The Familiarity Principle: The Psychological Phenomenon That Can Boost Your Brand

“Just do it.” When you hear this phrase, you immediately think of Nike, right? Well, that’s probably because Nike launched a Just Do It campaign back in 1998, which was one of the most successful advertising campaigns in history. In the vast landscape of marketing and advertising, success often hinges on the ability to resonate in the minds of consumers. The Familiarity Principle stands as a powerful psychological phenomenon that has fuelled the triumph of iconic brands. From the resonating swoosh of Nike to the fuzzy blue Mamee monster, this principle has played a pivotal role in transforming mere products into globally recognized symbols. Consider this our mini thesis.

The Familiarity Principle: The Psychological Phenomenon That Can Boost Your Brand

The Familiarity Principle: What It Is and Why It’s Relevant to Your Brand

The familiarity principle, also known as the mere-exposure effect, is the psychological phenomenon that causes humans to prefer things—and people—which are frequently exposed to them. This theory was found by psychologist Robert Zajonc, who claimed that when people are repeatedly exposed to a certain stimulus, the more they tend to develop a preference for them. The more frequently you are made aware of something, the more likely you are to like it. For example, buying the same latte from a certain coffee shop every day before work because you’re aware of the brand, its baristas, or its menu.  

Endel Tulving and Donald M. Thomson, a pair of psychologists known for their research in human memory, concluded that the trace of a word can be “strengthened” through repeated presentation for study. In simpler words, remembering a word becomes easier with repetition, and the same concept applies to brands. When people see or hear about a brand multiple times (repetition), it strengthens the memory of that brand in their minds.  

Another psychologist, William James, once said, “We make search in our memory for a forgotten idea, just as we rummage our house for a lost object.” When consumers are looking for a specific product or service (like finding a book in the library), having a recognizable brand helps them find it faster. Effective branding and marketing create a kind of mental shortcut, making it easier for consumers to choose a familiar brand from the sea of options.

In marketing, the familiarity principle is a powerful concept. The more familiar and memorable your brand is, the more likely consumers are to choose it when making decisions. Repetition and a recognizable brand act as cues, simplifying the decision-making process for consumers.

Psychological Mechanisms at Play: Understanding Consumer Perception in Video Content

Video content, such as the content in corporate videos, commercials, and explainer videos, is a powerful tool that taps into a lot of our psychological processes. Let’s explore how the familiarity principle aligns with the psychological mechanisms at play in video content.

  1. Visual consistency and recognition. As mentioned before, the familiarity principle emphasizes the positive association formed through repeated exposure. Consistent visual elements in video content, such as recognizable branding, logos, and colour schemes, contribute to familiarity. As viewers encounter these consistent visuals across various content, the familiarity principle comes into play, strengthening their connection with your brand and making it more memorable.
  1. Repetition and brand recall. Repetition is a key driver of the familiarity principle. In video marketing, strategically incorporating repeated exposure to brand elements reinforces familiarity. Whether it’s a distinctive jingle, a logo animation, or a catchphrase, consistent repetition enhances brand recall. Viewers are more likely to remember and positively perceive a brand they’ve encountered multiple times. For starters, you can try putting in your company logo in the start and end of the video, as well as mentioning the company’s name a few times in the script.
  1. Relatable stories, relatable experiences. When brands consistently tell relatable stories, viewers develop a connection based on shared experiences or values. This connection fosters a sense of familiarity, making the brand more relatable and positively influencing consumer perception. If your company sells cars, people don’t want to listen to the story of how you studied and built the components of the car. They want a story about how your car broke down in the middle of the ELITE highway and how you improvised the situation, developed a curiosity—and later, a love—for automotives.  
  1. Strategic use of company colours. Incorporate your company colours strategically in video production, from colour grading to set design. Consistent use of brand colours enhances visual recognition. Viewers will subconsciously associate these colours with your brand. For example, when you think of two white dots and red and blue, the first brand that comes into your mind is Domino’s Pizza, right? (Or other brands. This is just an example.)
  1. Signature visual elements. If your corporate videos showcase your office spaces or work environments, maintain consistency in visual elements. Whether it’s the colour scheme, interior design, or specific brand-related visuals, repetition of these elements establishes a unique visual identity.  
  1. Showcasing company values. Incorporate employee testimonials discussing company values in multiple videos. Hearing consistent messages about your company's values creates a narrative that aligns with the familiarity principle. This repetition reinforces the core principles of your organization and helps build a positive perception among viewers.

In essence, the familiarity principle serves as a guiding light for companies seeking to create impactful videos, whether it be corporate videos, documentaries, or commercials. By aligning with the psychological mechanisms outlined above, businesses can strategically leverage the familiarity principle to build lasting connections with their audience, fostering positive perceptions and brand loyalty.

Examples of Familiarity Principle in Marketing

Now, let’s explore real-world examples that highlight how businesses utilize this psychological phenomenon to build trust, recognition, and lasting connections with their audience.

  1. Apple’s consistent apple. Apple’s corporate videos consistently feature their iconic logo animation at the beginning or end. The minimalist yet distinctive Apple logo becomes a visual anchor, reinforcing brand familiarity.
  1. Nike's swoosh logo. Nike’s swoosh logo is one of the most recognized symbols globally. The consistent use of this simple yet powerful visual element across their marketing materials, from commercials to product packaging, has contributed to the brand’s visual familiarity and instant recognition.
  1. Mamee’s fuzzy blue monster. If you’re a Malaysian, it’s impossible to say that you’ve never seen the fuzzy blue monster before. Almost every Mamee noodle snack features the fuzzy blue monster on its packaging, and the monster is even the main character in Mamee’s commercials.  
  1. VISIOLAB’s tagline. Visuals with Vision. Let’s be honest, you’ve seen this tagline in almost every section of our website, and like it or not, it must’ve lingered in your mind when you think of the word “vision” now. This is how we play with the familiarity principle to increase our brand’s awareness.  

These examples demonstrate how brands leverage the familiarity principle through consistent visual and auditory elements, creating a strong connection with consumers and enhancing brand recall.  

Is the Familiarity Principle Bad?

Yes and no. While it can indeed boost your brand, there’s a reason why the proverb familiarity breeds contempt exists. The expression, which means that the longer we know someone, the more we will discover negative things about them, also applies to brands.  

Too much exposure can backfire. Customers may start noticing flaws, overlook fresh ideas, or simply become bored. To combat this, brands must actively maintain a positive image through consistent quality, engaging content, and innovative offerings.


Understanding the familiarity principle is key to building brand recognition. As consumers navigate through a sea of choices, having a familiar brand in mind simplifies decision-making. Repetition, whether through visual symbols, catchy jingles, or memorable characters, acts as a bridge between brand and consumer, and the more people know about your brand, the more likely they are to choose it.  

Our team at VISIOLAB are no strangers to the familiarity principle. If you're looking to elevate your brand through compelling corporate videos and harness the power of the familiarity principle, feel free to reach out to us.

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