What is The Rule of 7?
Have you ever bought anything for the first time from a random call you received at an uncomfortable time? You did not even sign up for this, so you tend to find ways to kindly cut the call or suddenly start to act like you cannot hear and cut the call. Similarly, have you ever bought anything from the first interaction of an advert or post? Have you ever clicked on anything on the first time with an intention beyond simply looking at the attractive content? Yes, this is as much a part of sales as it is a part of marketing. After billions and billions of posts and ads running on a weekly basis for the past 2 decades, marketers have found that adverts have much higher results when they are repeatedly shown to individuals.
How does The Rule of 7 Work and what is the psychology behind it?
Imagine a sneaker brand sends out an ad about a top sneaker that’s on half price offer for a limited time. While scrolling your Instagram feed you happen to come across in your morning commute to work. You see the ad and keep scrolling as you are simply consuming content at that time. Later on during your lunch break you decide to watch a youtube video while having your sandwich and there happens to be an ad shown before or in the middle of your video. And guess what it is the same sneaker brand. You of course skip the ad immediately as you are here to yesterday’s game highlights. From the sneaker brand’s perspective you’ve seen the ad twice and now have two impressions of the ad. The next day you are on your instagram and see the ad again when scrolling through your feed during the commute, but this time you don’t simply scroll away as the ad seems FAMILIAR and you recall seeing it before. You now actually look at the image and read some text talking about the famous sneaker that you can now get for half the price! You become aware but not necessarily have a desire to buy just yet. At lunch time you finish early so you want to kill some time with your favourite game on your phone, just when you finish a level an advert pops that you can only skip after a few seconds, and guess what it is the same sneaker offer! Having seen and skipped past it you continue your game. Later on this day when you are at home, relaxing you go on twitter to catch up to what is trending and you happen to see the same ad or a variation of it. You are now in a more relaxed place, have the time and are quite familiar with the ad and TRUST it more than the first time you saw it. By now you’ve had at least 7 interactions with it. You click on the sneaker offer ad, explore the brand’s website and happen to seriously consider to buy the sneaker. Some individuals, if their current sneaker pair needs upgrading, will probably buy at this stage, others may need a few more interactions of the ad before they make a purchase. And yes, there are those that simply ignore the ad from the start to whatever number of times they see it. But if it costs you very little and you get two to buy in every hundred of these individuals that you have started to show ads to, then this is a very lucrative way to market your product/service.
Why does the Rule of 7 Work and why do we need it?
When you see a post or an ad for the first time it's like a cold call from an insurance company, you hate it and quickly scroll past it. However, as you are retargeted with the same ad several times your subconscious remembers the ad and the brand that’s promoting it. You are taken through this nurture stage that make you aware of the product, trust the brand that is offering it and slowly build a liking to the product and make you think perhaps about ‘how much you need the product that is advertised’ (even if your shoe rack is already full with relatively new pairs of sneakers).
Another reason it works is because, say you have an individual who sees your ad several times but he happens to be in a bad mood, or busy with something else and not have time to click and see the ad properly. Retargeting these individuals at different times on different apps allows the consumer to not only get familiar with the ad but also perhaps show it to them on several occasions later when they are probably at their desk and more likely to make and complete a purchase.
How can marketers instantly improve and make the Rule of 7 work even better?
May brands hire agencies to run their ads for them, however the agencies do not comply with the best practices. On social media platforms for example there is a funnel that can be built to market a product or service. This is basically mapping out a typical journey of a consumer who sees your ads. This funnel is split into 3 stages Top, Middle and Bottom of the Funnel. At the top of the funnel the first stage of the journey the consumer does not know the brand or the product so content relevant to this audience should be run at this stage of the advertising process. This cold audience will either engage with your ad (watch a video, like or comment on a post) or do not engage with it (ignore and keep scrolling). The audience that engages with your ads can be retargeted. These audiences are in the cold audience stage that saw your product and now need to trust your brand to build a desire and consider buying from you. This is now the middle part of the journey when you can nurture the consumer and position your brand to them. At this stage ads with branding and expertise content can be shown. Finally, at the end (bottom) of this journey you will drive ads with call to action content. This is when an awareness is built, a brand is positioned, at least 5-10 interactions of the ad has taken place and you drive action for these nurtured individuals to buy. This process is almost the same for services based businesses who can drive actions to book appointments, meetings and consultations.
Is The Rule of 7 relevant today, what are its challenges?
The Rule of 7 is always going to be relevant as long as our human psyche remains the same. In fact with AI taking over in the next decade between 2020-2030, this process will only become more and more enhanced, smarter and neurologically more advanced.
Indeed the power of 7 has been tried and tested and for many businesses it fewer than 7 or more than 7 interactions that needs to take place before a particular consumer takes action. There are two reasons why the number can be higher than 7. Firstly, if your product has a longer sales cycle or its nature is such that it needs more trust building or nurture then it for sure needs more time and interactions to be built up. Secondly, if you product or service in a highly competitive industry and many brands are advertising to the same audience not only will this process cost a little higher but you will also need to be much smarter about your ads. Being the first to reach the target audience and then make sure to create great content will be a massive factor for success among high competition.
The Rule of 7 in marketing moving to The Rule of 14, or The Rule 23?!
In a world with 100s of millions of content posts and ads consumed per day by ever more brands, consumers have many more alternatives and hence take longer to decide. Brands find themselves in not only promoting to the right audience but making sure they stand out and have a unique funnel strategy to ensure efficient results from their campaigns. In our experience at BMM we have seen the average interaction number slowly increase for those that have purchased from our clients for a variety of products and services ranging from small to larger businesses to non-profits and single campaign projects. Top marketers today claim there needs to be a minimum of 14 interactions, others for marketing e-commerce products claim that the ideal number of interactions has moved to 23 interactions. These can range from seeing your ads on social media, banners on famous websites, emails, during videos, and gaming apps and so on.
The Rule of 7 in a Nutshell
The more interactions with a typical consumer of your product or service the more likely they are going to buy. The Rule of 7 is about showing the ads as often as possible, 7 times or more on average. Repeated interactions allow a marketer the unique opportunity to nurture target audience increase conversion rates.