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How to Leverage the “Frequency of Three”

Updated: Nov 29

So picture this… You are sitting at a window seat at your favorite cafe with a good friend discussing things of great importance.


You have just ordered a lovely flavored iced tea when a well-dressed woman walks by and waves.


You continue chatting and pay little mind to this person.


You have just made it to salad when the same woman again passes by and waves.


You ask your lunch companion…do you know that well-dressed woman who is waving at us?


Then it is time for the main course and once again she is walking by and waving. This time you get up—walk out of the restaurant, and ask—who are you, and why do you keep waving at me?


I was first told this story many years ago to explain why when hearing a commercial message you have to see/hear it three times to act.


The first time you barely hear/see it

The second time you note it

The third time you respond


Test yourself—How many times do you think you have heard or seen:

  • 15 minutes could save 15% or more on car insurance.

  • Got milk? (used for 21 years, starting in 1993)

  • Just do it. (used for over 26 years, starting in 1988)

Research proves messages are more effective when repeated.


Repeat It, Believe It

Studies suggest that repeated statements are perceived as more truthful than statements made less frequently, “presumably because repetition imbues the statement with familiarity.” In simple terms: frequency leads to familiarity, and familiarity leads to trust.


So not only do consumers (potential donors and volunteers) remember a statement that gets repeated, they are more likely to believe it, and think it is the popular opinion.


So by now, many of you are afraid that this is impossible for your organization and saying ‘my organization is too small to reach that kind of awareness through repetition’.


No one said all your frequency eggs need to go in one basket … Your messaging can be repeated on many platforms.

  1. Within email blasts

  2. In your brochures

  3. At every event, through signage etc.

  4. Through social media

  5. Within your email signature

  6. Even on your phone system’s hold message

Reshaping Your Strategy

Use fewer messages, slogans, and crazy names that someone thought was cool. Sometimes cool ideas are clever to those within the organization and meaningless to those on the outside. Your programs may need different names for grant applications - but they are all working towards fulfilling your mission…and the mission is what you need to be sharing.


This does not mean you don’t promote events, or special initiatives - but stick to one set of words to describe your work.


Remember to limit the number of messages you try to communicate through marketing. If repetition fosters both awareness and trust, you’ll do better working with a shorter list of messages communicated more frequently than the long laundry list of messages many marketers try to work with.


Beware of Boredom. If you’re doing it right — saying the same thing over and over — you will get bored of hearing yourself speak long before your message sinks in with consumers.


How do you bring those “same” repeated words to life?


Imagery…aka really cool photography. If a picture says a thousand words, then paint away.

Use original photography (or stock if necessary) to bring your words to life.


Here is a great example by the Heart Association for their GO RED initiative. The Go Red is in every ad- but, but the imagery and positioning are a bit different each year.





Marketing is both an art and a science…The art side is all the creative ways you tell the story the same way only differently. The science who is using data to decide who to target the message too.

And remember the theory of Frequency of 3+ !


Looking for Marketing Training for your nonprofit? Tactics a for great Marketing Campaigns & The Tools to get you to the next step.


Reach out today to Team Kat & Mouse. We are consultants whose only goal is your success.



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