Add the Recency Effect to Your Marketing Toolkit

What did you have for breakfast today? Yesterday? The day before that? Can you list all the breakfasts you’ve eaten, say, in the past two weeks?

I’m guessing that you easily remembered what you ate this morning and perhaps the morning or two before that, but found it increasingly difficult to recall meals the further back in time you went. The breakfast you ate exactly one month ago today? No way.

When people are asked to recall a series of items, they tend to begin with the items they remember best. And those are usually the ones they encountered (or, in the case of our example here, ate) most recently. Psychologists call this phenomenon the recency effect.

Any marketing expert worth his or her salt knows about—and knows how to take advantage of—the recency effect for business purposes. The key to having your message remembered lies in making it the one a client sees most recently. However, that’s easier said than done.

Not all forms of marketing media employ the recency effect with equal effectiveness. Let’s take a look at a few of them one by one.

Short-form social media: Nearly every company maintains accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, and other social media sites. As marketing tools they have their uses, but because of the sheer volume of tweets, status updates, pins, etc., out there any message you send out to your audience quickly gets shoved aside by someone else’s message—which means there’s a good chance yours will be soon forgotten.

Blogs: Blog posts may have a bit more “staying power” in your audience’s minds than most other social media. Because you control the content on your blog, you can make sure that your message is the last (and only) one that appears in that space; therefore it can’t be supplanted by other people’s posts.

But that doesn’t mean blogs lack shortcomings in the attention-getting department. First, you have to get people to visit your blog (no easy task in itself). Second, countless blogs live on the Internet—and odds are yours isn’t the only one people read. So until you have a loyal following of readers who visit your blog regularly because they value the content there, you’ll find it hard to use the recency effect to your advantage with this medium.

E-mail: If you’re like me, no sooner do you clean out your inbox than it fills up again—mostly with stuff that’s quickly addressed either by a rapid response or a one-way trip to the virtual trash can. We are deluged by e-mail to the point that some of us occasionally find it necessary to declare e-mail bankruptcy just to get caught up! People usually think of e-mail as something they deal with and then move on—not as communication they revisit and remember.

Postcards and other one-time hard-copy mailings: When you pull one of these from your mailbox, do you think of it as an effective marketing tool or as something that goes straight into the recycling bin without a second glance? Like most of the population, you’re probably in that second category. Every day, an entire forest’s worth of postcards and mailers are delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. But people either pay no attention to them or barely notice them before their attention is stolen away by another piece of mail in the pile. So marketers who primarily utilize this form of messaging can’t rely on the recency effect to help them out much.

In addition to being crowded messaging venues, all of those communication forms share one huge flaw: anyone who wants to take advantage of them must repeat their messaging frequently. Timing these things appropriately is an art form, because messages that appear too frequently run the risk of being dismissed as annoying. Unfortunately, most marketers who employ those media have lousy timing.

At this point you may be thinking, “I just learned about this amazing concept called the recency effect, and there’s no way I can use it!” Fortunately, one more marketing form remains to be discussed: magazines. Not just any magazines, though. I’m referring specifically to the branded publishing that we at Mamu Media produce.

Marketing research indicates that people tend not to classify magazines as “junk mail” and therefore hold on to them for a while—and share them with others, too. The very format of a magazine commands attention: it’s more tangible than e-mail or tweets, and more physically substantial than a postcard. Combine those characteristics with bold, eye-catching design, and you have something that demands to be noticed even before the cover has been opened.

With informative and engaging content that is relevant to your audience, branded publishing effectively broadcasts your message in a manner that ensures it’s received. Right from the start the recipient sees your name—and your message—on the cover and first few pages. By filling the magazine with useful, meaty content (not ads or fluff pieces!) we increase the likelihood that recipients will read through its articles—and each time they pick up the magazine is another opportunity for them to reengage with your message.

The result? A marketing medium that connects with your audience effectively and repeatedly—dramatically increasing the odds that the recency effect will work in your favor.

At Mamu Media we help our clients stay top of mind by leveraging branded publishing to keep their companies in front of the audiences they’re trying to reach. Our product makes a lasting impression through its physical presence and engaging content, both of which encourage repeat visits to the magazine (and our clients’ messaging). At the same time, however, we’ve fine-tuned the message timing so it’s just right: not too frequently to annoy, yet often enough to stay fresh. When the recipients need a particular service, they’re likely to think of our clients, thanks to the recency effect.

Let’s talk about how we can put the recency effect to work for you, too!

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