Repetition Helps and Hurts

By Jim Stovall

The tasks we repeat are the tasks we master.  The thoughts we review are the thoughts we remember.  Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Practice makes consistent.  Only perfect practice will make a perfect performance.

I have spoken in many arena events with thousands of people in attendance.  It is interesting to observe when the event organizers conduct a brief experiment.  An announcer will get onstage and quote the first half of an advertising slogan that hasn’t been used in decades.  Without hesitation, thousands of people in unison will recite the second half of that obsolete and outdated slogan.

Cigarettes have not been advertised on broadcast TV or radio since the 1960s; however, when the announcer at the arena event says, “Winston tastes good…”, the entire audience recites, “…like a cigarette should.”  While I’m glad that cigarette advertising has been outlawed, and future generations won’t be exposed to that harmful habit in the same way many of us were, it is important to realize that the slogan has been deposited into our collective consciousness in a way that it can be recalled by the masses instantly.

It’s not memorable because we care about cigarettes or like the ad that ran years ago.  It’s memorable because the message was repeated countless times.

I’ve heard the same announcer simply mention the first ingredient listed in a McDonald’s commercial by saying, “Two all-beef patties....”  Without hesitation, 10,000 people recite in unison, “special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.”

You may not like Big Macs and may not have had one in years.  That particular ad hasn’t run on TV or radio in several decades, but because of the repetitive nature of the advertising campaign, we all know it immediately.

While repetition in delivering your message is important, there is a type of repetition in the digital age that is counterproductive.  If I receive one email from a person or organization, I’m likely to give it some of my attention.  If I receive two or three of them, I instantly know it is part of a bulk email blast, and I don’t have to pay attention to it.  If I get an envelope in my mailbox addressed to me with some type of offer or incentive, I may review it for a moment; but if I get two or three duplicates of the same mailing in my box at the same time, I realize it’s only a mass mailing, and I don’t have to pay attention to it.

If you’re going to use the power of repetition, use it in a way that benefits your message, not in a way your message becomes marginalized.

As you go through your day today, remember:  Repetition can make you memorable or annoying in the eyes of those you want to reach.

Today’s the day!

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