The Mere Exposure Effect and Commercial Photography

Using Commercial Photography and the Mere Exposure Effect to Grow Your Business

Starting or running a small to medium-sized business can seem incredibly daunting when your competitors seem to have limitless resources. To get ahead of the game, you need to make sure you’re using every trick in the book to gain that competitive edge that will take you to the next level.

Understanding and using notable physiological concepts such as the mere exposure effect is a great place to start as they often require very little capital to get right. With a bit of effort and ingenuity, you can make your business much more prominent in your customer’s mind.

What is the Mere Exposure Effect?

The Mere Exposure Effect might sound like a fancy term, but in reality, the concept is incredibly simple. It describes the idea that we are more likely to prefer and make decisions in favour of something that we are familiar with.

This occurs every day in our own lives. Let’s say you fancy some fried chicken and there are two establishments in front of you; one is called Kentucky Fried Chicken and the other is a new independent restaurant called Delicious & Tasty Chicken. 

Which one are you more likely to choose? 

For all you know, the latter choice might have just opened and be the next taste sensation that no one has heard about it yet. But because you are familiar with the KFC brand, you’re far more likely to stick with what you know. You’ve seen the KFC brand in so many different places for most of your life, and you’ve likely never heard of the other brand. KFC is the safest bet.

This is the mere exposure effect.

Also, if you eat that fried chicken and it meets your expectations, then your exposure to fried chicken and the KFC brand continues to increase. In the future, if you’re hungry and fancy some fried chicken, the chances of you choosing KFC are even higher.

The crazy thing is that most of this decision-making happens unconsciously, without us realising it.

The mere exposure effect: When we repeatedly experience something, the more we become familiar with it. The more familiar we are with something the more we will develop a preference for it.

So how do we benefit from this?

It makes life more certain:

As human beings, we are naturally adverse to change and rely on certainty to make us feel safe. As we frequently carry out the same activities and see that they benefit us, then we’re more likely to do it again. That’s why we’re more likely to feel positive about the things we’ve done before, and there’s an increased chance that we’ll do them again.

It simplifies decision-making:

We are creatures of habit and like a river, often meander along the path of least resistance. If we have a previous positive experience of something, then we can make our decisions much quicker and easier by making that same decision again. That’s why someone who likes a certain brand is more likely to re-purchase that brand. We often make these decisions on autopilot, and we resort to what we know.

How does Commercial Photography fit in with the Mere Exposure Effect?

Graham Baker Photography Red Logo

The mere exposure is what makes advertising so powerful. Sometimes you might have noticed that adverts are incredibly brief and not necessarily even selling a specific product. But that quick exposure to the brand can be enough to subliminally impact your decision-making next time because we’re familiar with it and therefore it must be good.

For an advert to work in this manner, businesses focus on very efficiently showing their audience what desire their product or service fulfils. To use Coca-Cola as an example, you can find their adverts everywhere and they show a thirsty person glugging from a Coca-Cola bottle. 

They use a commercial photographer to create an attention-grabbing image that tells the story at a glance. That takes the viewer no effort at all to understand what the message is.

No words, no intricate message. Drink Coca-Cola if you’re thirsty.

It’s no wonder they’re the largest soft drinks manufacturer in the world. The key here is that there is often very little written content in these adverts, the magic is in the image and how it makes the viewer feel.

The Mere Exposure Effect & Commercial Photography
The more we see something the more familiar we become with what we see

How is this used in Social Media Marketing?

The data-driven nature of social media advertising allows you to power up the mere exposure effect to the extreme.

Most people aren’t very careful about what data they share on social media platforms. This means that businesses can amass a significant amount of information about our interests, hobbies and buying habits. 

Using this information, you can create advertisements focused with great precision on your target market. Based on demographics, geographics and even down to political beliefs, you can use social media to put your brand and visual content of your products & services in front of every potential customer. This consistency and accuracy of being seen allow you to begin to harness the mere exposure effect. But there’s more.

One of the most powerful tools that social media provides is the ability to repurpose posts and re-target ads. Retargeting works by showing adverts to people that have already shown an interest in your business or brand. 

For example, if your potential client is shown an advert for the first time and they click on it to find out more, the social media platform will remember that. In future, you know that they have at least some interest in your business and you can use the mere exposure effect to keep showing them adverts. You know that over time, there’s a good chance that their familiarity & interest will grow and eventually that will factor into a purchase decision.

What’s even crazier is that now voice assistants such as Alexa and Siri are using your conversation data to help target ads at you. Ever mentioned how much you’d like a new fancy product and then miraculously, you’ve got loads of images of the product spring up all over your social media? The information that you provide online is used every day to show you things you know and like to maximise the mere exposure effect and hopefully influence you to buy products & services.

It’s entirely a personal decision if you think this is a negative influence and one that you want to reduce in your personal life. But as a small to medium business, you need to think about how to harness this phenomenon to grow your business.

How can you harness this as an owner of a Small to Medium Business?

The amazing thing about the combination of the mere exposure effect and digital marketing is that its benefits are not exclusive to multi-national businesses and brands with gigantic budgets. Businesses of all sizes should focus their attention on sourcing and using high-quality photographic, video & written content for their website and social media channels and showing this to their audience as often as possible.

So where should you start?

Source Great Images to Showcase Your Business:

For your communications and advertisements to have the greatest impact, you will need to source impressive visual content that will grab your audience’s attention. Images & video tell the story and have a significant influence on how the viewer feels about your business. Poor visual content can be distracting, distorting the message and reducing the overall effectiveness of your marketing and how your audience perceives your brand.

That’s where a professional commercial photographer like myself can help you. With significant experience in taking photographs and videos for marketing and advertising campaigns, I can help you stand out from the crowd. Whether you’re promoting a specific product or service; or telling the story of how your brand came to be, I’ll help you to keep front of mind with your audience.

Luxury Watch Repairs Hatton Garden London - Product Photography by Graham Baker Photography

Get Front of Mind. Show them, & then show them again:

 As a small to medium business owner, it’s important that you take every opportunity to show off your brand and offering to your clients. The key is to understand where your target market is and make sure your brand is also found there, front and centre.

For example, if you run a watchmaker business selling luxury watches and repair services for high-end watches then you should make an effort to promote your business at events that wealthy or style-conscious people will be attending. Think networking events, fashion shows, trade exhibitions etc. Depending on your budget, you could also promote your watches in magazines your potential customers will read. 

Let’s not forget to have great images of watches and packaging on your website, targeted ads and social media marketing. Also, behind the scenes of your workshop and skilled team working on the client’s precious watch. Showing the journey of their expensive watch through the business and the story of how the process works.

All these images are contributing to a growing familiarity with what you do and building trust and preference in your potential client’s minds.


The key message here is that wherever your potential customers go, they should see your brand consistently and over time the mere exposure effect will develop their preference in your favour.

Whether you’re thinking about your marketing strategy or need specific visual content for your website or social media posts and ads, then schedule a no-obligation call with me and let’s see how we can utilise the mere exposure effect to help your business grow sales.

Click here to book your no-obligation phone consultation with me

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