Leading Edge / Winter 2003
Ad Nauseam

Repetition in advertising confusing consumer memory


Everybody is aware of the pink bunny charged by batteries that keep going and going – but are the batteries Energizer or Duracell? Contrary to popular marketing belief, repetition in advertising does not always improve consumer memory for brand claims. “Instead, it can cause consumers to confuse a brand with its competitors, especially in a market where brands offer similar product benefits,” says Sharmistha Law, a marketing professor at U of T at Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management. Law examined students’ ability to remember slogans and match slogans to brands. On a mock Web site, students viewed 20 ads with real brand names but fictitious slogans. Ten ads appeared once; the other 10 appeared three times. Students viewed the ads under the guise of evaluating the Web site (the banner ads were displayed as the Web page was loading). Law found that ad repetition was actually a disadvantage – as the number of times the ad was viewed increased from one to three, the proportion of mismatches between brand names and slogans increased from 38 to 50 per cent.


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