects. He asked the subjects to grade how much they liked the faces – before and after the experiment. 

The results? After being shown the same face over 20 times, the subjects rated it considerably higher – across the board. 

Stop for a minute and think about the implication for your brand. If you can simply show up in your business – in front of the humans that you want to sell to (perhaps more than 20 times!) – they are naturally going to start to know, like, and trust you. 

This realization was massive for Zajonc. And it’s massive for us as brand-builders! 

Now… a note for the critical thinkers around here…  If you’re wondering if this experiment has been duplicated in other settings – using things other than faces… Well, yes it has! 

In one relevant example, it was tested with some University of Kansas college students using banner advertisements. The ads were placed with an article that they were asked to read. In this case, the subjects rated the ads that they were exposed to multiple times significantly higher than those they saw just a few times or not at all. 

So, yeah. This thing is powerful! ←—- 😲

You’ve likely experienced the Mere Exposure Effect. 

This same psychological principle applies in everyday life, too. 

You try some deviled eggs at a party… but the recipe isn’t the one your mom uses, so it doesn’t taste right…What IS that weird spice? (So you slip the second bite into a trash-bound napkin.) 

You’re flipping through the 5 o’clock news options, and you glimpse the anchor who’s been delivering the news in your town since you were 17. She’s the one you like and trust, so you leave the dial there.

You need to snag a cake mix for your girlfriend’s birthday cake. The brand that’s been around forever (and has that cute little spoon logo that hasn’t changed in decades) might be the one you grab – since this cake needs to impress her family. 

Our brains are constantly grouping and categorizing things together. Things that are novel and new – at our very core reptilian-brain level – signal uncertainty. Uncertainty often meant danger (even death!) to our ancestors… so it is built into our brain to prefer the things that we know.

And, I have to tell you, Genius… It’s sooooo interesting to me that, on some level, all you have to do is to show up to win the day – and the sale. 

Theoretically, you don’t even have to do anything special. Just being a familiar face in somebody’s newsfeed (or on somebody’s phone or in somebody’s life) is going to make you more a preferred option – when compared with somebody that they don’t know. 

Super powerful. (Don’tya think???) 

So, now let’s talk about what you can do with this information. Here are four ways that you can incorporate and leverage The Mere Exposure Effect when you’re building your brand – so that more people start to like and trust you.

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Brand-building Power of the Mere Exposure Effect

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1.  Leverage the Mere Exposure Effect by gaining brand clarity.

This first strategy is probably the one that’s most often overlooked by entrepreneurs. But you won’t make that mistake! 🤓 Because you’re here with me today, getting wise to this! (…You smart cookie, You!)

The reason it’s overlooked is probably because it’s the least sexy. It’s the least action oriented. But it’s high-leverage. It’s to get radical clarity about your brand. 

Because if you don’t know what you stand for… if you don’t know what your brand personality is… what your brand values are… If you’re at a loss about that overarching message that you’re bringing to people…  it’s going to be hard to create any type of repetition. (More on that below.)

If you’re constantly creating a new experience every time somebody comes into contact with you – that’s actually going to work against you, per the Mere Exposure Effect, right?  

So having brand clarity is crucial. And you as the entrepreneur, the visionary-driving force of your brand, need to set that brand clarity at a core level before you focus in too too much on the “Hey look at me!” (… i.e. the visibility part). 

2.  Leverage the Mere Exposure Effect with a consistent brand “look and feel.”

Next up, your brand and business need to achieve and maintain a level of consistency. This is the part where we’re actually translating what we know to be true about ourselves into outward facing cues. 

This is where assets like your logo, your fonts, your colors, etc. do come in (along with the more foundational decisions like values, points of view, tone of writing, etc.) 

If you keep these visual things consistent over time, people will naturally associate them with you – which means they will like them more. I can think of several entrepreneurs who haven’t changed their colors in decades and I literally can’t help but associate them with the brand colors that they use. 

Now, this isn’t to say that if you have a brand that’s completely outdated, ugly – or just out of alignment with who you’ve become – that you can’t rebrand. But don’t do that just for the sake of novelty or because you’re bored with your brand. Re-branding should be a strategic decision. One that’s well thought out. Because when you do a re-brand, you do lose some of the “mere exposure effect equity” that you’ve built up so far. So, you have to be aware of the trade-offs there.

3.  Leverage the Mere Exposure Effect by repeating things in your brand.

The third way to leverage your knowledge of this powerful effect?  

It’s repetition. It’s repetition. It’s repetition. 😉

So you know who you are. You know how you’re going to show up. Now you have to literally show up and repeat your messages, your core values, your stories, (like your origin story, for example) – over and over. 

Remember those college students whose affinity for certain faces increased with the 20x repetition? When we’re repeating some of the same ideas (perhaps in slightly different contexts and in different containers) – we’re pulling that same human psychology lever. 

