Let’s say you’ve decided to go workout at the local gym. You pick up one of the free weights in your right hand. You lift it, and curl your arm. You relax it, and put the weight down. Then you leave the gym. Your workout is over.

Not much of a workout, was it?  If that was your routine, even if you did it once a day, how long do you think it would take until you see results?

Then why do many schools send out “a” mailing, and then wonder why it had no effect? Or put up one billboard on a seldom traveled road because it didn’t cost a lot, and wonder why no one calls the school? Maybe the one billboard is close to a well-travelled road where the speed limit is 50 miles per hour. Here’s the conversation in the car – “Hey, there’s a billboard for that Catholic school. Let me write down that number. Honey, can you write that number down since I’m driving?” “Um, I don’t have a pen handy, but the number is 453-3..oh, we passed it. Oh well.”

Hopefully, those interested parents will travel that road again. But what if they went down that road, and when they turned on to their street, there was a lawn sign advertising your school. Then, when they got to their front door, there was a cardboard hanger there announcing the date of your open house with your phone number. The next day, their mailbox holds that mailing you sent.

After those four exposures, you might have that family call the school. But if they’re pre-disposed against your school, it’ll take another ELEVEN exposures just to maybe get them to change their minds.

It used to take about three exposures to something new to do that – of course, that’s when there were only three or four television stations in the average market, and things like cell phones and the Internet didn’t exist. As media outlets expanded and new technologies came into widespread use, that number increased to five, then to seven, and, 10 years ago, the number increased to about nine exposures. With more and more media channels, smartphones, tablet computers, and a new social media network being launched what seems like every day, there’s more and more things that can draw attention away from the message that your school wants to promote in the marketplace.  About 5 years ago, that number went to about 15 exposures.

So, to use a phrase in educational circles, “What does the research say?”

Thomas Smith wrote a guide called Successful Advertising in 1885.[6] The saying he used is still being used today.

The first time people look at any given ad, they don’t even see it.
The second time, they don’t notice it.
The third time, they are aware that it is there.
The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it somewhere before.
The fifth time, they actually read the ad.
The sixth time they thumb their nose at it.
The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with it.
The eighth time, they start to think, “Here’s that confounded ad again.”
The ninth time, they start to wonder if they’re missing out on something.
The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbors if they’ve tried it.
The eleventh time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
The twelfth time, they start to think that it must be a good product.
The thirteenth time, they start to feel the product has value.
The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.
The fifteenth time, they start to yearn for it because they can’t afford to buy it.
The sixteenth time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
The seventeenth time, they make a note to buy the product.
The eighteenth time, they curse their poverty for not allowing them to buy this terrific product.
The nineteenth time, they count their money very carefully.
The twentieth time prospects see the ad, they buy what is offering.

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_frequency, accessed 4.22.2018)

Before taking this at face value, however, it’s important to note what is actually being stated.  The above resource was written in 1885 (over 100 years ago), and that was 20 exposures until the consumer would “buy” the product or service.  Today, it will take about 20 exposures just to “be aware” of the product, service or cause (an important concept for your school as a non-profit organization) and possibly create a slight shift toward openness relative to hearing more about the product, service or cause.

Of course, since “Experience Branding” is the rule of the day (that is, perception is formed by the experience of the product, service or cause by the consumer, and the shared experience within the marketplace creates the brand), that “20” number is an average.  It could take over 100…or it might only take just 1.  Those that take just 1 exposure have mastered “The ‘Whoa’ Factor.”  That’s the kind of thing that happens when you hear about a Tesla.

Also, it’s really not creating a “mindshift,” or changing one’s mindset, when it comes to moving from “exposure” to “customer.”  Changing a mindset can take a lot of effort, and because marketing is education, the parallel is a cognitive one, as well as a familiar one to educators.  You also know that for a student to “get it,” or have an “aha” moment, it might take a while for things to “click” logically.  That connection happens much faster when one considers the affective domain, and emotions are brought into the experience.  That’s the real driving force behind social media, since “Like” is something that causes emotions.  It makes one happy as endorphins are released into the bloodstream.  Conversely, cortisol is released when one becomes angered by a situation, and adrenaline motivates the body to respond.  If more and more marketing exposures make you angry (for some reason), then chances are good that you’re not going to find out more about, let alone “buy,” the product, service or cause, but if just one exposure makes you interested, then repeated exposures are going to create a “gutshift,” since emotions are not of the mind, but are centered in one’s digestive tract.

Further, with more and more voices struggling to be heard, many blend with others to create a cacophony that drowns out messages from those businesses, organizations, and that have been considered to be the market leaders. So what happens? Market leaders spend more money to create more messages, while those that don’t have significant financial resources to do so wonder what to do.

The solution? You need to increase the number of voices presenting a consistent message in the mix within the resources you currently have. In practical terms, this means that your school needs to have “raving fans” – customers (that is, parents of current student, parents of alumni, alumni and community members) who will extol the remarkable qualities about your school on a number of social media platforms. This is the most significant reason why your school needs to be immersed in social media today. You just can’t do it alone from a central point of origin anymore. Your school can produce excellent marketing materials like brochures and waterfall folders, have an engaging and responsive Web site, and use yard signs and door hangers as exposure tools, but the point is that all that stuff is created by your school, and is, more than likely, touting the message that you want to deliver to the marketplace.  To do more, you need to expend, as well as spend, more resources…resources which you may not have at your disposal.

Therefore, because you have to increase the amount of “reps” you message gets in the market, you have to rely on your “raving fans” to be the “fifth element” in your marketing mix, sharing their enthusiasm not only in the marketplace through word of mouth advertising, but also by posting it on social media networks.  Further, this construct takes into consideration the “Voice of the Customer,” which is stronger and more effective than any of the other four constructs within your marketing mix.

About 30 years ago, I worked for a leadership training company. Their training programs were six to twelve weeks long. Each program contained between three and six cassettes (remember those?) with weekly lesson on each side of the cassette. Every weekly lesson was 30 minutes in length, to be listened to once in the morning, and once in the evening (it was suggested that listening be done on the commute to and from work). That means each lesson was listened to 10 times a week. If training meant being exposed to a message 10 times in order for it to begin to take root that long ago, that number has certainly been raised to at least 20 or 25 times a week.  Consider that the next time you send one memo to a parent, or hold one training for your staff, and expect them to remember what you told them to do.

Going back a little further, there was a television show about 50 years ago that had a song which was sung while doing push-ups. Its first line: “Push up every morning – ten times. Not just now and then.”

Of course, we could go way back to the time of Origen and the origins of Lectio Divina, and to the Rule of St. Benedict, who formalized the practice in the Benedictine communities by praying 7 times per day, plus a little after midnight.

But let’s bring it back to today – to the classroom. Do your teachers present the concept of addition on Monday, subtraction on Tuesday, multiplication on Wednesday, division on Thursday and then test students on their understanding on Friday? Spaced repetition is key to learning new concepts, and repeated exposure is necessary to affect the mind to simply start to be open to learning more.  And you’re not just educating the children in your school either.  You’re educating their parents, as well as the community in which your school is located.  That’s your marketplace, and your school is an important part of its fabric.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2009-2019 (Original Publication Date: 20090420)