If you listen to the radio in the summer, you’ve probably noticed how four songs always seem to be playing on a permanent loop. It’s like listening to campaign ads in a swing state — you can’t escape. That kind of repetition is key to creating a catchy tune, and it doesn’t matter how cynical you are. When you hear a song like OMI’s “Cheerleader” played over and over and over, it’s going to get stuck in your head. Before you know it, you’ll be belting out the lyrics at karaoke.
What’s going on here is a psychological phenomenon known as the familiarity principle: we gravitate towards what we know, so the more you come into contact with something, the more you prefer it over other things. In advertising, the familiarity principle usually translates to bombarding customers with endless images of their products and logos. But relentless product placement has become so common place that not only has every square inch of available space been covered in ads, but we’re all desensitized to and enraged by them.
To counter this over-saturation, Kristen Craft, the director of business development at Wistia, revised the familiarity principle for startups: instead of burying your customers in pop-ups, emails, and ads, focus on video — a medium with a more lasting impact.
Video lets you do more than just share information about a product: you can immerse viewers in an inspiring narrative about how your business came to be, and its potential. Video is the most efficient way to form a large-scale human connection — you get to make eye contact and speak face-to-face with an infinite number of people, without additional cost. If you’re not using video that taps into the familiarity principle, you’re missing out on conversions that could make your business what you dreamed it would be. Here are three strategies for using the familiarity principle that show your product in a remarkable light and boost sales.
Get up close and personal.
Don’t just talk at people. Videos that force the viewer to just observe a process or watch words appear on their screen aren’t going to attract the numbers you want. The familiarity principle shows that using tactics to draw people in and connect with what they already know (and like) will make them more likely to stay on your site for more details.
TPT is a physical training company that helps people get fit through play. The video shows a playground while small children play, then moves to a gym where customers are doing similar movements and games, as adults.
The familiarity principle comes into play because the video on TPT’s home page reminds us of something we love — the freedom and happiness of games, and having fun with others when you’re young. The use of “shaky cam” as the boy runs drops you in the game, so you’ll experience that old, familiar sense of playing. The video paints a scene that you want to stay in for a while.
It makes you reminisce about something you know well — having fun as a child, and then explains how TPT can bring back that joy in a new way. It doesn’t just say, “you miss playing. Come here and play!” instead, it reminds you that your childlike perspective is long gone. Once the audience is bereft, the video offers a solution: TPT! It’s the remedy for an ache most of us had forgotten about.
We’re flawed and that’s great.
Humor serves the familiarity principle, because laughter releases hormones that give you a natural high and a feeling of closeness to the source of the laughter. If your business is quirky or has a sense of humor people can relate to, then use it.
Poopourri is an air freshener that creates a film layer for toilet odor-control. The video consists of a seemingly upper-class woman who makes scandalous innuendos about her bowel movements, before launching into a music video all about various public situations where people are embarrassed to use the restroom.
Here, humor triggers the familiarity principle and overcomes discomfort about what could otherwise be an embarrassing topic. Instead, it disarms you with laughter, then lets the viewer in on an empowering secret. We are familiar with the activity and the anxiety, so the relief of talking about the secret makes the product seem like a life-saver.
It’s all for you.
A video that exhibits pro-social behavior uses the familiarity principle while at the same time giving the viewer something of value. Creating a video that’s a service in itself by offering immediately useful knowledge inspires trust, interest, and an eagerness for more.
They’re using the familiarity principle by giving the viewer a positive association with the ad and giving a great gift: a free experience. The experience seems to be solely for the viewer’s benefit: they can immediately see how they’ll use the tip (they may even run to experiment with their measuring cups) and who they’re going to share it with, or they’ll feel a pleasant smugness because they know already know all the kitchen hacks.
The positive association make the videos a welcome break, where you get bite-size tips that will make your food last longer, and impress friends and family. That’s the familiarity principle at its best: you look forward to the ads. You actually want to see more of them — and because of that, you get more attached to the brand.
Show, don’t sell.
What these videos have in common is that they aren’t pushing the product down the audience’s throat. The familiarity effect requires focusing on the connection between you and the customer, and getting the most value or excitement out of watching the video itself. That’s how you become a company that customers today crave to do business with.
With just the time it takes to put together one video, you can recreate a powerful association of openness and honesty with your company for countless viewers. The point of these videos is not to tell them, “buy our product now — it’s good!” though you certainly hope they will. It’s suggesting that they need to satisfy their curiosity about you, that maybe they’ll be better off for knowing you. Try putting all of that in a pop-up, and get back to me.
Author: ellard capiral
Ellard is the Founder and CEO of AdMov Philippines. He is passionate with technology and startups. Always on the look-out for ways to change the world.