The Importance of Frequency in Today’s Multi-Channel Marketplace

By: Michael Dorrington, Vice President, RedPlum Local and Personalized Sales
Published Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

The Importance of Frequency in Today’s Multi-Channel Marketplace

It would be nice if we could do things one time and get the results that we wanted. Imagine if we only exercised or ate healthy one time and we were able to look in the mirror and see the best version of ourselves. What if we practiced a sport one time and we could become an Olympic Champion. It would be fantastic, but we know it doesn’t work that way. Advertising is the same. No matter how much we want it to be, advertising is not a one-shot proposition – frequency is a key success factor. So, let’s take a look at the importance of frequency.

The inherent value of frequency would seem to be pretty obvious. It takes time for consumers to react to your brand and messaging. The issue is that advertisers have limited budgets and time to plan how to use those dollars. But does every unique channel need to have its own frequency or do multiple channels working together constitute frequency? This is a tough question that requires an answer in order for you to get the most out of your advertising efforts.

We are going to start by defining our concept of frequency and end with a base from which you can begin to determine the frequency of advertising needed for your business.

What is Frequency?
For our purposes today, I am defining “frequency” in two ways: 

1. As the number of times an advertising message in a specific channel is seen by potential customers; and
2. As multiple channels working together creating a holistic media picture.

In order to get your bearing on this issue, a starting point is needed to develop the most effective advertising plan using frequency. The best place to begin is always with your individual business goals. Everything you do should be relative to these goals. This will lead you to the right strategy. 

Long-term business goals: 
For long-term goals, frequency can be built over time and at a pace that works for your business. This will allow you to test and determine the right channels and messaging to reach and activate your desired audience.

Short-term business goals: 
For short-term goals, you need to move quickly and reach your target audience as often as budget will allow.

How Can You Determine Frequency?
To determine the best strategy for frequency of your advertising message, keep some factors in mind and ask yourself these questions:

- Current loyalty – Do you have a strong following in the market today?
- How established is your brand? – Do a large number of consumers already know who you are and
   what you represent?
- Purchase cycle – How often are consumers in-market for your product or service?
- Competitive environment – How active are your competitors in the market?
- Target audience – Do you know who is most likely to use or want to use your products or services?

The above items play a major role in determining your overall frequency strategy. For example, if your brand is considered “well established,” with a loyal following and light competitive activity, you would not need to run your campaign at a high rate of frequency. Compare this to a brand that’s not as well established – with a lackluster following and/or heavy competition. In this case higher frequency would be beneficial to help build awareness and blunt the competition. While it may seem obvious, many marketers fail to understand this and just go with their gut when determining the frequency of an ad campaign.

Frequency: The Rule of 271
Now, I’d like to share a great marketing principle that was created by J. Conrad Levinson which I use to guide clients. In his book, Guerilla Marketing, he called it The Rule of 27, which was developed to enhance marketers’ understanding of frequency in their messaging.

According to Levinson, “A marketing message must penetrate the mind of a prospect a total of nine times before that prospect becomes a customer, and your message gets missed or ignored two out of three times. Well, despite our best marketing efforts, people miss two out of every three messages! Too much clutter. Do the math: Your target audience misses two out of three of your messages, but you need to connect with them nine times. So, to really connect, you need to send your message 27 times!”

Advertisers Win with Frequency
Earlier we asked the question: Does every unique channel need to have its own frequency or do multiple channels working together constitute frequency? The truth is, you need to consider the unique channels in your plan as well as the total marketing picture when developing your strategy around frequency. In my own experience, I preach frequency and it works out for clients.

Here is a quick example from collective automotive clients in the California market of how frequency can have a positive impact. The media channels utilized were print, digital and personalized:

- New car/truck sales in California between January and May of 2016 grew 2.9 percent versus prior year;
- Dealers that ran at least once were up 8.5 percent;
- Those that ran 6-plus times were up 14.5 percent; and
- Those that ran 10-plus times were up 17.7 percent.

These clients believe in the power of high frequency, multi-channel advertising and it's paying off big-time to help them realize their business goals.

In the end – frequency wins!

1Guerilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small; by Jay Conrad Levinson, May 22, 2007