Does the 'Rule of Seven' Still Apply in Today’s Digital Advertising Ecosystem?

The well-known marketing “Rule of Seven” is based on the idea that a potential customer needs to be exposed to a company’s messaging at least seven times before taking a desired action (they enroll, sign-up, purchase, or try out a product or service). The psychology behind the rule focuses on repetitive interactions between a prospect and the brand, ones that can keep the brand front of mind, generate awareness, and facilitate the sales conversion process.

The Rule of Seven, once a benchmark for marketing excellence, deserves a proper reevaluation for today’s digital age.

Why is this?

Some marketers still believe that a brand message should be shared in as many different ways as possible – even digitally. However, while the number of advertisements we see each day has increased, consumers have gotten better at tuning them out. In 2007, research firm, Yankelovich, estimated that an average person saw up to 5,000 ads each day. In 2021, it is estimated that the average person encounters between 6,000 to 10,000 ads each day - nearly double the amount of exposure in 2007.

Do more digital impressions = more conversions?

The number of generic advertisements consumers are exposed to and ignore continues to grow, yet strategic personalized advertisements are still successful. Personalization of advertisements can allow a brand to effectively target individuals who are more likely to convert than simply plastering messaging around the internet indiscriminately.

For example, if a local family-run grocery store wanted to advertise their new Memphis, Tennessee location, it wouldn’t make sense for them to put billboards up in Los Angeles just because more people might see it there. Instead, we’d advise them to target Memphis, similar surrounding towns and cities, and even advertise where their current store is located to get their message to the right people.

This idea applies digitally, too. If the grocery store targets websites with the most traffic, they will surely get a high number of impressions. But, by being more meticulous about the type of website traffic they target, they will see a higher number of click-throughs or engagements with their offerings.

What if I’m advertising in an already saturated market?

Don’t be discouraged! If the prospects are exposed to ads from a competing company, they are likely to retain at least the idea of the product or service being sold, even if they do not retain the company or product’s name. That may not sound like a good thing, especially if a competitor has a higher market share than your company, but it can actually work in your favor.

If your brand is trying to infiltrate an already saturated market, you may not need to spend budget on educating the consumer about your product – your competition is already doing that. You can focus your spend on product differentiation and superiority to “piggy-back” on the work your competitor has done to promote your similar product.

For example, if your company wanted to advertise a wireless iPhone charger, you wouldn’t need to explain that it could charge a phone. You could focus on benefits such as the charging speed, size of the charger, or any other product differentiation because consumers have already been educated on how chargers work.

To take this tactic even further, use personalization in your ads. By personalizing your advertisements, potential customers are much more likely to remember your brand over the others – no matter how many competitors are promoting a similar product.

How many digital impressions should we aim for?

So where does that leave us with the Rule of Seven? As you may have expected, there’s still no one-size-fits-all solution to advertising. However, we can safely say that seven is no longer the magic number in the world of digital.

Instead of focusing on meeting a quota of digital touchpoints, here are seven digital marketing best practices to guide your advertising strategy. These won’t become outdated any time soon.

  1. Research your competitor’s marketing efforts.

Using tools like the transparency feature on a competitor’s public Facebook pages will give you insights into what kind of ads they run. While you cannot see budget, audience, or ad specifics, you can see what messaging and images they’ve used to advertise on social media.  

More on Competitive Analysis: [Blog] Everything You Need to Know about Conquest Advertising

  1. Identify trends within your current audience.

Use metrics from current sales or marketing campaigns to identify other products, interests, or services your target audience is interested in. Does it make sense for you to cross-sell new products to them or focus your efforts on finding new audiences? 

More on Mid-Funnel Tactics: [Blog] Dynamic Product Recommendations

  1. Start small, then grow.

Test into smaller niche audiences to find out where your product/brand fits before committing your full ad spend. Once you’ve found the right audience you can dedicate more of your budget to nurturing it. Eventually, you will be able to build out a look-alike audience that can increase your potential reach.

More on Audience Targeting: [Blog] Supercharge Your Paid Ads with 5 Proven Targeting Tactics

  1. Keep ads short, simple, and to the point.

Cut through the noise online by clearly showing what your product or company offers and why the potential consumer needs it.

  1. But make sure the creative is still engaging.

Different platforms call for different methods of marketing. A static image might be great for Facebook, but video content could blow away the competition on Snapchat. It’s all about trying new things and not just re-posting the same creative on multiple channels or platforms without adaptation.

More on Creative: [Blog] How to Create Ads that Pack a Punch

  1. Adapt and optimize.

Not all digital campaigns are immediately successful, but digital gives you the freedom to modify them to respond to audience behavior. Don’t just set it and forget it, continue to look at the metrics and make decisions based on the audience interactions.

More on Campaign Optimizations: [Blog] Product Tips: Ad Targeting Strategies

  1. Word-of-mouth is key.

It’s not enough for a potential customer to just see the branding, company messaging, or product, word-of-mouth and experiential marketing can take your advertising to the next level. Build excitement and demand by showing another person enjoying using the product, whether influencer or just a happy customer.

More on Influencer: [Blog] Best Practices for an Irresistible Influencer Campaign

Key Takeaway:

Rather than bombarding prospects with the same advertisement seven times, consider diversifying the channels and formats in which your product is seen. Hone in on audience-specific advertisement placements in order to have the best results and get creative with your messaging. The more personalized an ad feels, the more attractive the product or brand seems. The best digital ads don’t feel like ads, they feel like advice from a close friend nudging you toward making a purchase.

Jack Fevurly
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