Marketing Messages: Be Familiar and Be Remembered

marketing message be familiar

We are bombarded by thousands of marketing messages every day – to survive the daily onslaught of information we selectively process and recall just a handful.  It’s estimated that of the thousands of messages we see and hear on a daily basis, we remember just four.[1] For content marketers, that’s a huge wall of noise that separates you from your target buyers. Breaking through that wall takes skill.

Many marketing books and blogs encourage us to “be unique!” and “stand out!” to get noticed. Well, that may be true – but there’s a difference between getting noticed and being remembered. In order to have your target buyers remember marketing messages you need to be familiar – not unique!

We find it easier to remember things that have a sense of “pastness”– something we feel we’ve experienced before.

In a well-known experiment, the names of twenty famous people are read aloud to a group together with the names of twenty unfamiliar. The group is then asked to recall as many names as possible.  Predictably, people recall more names from the famous list than from the non-famous. The famous names give the experience of familiarity – and familiarity evokes a feeling of “pastness” or prior experience[2].

marketing messages

I’ve done a similar exercise with my clients. I show a dazzling picture of Times Square in New York for just seven seconds. The shot is taken at nighttime and it contains more than 150 marketing messages and company logos. I then ask the audience to recall as many messages as possible. Most people remember just a few and they are the messages and images most familiar to them.

Familiarity is an essential tool to engage your audience. Here’s an example. We were recently creating a lead-generation program for a client and fresh, new content was a key component of the program. The client provided data center disaster recovery services and wanted to engage with data center managers.

We started our research in the client’s customer service department by asking the question “Based on the support calls you receive, what’s the biggest frustration faced by data center managers?”

To my surprise, receiving a call in the middle of the night was not top – rather being interrupted at weekends and holidays when they were with family or friends was the most frustrating. This was a painfully familiar experience for the managers.

So, we started our content piece with the words:

“It’s five o’clock just before a holiday weekend. Just as you pull into your driveway, the phone rings, you’re told the data center servers have crashed …”

It certainly got their attention – not for being unique – but for being familiar.

Learn more about building perfectly pitched marketing messages. Contact us.



[1] On any given day, the average customer will be exposed

to 2,904 media messages, will pay attention to 52 and will positively remember only four (SuperProfile 2010).

[2] Daniel Kahneman “Thinking Fast and Slow”

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