By Tony Attwood, Creative Director, Schools.co.uk
If you are a regular reader of my occasional jottings on the topic of advertising to teachers you might have picked up on the idea that one should undertake regular advertising, and in so doing, regularly change the text of that advertising.
That doesn’t mean one needs a totally new advertisement each time but rather that your advertising will perform best if it is not based around re-running the same advertisement as that which was sent out last time.
Re-running adverts can work with TV and radio advertising because the audience can’t click delete (at least not if they want to watch or hear the rest of the programme!) But with email advertising, that delete button is always available. And with the potential for readers to think, “Seen this before”, we always need a way to keep readers reading.
In fact, running exactly the same advert over and over not only leads to diminishing returns, it also leads to the “instant delete syndrome” in which the recipient expects you just to be repeating yourself, and so just hits delete without even bothering to read.
For this reason, I always urge companies that create their own email advertising, to change (at the very least), the subject line, headline, and the opening and final paragraphs on every advert, to avoid each new email looking to the reader as if it is the same as the one before.
And yet, there’s an oddity… For, on the other hand, repetition can be a really great way of enhancing sales!
For, as psychologists have increasingly shown through the growing number of investigations into the spread of “fake news,” repetition is a powerful tool when it comes to getting people to believe in your message. Indeed, in psychology, the process even has its own name: “Truth by repetition”. As indeed Emma L Barratt wrote in an article for the British Psychological Society Research Digest recently, “Repetition can make even the most bizarre claims seem more true.”
Now of course I am not in any way wanting to encourage you to make “the most bizarre claims” in your promotions – far from it. But the investigations into the speed at which palpably untrue tales can spread and be believed shows us that if you want someone to take note of your claim and believe it, some repetition is actually essential.
And it turns out that there is a very good reason why repetition does help people believe. Which is that each time we hear the same story, it is processed more rapidly by the brain.
The fact is, because of the need for us to learn from experience, the brain has evolved to make it easier and faster to process information that we have heard or experienced before.
That information might be true (as in “big animals that growl are liable to hurt us”) or untrue, (as in “old women living on their own are probably witches and they need to be burned”). But it gets believed because it is repeated.
Now the reason we believe stories we are told quite often is evolutionary. If primitive mankind heard the roar of a predator and subsequently experienced the arrival of a large omnivore, learning that one should quickly get out of the way of a noisy beast was rather valuable. The first time around we might not really move. But if we get away with that, chances are that second time we back away. Then if we are still alive, by the third time this happens at the first sound, we tend to move as fast as possible.
In short, the more we see, hear or feel anything associated with something negative, the more we learn to avoid it. The same is true with the positives in life. One choc-ice when I was a child and I was hooked forevermore.
Thus the more one hears statements, the easier they are to process, and the more likely they are to be believed. What’s more if there is just a small level of variation in each new presentation of the message, that too can enhance belief. It is how we survive as a species, and this is why repetitive but slightly varied advertising works so well.
So let’s imagine that you have a product which really does dramatically increase the speed at which students can learn French conversational phrases.
You might then put out an advertisement, and see what happens. And what might happen could well be a reasonable number of sales. So you might then repeat the advert, but then sales decline, and on a third attempt the sales almost dry up completely. Disappointed, you stop advertising.
However repeating the advertising again but incorporating a slight variation each time at the start of the advertisement, can reduce or even remove that rapid decline in subsequent response rates.
And this can be particularly useful because teachers tend to be quite habitual in the way they teach, and in the resources they use. Therefore, trying to get them to experiment with a product or service they have not used before can be difficult.
But the regular repetition of the promotion, with variations (especially in terms of the subject line, headline and opening paragraph) really can convince teachers who were not convinced before, to try the product or service.
In tests undertaken by psychologists, well over half the people tested became more positive about a product, service or concept through repetition of the benefit claims. True, around a quarter became more negative in their thinking – which might seem a disadvantage of the process, except this seems to happen primarily among those who were never going to buy or believe anyway – so nothing is lost.
In short, the people you convert through this approach are those who were interested first time, but simply didn’t buy.
Better still, research has shown that the number of repetitions needed to have an effect is very low – even with highly implausible statements. Although of course I am not suggesting that you should be making highly implausible statements – but this finding does explain why some extremely bizarre views become accepted since Facebook gave advertisers the chance to become wilder and wilder.
More positively however, it was to accommodate these findings that the idea of the 4 Email Programme from schools.co.uk was first set up. It was to encourage companies advertising with us to keep promoting but with variant headlines and subject lines and minor changes to the opening text.
If you would like to work with us on this, we’re happy to offer ideas. Simply book into a 4 Email programme and supply us with your first email. Then when you are ready to send out the second email, simply ask if we can make a few adjustments to make full use of the “Repetition effect”. We’ll supply slightly amended copy for your second advert to the same teachers as before, completely free of charge.
Four emails to secondary schools cost £215 plus VAT in total – and you can ask for them to be run whenever you wish. Each can go to a different group of teachers, or to the same teacher (where you can make use of our offer) – it is entirely up to you.
The same service to primary schools costs £289 plus VAT.
For any enquiries please do call 01604 880 927 or email Stephen@schools.co.uk