Build awareness through message frequency

Can you recite your address? Your Social Security number? Your driver’s license number? The first two are easy, but the third may be a challenge. Why? Frequency. The more often someone is exposed to information, the more likely they are to remember it. The same is true with advertising—frequency builds awareness.

The challenge of remembering

Researcher Hermann Ebbinghaus demonstrated that within seven days, people forget 75% of new information they learn. After 30 days, 95% is forgotten.

The curve of forgetfulness1


  • Within four weeks, people forget 95% of new information they learn.1
  • Repeated exposure to information (frequency) increases retention of that information.1
  • Generally, people need to see an advertising message from three to 11 times to remember it.2
  • Frequency is the key to building awareness.

The importance of frequency

Ebbinghaus also demonstrated that, as exposure to information is repeated on successive days, the number of new exposures needed for relearning decreases and the rate of retention increases.

The curve of retention1

Reach and frequency

Is the goal of your marketing to simply talk to people, or to talk to them often enough to get them to do something? That’s a question of reach vs. frequency. If you want people to remember your product or service, remember that frequency is the key to building awareness.

1 McDonald, C. (1996). Advertising Reach and Frequency (Ebbinghaus, H., Contrib.). Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Business Books. 

2 Murray, G. & Jenkins, R. (1992, May/June). The Concept of Effective Reach in Advertising. Journal of Advertising Research, 32,3:34-42.