Repeat, Repeat, Repeat… and Sell More


The Beatles are the top-selling music artists of all time.

One of the best-selling single they recorded is She Loves You.

Great group, great song, right? That’s hard to argue with, but research shows there’s a reason for this particular song’s success.

What do you remember most about the song? Probably the oft-repeated refrain, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

It turns out that repetition is an important factor in a song’s popularity, according to a study of more than 50 years of Billboard top-sellers. The scientists found, “increased repetition decreases the time it takes to reach #1 and increases the odds of debuting in the Top 40.”

Why is repetition important?

The scientists found that repetition increases processing fluency.

In other words, our brains find repeated words easier to process. The study distinguished between “lexical repetition,” in which words are repeated sequentially, and repeated exposures at different times. The hit songs employed lexical repetition.

That doesn’t mean that repeated exposure is a bad thing. In fact, other research has shown that repeated exposure also increases processing fluency. In Subliminal Branding in Milliseconds I described an important paper by Robert Zajonc that documented what he called the “mere exposure effect.”

So, you might ask, what does processing fluency have to do with selling more products or services?

The answer is simple – fluency creates preference. Zajonc’s study showed that subjects preferred nonsense symbols they had been exposed to over similar symbols they had not seen.

When our brains find something easier to process, they like it more than a similar thing that is not as easily processed.

That preference holds true for names and stock ticker symbols, along with many other seemingly illogical topics.

There’s other research showing that “easy to process” speeds customer decision-making.

Get Fluent

So, how do you turn this research into higher sales?

Brand and Product Names. Choose names that are easy to say. With the decreasing supply of dot-com domains, you may be tempted to grab something cute but unpronounceable like This is a bad idea from a processing fluency standpoint. is longer but more fluent.

Use Rhyme. One characteristic of repeated words in a song is that the endings rhyme. In essence, rhyme is inherent in repetition. As I describe in Save Time, Persuade with Rhyme, rhyme in general increases fluency. So, if you can work rhyme into your slogan and/or your repetitive phrasing, that will help.

Repeat it. Yes, Again. The more you repeat your brand, product name, or slogan, the more fluent it will become for your audience. If you can’t find a way to repeat it sequentially, be sure to repeat it in other ways or insure exposure to your customers on multiple occasions.

Repetition helped The Beatles sell hundreds of millions of records and downloads, and it can help you too.

  1. Andy H. says

    I think you’re confusing “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” with “She Loves You.” There’s no “yeah, yeah, yeah” in the former.

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Well spotted, Andy. I remember the original release (I’m old), and knew that. But I somehow grabbed the wrong name from their hit list. Thanks, fixed it!

  2. Jay says

    Great post, Roger;
    This reminds me of the O J Trial and Johnnie Cochran asking O J to put on the glove found at the murder scene.
    O J could only get the glove partially on… it was too small. Johnnie then said:: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” and the jury did.
    P S Just ordered Dan Ariely’s new book.

  3. Juho says

    Useful post, thanks!
    One point though, just to be clear: More repetition should not manifest itself as more interruption, right? The digital channels are already getting filled to the brim with annoying pop-ups and force-fed videos…

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Good point, Juho. There’s a fine line between being effective and being annoying. That line may be different for each person, too.

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