… And by the way, don’t fall into the trap of being afraid to repeat yourself. Repetition is good.
(Repetition is good. Repetition is good. 🤣) 

Let’s look at your brand stories as an example here. When you’re telling a story, sometimes it’s the two-minute version. Sometimes the 20-second version is needed. Sometimes you have a whole interview (20 minutes or 40 minutes?) to tell a story. It’s the same basic story. But the more that your audience hears it, the more that they’re going to appreciate that story and that message you’re communicating with it. 

(Trust me! I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve described how I landed on the brand archetypes… or the “ah-ha moment” when I discovered that branding was this powerful force underneath some ad campaigns I was selling… You might know these stories if you’ve been in my orbit for awhile! … Are you sick of them? Probably not. 😉) 

At the end of the day… You could say that being a brand is just communicating the same things over and over and over again in slightly different ways! It’s consistency of message that sells – even when there’s a little bit of novelty in the way that you’re packaging it up each time. 

4.  Leverage the Mere Exposure Effect by getting visible.

The last key to leveraging the Mere Exposure Effect in your business is through visibility. A brand really only exists when it comes into contact with humans! So, where are you showing up – so your ideal clients can be exposed to your messages? 

The possibilities here are endless, of course. Instagram… Podcast interviews… Your own podcast or Youtube channel… LinkedIn… Pinterest… Speaking at live events or as part of online summits… I could list about 1,459 more “channels” through which you could get visible. 

The trick here? Don’t fall into the common trap of believing you must be in all the places. This inevitably leads to spreading yourself too thinly – and then you lose out on the power that is in repetition. And… don’t let all the possibilities overwhelm you and keep you out of action. 

Instead, choose one or two platforms to start, and get very consistent on them. Showing up daily (or at least multiple times per week) over time will get you much further than showing up sporadically in lots of places. Why? Three words, my friends:

Mere Exposure Effect. ←

And, here’s a fun example of it in action (literally!)…  I love seeing it when big brands use product placement in TV shows and movies. 

I’m sure that you’ve noticed it a time or two! Your favorite TV character is driving down the road. The camera zooms out and you can see the logo of the car… Or your kids are watching that big summer movie, and their hero takes a break in between butt kicking sessions – to pop open a clearly-labeled, refreshing beverage. Ahhhhhhh… 

Those TV shows and movies don’t incorporate branded products out of the goodness of their hearts. 🤣  Big companies recognize the value of the Mere Exposure Effect – and pay big bucks for those placements! 

(And, while this type of tactic may be out of the reach of entrepreneurs like us… there is something to be learned here, and we can apply the idea to the microcosms of our own businesses!) 

A note for my advanced entrepreneurs… 

Once you’ve mastered visibility on one or two platforms (and maybe brought in some systems and automation to support that!), you can consider expanding to new places, too. 

Advanced tactics for leveraging repeated visibility (and, by extension, the Mere Exposure Effect) are out there, as well – and can be smart strategies to try. 

Retargeting people who have discovered you on one platform… over on another platform? That’s an example of this more advanced approach to repetition. 

So, say someone finds you organically in a Google search – or on Pinterest. When she hits your site, you can then pixel and re-target her with Facebook or Instagram ads. Reaching the same people at multiple touchpoints creates some of that beautiful repetition. 

And that is so, so powerful. It’s one of the reasons why retargeting ads are one of the highest converting (and lowest cost) strategies – when it comes to paid advertising. 

Putting it all together for your brand. 

So, maybe you’re reading this and celebrating… because you know you’re showing up consistently with clear messages. You know it will be you seeing those Paypal notifications popping up while you’re munching on the leftover turkey sandwich. 😃

Or, maybe you’re feeling like you have some work to do here. And you’re ready now to get consistent and become top-of-mind for your ideal clients – before November! (You totally can. Just start today!) 

Either way, I have something coming that will help you get – and stay – visible. 

My newest course – The Brand Advantage (Part course! Part experience!) will be open for enrollment again – in just a couple of short weeks! It’s designed to facilitate your breakthrough to sharp clarity – FAST.  

In this action-oriented 30 day program, our first order of business will be to create the conditions that make it inevitable for you to succeed. (You will NOT be adding this to your scary course graveyard.) 

Then, we’ll dive in and: 

✔️  Develop the habits… publishing, making offers, and making upgrades… that actually generate sales. (I’ll teach you how to incorporate all three into your schedule.)

✔️  Do the work together to get *crystal clear* on your unique brand identity. 

✔️  Learn how to sneak right inside the brains of your ideal clients (and structure offers that they simply can’t resist.) 

✔️  Master the four types of content you need to draw them in to your orbit – and keep them there. (We’ll craft your content strategy and story vault.) 

✔️  Build your visibility machine – so you can stay consistent with content – even if it’s just you. (…and especially if you’d like your content to work hard for you when you’re not working.)

✔️  Create the lasting memory triggers your brand needs to hit to be memorable and top-of-mind…. (AHEM! The Mere Exposure Effect, People!) 

 

Ready for the game-changing clarity that opens the door to all of this? To finally break out of your confusion rut, make progress in your business, and – frankly, to make bank? 

Amazing! Then join the waitlist here for The Brand Advantage. 

Define Your Brand Masterclass

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