How Many Messages Does It Take…Part 2

In Part 1, we talked about “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie-Roll (R) center of a Tootsie-Pop (R)?”  Indeed, that commercial works on several levels.  The first is the marketing process itself.  It’s been around so long, as well as in its original form, that you know what it’s for when anyone mentions any of the commercial’s script (even to the point of mimicking the owl when he counts, “To-hoo!”).  The second focuses on the message – everyone knows it takes more than three licks to get to the chewy “chocolaty” Tootsie-Roll (R) center.

Realizing that it takes more than three, let’s examine our society’s current notion of “three” repetitions.  For those of you that are parents, do you remember telling your children something three times, and expecting them to remember it – and if not, they received some kind of punishment? For those of you that are teachers, do you remember telling your students something three times, and expecting them to remember it – and if they didn’t, they failed the exam?  Perhaps that mentality is fueled by our National Pastime’s rule of “three strikes, you’re out,” since many businesses and institutions have adopted policies based on three chances.

According to Herbert Krugman, there are only three types of exposures necessary in psychological terms, namely curiosity, recognition and decision.

Today in marketing, however, if you adhere to providing only three chances, chances are you’re not getting your message across.  Consider the following from the August, 2005 edition of “Superintendent’s Only:”

When attempting to initiate change or manage during stressful times, we typically plan and communicate with care. However, simply delivering a key message is not enough. Research on learning shows that new information which will require a change in behavior or thinking must be heard several times before it is absorbed and understood. Communication experts advise that messages intended to stimulate change are not likely to sink in unless they are heard at least six times.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that we can simply repeat a message in the same way and through the same channels to the intended audience. In fact, the wider the variety of communication methods employed, the better. People need to hear the message in formal settings, in informal settings from formal leaders, and from opinion makers. They need to hear it orally and see it in writing. They need examples and opportunities to question and discuss what they are seeing and hearing.

 It would be nice to be able to deliver our message once and assume that people have heard. However, if what we are seeking is real understanding and significant change, we need to deliver our message repeatedly in different ways.

And that was advice from 10 years ago, prior to the iPad (or any other tablet computer) or the iPhone (or any other handheld computer/communication device).  Note the part in bold italics above.  That means AT LEAST six times.  So, how about 7 times?  And how about “70 times 7 times?”

What may be more striking is that this publication is now “non-searchable” on the Internet (that is, it’s either been removed from the Web site it was associated with, or the publication no longer exists).  With more media providing more messages out there, the current thought is that it takes at least 10 to 13 or more exposures to an idea to simply “begin” thinking in a new way.  And, if your research or publication is not searchable on the Internet today, it gives the impression that the research is, at least somewhat, not valid.  Note how that philosophy is a complete 180 degree turn from a position taken by educational entities a decade ago.

Coca-cola’s(R) marketing plan says that every person should be somehow exposed to the brand more than 70 times A DAY. Interestingly, “70 times 7 times” would produce the number of desired exposures in a week.  Here’s an experiment for you: Count how many times you see something or hear something “COKE” during the course of a day; then pick another day outside the school, assume the role of a prospective parent, and note how many times you hear your school’s name mentioned during your errands around town. Is it at least “7” times?

September is right around the corner…which is when you need to start marketing your school to NEXT YEAR’s Kindergarten parents.  Make it your goal for them to hear about your school at least 7 times next month, and, as suggested by the 2nd paragraph in italics earlier in the article, in different ways.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2010-2015 (Original Publication Date: 20050822)