You have to deliver your message 20 times for it to stick—or do you?

A 19th-century British businessman suggested repeating your message again and again. Modern business authors disagree. So, who’s right?

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In 1885, British businessman Thomas Smith attempted to answer that question in a guide called Successful Advertising. The book is best remembered for his 20-step plan for getting people to buy a product.

“The first time people look at any given ad, they don’t even see it.

“The second time, they don’t notice it.

“The third time, they are aware that it is there.

“The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it somewhere before.

“The fifth time, they actually read the ad.

“The sixth time, they thumb their nose at it.

“The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with it.

“The eighth time, they start to think, ‘Here’s that confounded ad again.’

“The ninth time, they start to wonder if they’re missing out on something.

“The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbors if they’ve tried it.

“The eleventh time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.

“The twelfth time, they start to think that it must be a good product.

“The thirteenth time, they start to feel the product has value.

“The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.

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