The Product Branding Surrounding Our Personal Spaces
Before we get into explaining the Mere Exposure Effect on social media, think about the personal spaces that surround your daily life. Think about the spaces around your home, office and maybe even your vehicle, and make an inventory of the brands and products you’ve purchased, and most importantly, those brands and products you routinely purchase. What are you seeing? Catching your eye is possibly your favorite brand of clothes that dominates your wardrobe which is presently strewn throughout your bedroom. Maybe it’s the brand of shampoo in your shower or the box of cereal you grab nearly every morning to start your day. If you’re like me, your car is an embarrassing collection of empty wrappers, bottles, and cans that not only provide evidence of not having the time to clean but provide a snapshot of a daily purchasing routine.
The question is not which brands made your inventory list, but which of these brands have you engaged in some fashion on social media? Have you liked their Facebook page and find that you routinely see their posts in your activity stream? How often have you liked or shared one of their posts? Are you following any of these brands on Twitter? Can you recall the last time you saw one of their tweets? Have you ever retweeted them? How often have you liked one of their photos on Instagram or repined them on Pinterest?
Was your brand loyalty to all the products in your personal spaces due to them being superior products when compared to their competitors, or is it possible that repeated exposure to the branding of these products on social media contributed to you favoring these brands when faced with a purchase decision?
The Mere Exposure Effect on Social Media
I am referring to a long-known social phenomenon that has been the subject of decades and decades of research known as the Mere Exposure Effect. Discovered by social psychologist, Robert Zajonc in 1968, the Mere Exposure Effect states that when people are repeatedly exposed to something, they will develop a preference to it over time. In other words, the more familiar people are with something, the more they tend to like it.
We have seen its relevance in traditional advertising with television commercials, print media, and billboards which has always been motivated by the number of consumer eyeballs on a brand and its associated products. The simple act of repetition is not to annoy consumers, but just the opposite. Marketers produce branding campaigns solely to familiarize consumers with their products. Through the art of repeated exposures, consumers will be more likely to have positive feelings toward their brand and will be more apt to consider their product for purchase. While a prospective customer may not initially make the decision to purchase a product based on a particular piece of advertising, literally viewing the same branded content over and over might push that consumer in favor of your brand over another at that most important point of selection.
While the marketing tactics might differ with regards to how branded content is received by consumers via social media advertising vs. traditional advertising, is there really any fundamental difference in the role of the Mere Exposure Effect on social media? Might seeing a particular brand in any of your social media streams repeatedly over time influence your attraction to that brand and thereby increase the likelihood of purchase? With the right social media marketing strategy and approach to social media branding, any brand can take advantage of this visual phenomenon.
Brands and Consumer Loyalty: Are We Dating Brands We Are Familiar With?
The Mere Exposure Effect on social media can play an important role in understanding why consumers are attracted to one brand over another or why some consumers have such an overwhelming love for the brands they buy. This relationship between a brand and a consumer might be best explained by a video experiment conducted by British television broadcaster, Channel 4, in which they tested the Mere Exposure Effect and its possible effect on human attraction.
In this experiment, five couples were asked to decide which photo they preferred between two portrait photos of themselves and two of their partner. The twist in this experiment is that each picture was exactly the same, except one was a flipped image of the other.
In other words, when each participant was asked to choose which photo they preferred of themselves, one photo represented the image they had become accustomed to as the reflection they see every day in the mirror, and the other was the reversed image that is viewed by the world. For each of their partners, one image would be from the viewpoint they were used to, whereas the flipped image was not. Would the participants in this experiment be influenced by familiarity and support the theory of the Mere Exposure Effect or would they actually prefer the foreign image?
Not surprisingly, this fun experiment appeared to support the theory that mere exposure to an image somehow influences our preference for it. Out of the ten total participants, 60% preferred their own mirrored image over the unfamiliar non-mirrored one, whereas when asked to select the preferred image of their partner, an astounding 90% preferred the familiar non-mirrored image over the mirrored one, since in both cases, the preferred image was the point of view they had become accustomed to over time.
Does the science of attraction work in much the same way for our brand relationships as it does for our personal relationships? Do we love our brands merely because of repeated exposure to them? Understanding consumer purchasing attitudes and behavior is a complex science needing much more than a single theory of exposure being the sole explanation for everything. However, it does make you think twice about why you reach for one product over another at the grocery store. What is the basis of your preference? Can you remember the last time you were exposed to the branding of this product?
If you are interested in learning more about the Mere Exposure Effect on social media, we encourage you to reach out to our social media agency, ImagiBrand, where we will work closely with you on developing your brand story and providing daily social media management services to make sure your consumers are continually exposed to your brand (and hopefully like it more as a result).
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