Frequency vs. Recency

May Blog Posts Frequency vs Recency

Before we weigh in on whether the path of frequency or recency is more important for propelling your brand’s world, I ask that we first come from a new starting place.

Tip #1 – Today, we must recognize that the consumer is in control, so we need to better understand them.

And, that while consumer expectations are on the rise, an approach of constant disruption, is not a good solution.

Okay, that being said, I’ll dip right into frequency. Frequency is simply the amount of times a person sees your message. Some people think that more is better, right? Seems logical to think that frequency builds greater brand awareness, which eventually leads to a boost in sales over time. Well, thanks to tip #1, we need to evolve our thinking around that concept. Here’s an example.

When I think about the frequency game, frustrations with some banks are top of mind. I’d really like Capital One to promise me that if I sent in just one response to their sea of solicitations, they would stop sending me 10 per week. Really, how many pieces of mail do they send before realizing which consumers are never going to take out a credit card with them? Here is where I wish brands paid attention to the measurement of ‘no response’. Even though consumers can’t really expect high relevancy from brands that don’t know who they are, they can expect that brands pay some attention to non-response.

Tip #2 – Brands can get to know someone by their lack of response.

If after 150 mailings over 200 days, there isn’t a response, it’s a fair bet they are not going to respond, so why not give that address a break for 12 months and then try again? Banner ads are the same; how many times do people have to see and not respond to the same banner ad before the brand knows you are not going to click on it?

Yes, frequency can help breed familiarity. Think about the people that you meet online. You might not really know them, but because of the frequency with which they pop up, they start to feel familiar, and over time you naturally begin to feel somewhat invested in them and thus, more open to them if they were to reach out to you. If brands were people, it would work in a similar way, right? But brands must take some care in employing frequency without regard to relevancy.

Tip #3 – Relevancy matters in all forms of marketing.

Consumers are getting accustomed to being told by brands that they care about us—when advertising isn’t relevant, it risks a negative effect.

The growing consumer expectation of ‘relevance’ is far out pacing brands’ ability to deliver on it. The ad tech companies will tell you that isn’t true, but we see some brands are doing it well, while the others that are not evolving, are shooting themselves in the foot.

Now, let’s touch on recency. I imagine recency as being a bit more actively cognitive in nature—it’s a person’s ability to recall something, based on the most recent message. For example, I just met five people, but I can only remember the name of the last person. Or, I’m hungry and driving down the highway, over the last several miles I passed numerous restaurant billboards, but because McDonalds was the most recent, I will go there.

Tip #4 – Targeting based on relevancy helps win in the game of frequency and recency.

Take Dollar Shave Club, Amazon, Zappos, Domino’s—these brands are effectively working the relevancy, frequency, and recency angle. Think about when you’re exploring on Facebook, you’re playing in the world of people, and a few good ads—which are sharply targeted to you—are served up, so relevant and so fresh amongst everything else that they stand out. I’m pretty sure that it was Dollar Shave Club ads on Facebook that got me to sign up.

On the flipside, I would like Citibank and American Express to recognize that I already have a business card from them, and therefore, I don’t actually want another one. Unlike Capital One’s generic machine gun efforts, these two banks actually have access to more personal information about me; so, I’d appreciate it if they used it to communicate with their sales departments.

Continuous solicitation for something I already have makes me doubt my relationship with them. Beyond being annoying, it sends a message that they don’t care about me. It would be like knowing you’ve got customers who are vegetarian, but choosing to bombard them with ads for steakhouses. Not cool.

By Darren (Daz) McColl (@daz_mc), Chief Brand & Marketing Strategy Officer, Global

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn