The Frequency Illusion Theory

You can be in any part of Kenya – Nairobi, Kisumu, Nyeri, Mombasa, Embu, or even Meru – but the minute you see a lime green poster or billboard, you will immediately associate it with Safaricom. Similarly, you can be in any part of the world, but that candy red hue will forever be associated with Coca Cola. Why? It all started with the Frequency Illusion theory, and it’s time we harness its power in our marketing strategies.

Our brain has an incredible talent for pattern recognition. This is the basis of the theory, which occurs when the thing you’ve just noticed, experienced or been told about crops up constantly. With time your brain makes permanent associations with that thing.

The theory is also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. While this may sound like the name of a brilliant philosopher from the 1920s, it was actually the name of a German extremist group in the 70’s. The “nick-name” came to be after someone expressed an unsettling feeling of hearing the name Baader-Meinhof more than twice in less than 24 hours. You can come across the name Ashley or John ten times a day without realising it, but a name like Baader-Meinhof? That’s definitely something surprising. 

We have all been there. You are shopping for a branded handbag on an E-commerce website, and for the rest of the week, you keep seeing that particular brand everywhere you go. You are on the phone talking to a friend about a trip to Watamu, and suddenly everything you see on the internet is Watamu-related. More often than not, your first instinct will be that your phone is ‘stalking’ you, but you may in fact be experiencing the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

How can businesses leverage this as a marketing tool? It’s the ever-glorious C word- Consistency! Make sure that your audience is seeing your content as often as possible to a point where they associate certain colours, patterns, shapes, and even sounds with you. To trigger Frequency Illusion, make potential clients aware about you. Use a variety of marketing techniques, and do not be shy to repeat yourself. After all, only repetition can put the “frequency” in the frequency illusion

Now, go forth, and don’t be surprised if you keep coming across the words Baader-Meinhof today. It’s just the Frequency Illusion theory in play.