As an editor and marketer, taking a trip is sometimes the perfect blank slate for observing marketing in its most raw form. I recently spent long hot days walking in the Spanish sun with no idea where I would be sleeping. I was on the Camino de Santiago, a Medieval pilgrimage route that directs the pilgrim to Santiago de Compostella, a city north of Portugal in western Spain. My time spent on the camino would allow for reflection and writing as I had collected interviews from around the world for StartupNation and looked forward to a simplified itinerary of eating, walking, drinking red wine, and sleeping.
While I was here passing thorugh towns I had never visited before, I was unbiased. While this was a fresh experience for me, the locals saw this routine repeat itself daily by the hundreds. The question I found myself asking was "How do these restaurants and hotels differentiate themselves and win the business of the pilgrims?" A few obvious characteristics helped make some destinations popular (e.g. if it was the first eatery in town, had an attractive decor, or a mention in the guide book). However, some places seemed to present no apparent reason for their popularity... aside from the fact that I had seen their signs all morning on my route.
Here's what they did: Advertised through Repetition.
Here is how I broke down my thought process when I would encounter repetitive advertising on the trail:
- First sighting: Huh? What is that? Quick scan of the details and general dismissal.
- Second sighting: I know this sign, I saw it earlier.
- Third sighting: Re-read the sign and think about what it says. Begin counting down the distance.
- Fourth sighting: OK, seriously, what is this place and how much further?
Somewhere in that progression of sightings two things happened in my head:
- I became curious about this place as opposed to just dismissing it as another ad.
- I got this weird feeling of familiarity, like somehow I was "in" on the knowledge of this place's existence.
In his book, The Game, Neil Strauss writes about a phenomenon he observed in picking up women, which was that if you could get them to go with you from the bar you met them at to a second bar, your odds of success increased. This was because it created the illusion that you had known one another for longer than you really had - you had shared an experience together and were now partners in a new place.
This is what I compared my experience with this marketing to; somehow the repetition bred a bias towards selecting whatever was being advertised. Did I actually have any indicators that the food would be better? No. Did I know for certain that I could not find somewhere with more comfortable beds in town? Nope. But I could look at a street filled with the visual noise of dozens of different signs for dozens of different restaurants and feel some small comfort in being able to recognize a familiar face.
How can this be applied outside of a rural footpath in Spain? Think about logical paths (terrestrial or digital) potential customers might take to reach your brand and hit them early. Then again a little later on. Then again.