Familiarity creates favorability

… and how you can harness this for your brand.

Rewind a few decades. You already know the story. Pepsi discovered that blind taste tests showed a preference over Coca Cola. Coca Cola responded by changing the formula and – more crucially, as it turned out – the brand and its communications. It had the opposite effect they were expecting and there was outcry from Coca Cola lovers. Coca Cola discovered that people chose Coca Cola because they were more familiar with the Coca Cola brand. And, because they were more familiar with it, they displayed greater favorability towards it when making a choice. A great case study highlighting the idea that comms can trump demonstrable product performance.

The upshot is that familiarity breeds favorability. Psychologists call it the ‘Mere Exposure Effect’ and it’s founded in 3 principles: 

  1. Human brains are lazy – so the easier something is to understand the more likely your brain is to believe or trust it 
  2. Once our brains understand something – we want other things to fit the mould… yep, because our brains are lazy.
  3. Humans are creatures of habit. It’s all about efficiency and ease of processing. If a particular pattern of behaviour seems to fit the situation then that’s what we’re more likely choose. 

Applied to marketing we know that when someone is familiar with your brand, they are more likely to recommend you, buy from you or invest in you. Great news.

So how can we harness this knowledge for building our brands?

  1. Use familiar language. When re-branding, choose brand names and taglines with easily recognised or higher frequency words. These will be more easily processed as they’re more familiar to your customers and therefore more memorable. 
  2. Get your brand out there. Maximise your customer’s exposure to your brand before they get to decision making. Essentially get your brand story out there. The more opportunities customers have to see your brand, across a variety of media, the better (social media, online, presentations, events, ads, in the office etc.)
  3. Make it simple. Simplicity feels familiar. It’s easier for us to process (and as we found out, human brains are lazy).
  4. Keep it consistent.  Using the same phrases, language and visual identity consistently across your communications will help increase awareness of your brand and hopefully build the desired brand associations (so long as their experience matches what you’re promising – but that’s another story). 

In the B2B world all this remains as true as in B2C. If you want to find out more about how we can build favorability with your brand, get in touch.

If you want to read up on The Mere Exposure Effect and how familiarity creates favorability look out for Robert Zajonc (studies from 1960 – 1980s)