Definition of Frequency Illusion

The frequency illusion, also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, is a cognitive bias that occurs when a person starts noticing a particular concept, word, or product more often after recently becoming aware of it. In digital marketing, this phenomenon can make a brand or product appear more popular than it may actually be. Advertisers often capitalize on this effect by strategically exposing consumers to their campaigns multiple times, making them more aware of the brand’s presence.


The phonetics of the keyword “Frequency Illusion” in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is:/ˈfriːkwənsi ɪˈluːʒən/Breaking it down:Frequency – /ˈfriːkwənsi/Illusion – /ɪˈluːʒən/

Key Takeaways

  1. Frequency Illusion, also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, occurs when an individual starts noticing a particular thing or idea more frequently after recently learning or encountering it, creating the illusion that its frequency has suddenly increased.
  2. This cognitive bias is a result of two psychological processes: selective attention, where our brain unconsciously focuses on certain stimuli, and confirmation bias, where we tend to notice evidence that supports our beliefs or expectations.
  3. Being aware of Frequency Illusion can help individuals develop critical thinking skills and avoid making errors in judgement when interpreting information, as it reminds us that increased awareness doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in prevalence or importance of the topic.

Importance of Frequency Illusion

The term Frequency Illusion, also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, is important in digital marketing because it highlights the cognitive bias that occurs when people are exposed to certain information, such as a product or a brand, and then start noticing it more frequently.

This happens because the brain tends to assign importance to things it recognizes, creating the illusion that the item has suddenly surged in popularity or presence.

For digital marketers, this phenomenon is vital as it underscores the value of repetition and consistency in advertising strategies.

By ensuring that their target audience encounters their brand or product repeatedly across various platforms, marketers increase the chances of brand recall, driving consumer engagement and ultimately leading to conversions and sales.

Understanding the Frequency Illusion allows marketers to capitalize on the brain’s inherent tendencies and shape more effective marketing campaigns.


The purpose of the Frequency Illusion, also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, is to create a stronger connection between a brand and its target audience by making the audience think they’re encountering certain elements or messages more often than they actually are. This psychological phenomenon leverages the idea that once individuals become aware of a particular concept, product, or brand, they suddenly start noticing it everywhere, thus giving the illusion of increased prevalence.

In the context of digital marketing, this tactic is employed to raise brand awareness and enhance recall, resulting in customers being more likely to engage with and ultimately, purchase from the brand. Various digital marketing strategies can be used to harness the power of Frequency Illusion.

This might involve retargeting advertisements, where users are shown online ads for a brand they’ve interacted with or visited before, creating the perception that the brand is more ubiquitous than it truly is. Content marketing and social media platforms also play a role in this phenomenon by seamlessly blending in branded content among the content primarily curated for users’ interests.

Through a combination of paid and organic strategies, as well as strategically timed promotional content, digital marketers can capitalize on the Frequency Illusion to drive engagement, generate sales, and foster brand loyalty.

Examples of Frequency Illusion

The frequency illusion, also known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, occurs when a concept or thing you’ve recently learned or encountered suddenly appears in various contexts, making you believe it’s more prevalent than it actually is. Here are three real-world examples related to digital marketing:

Online Advertising: You start researching a specific brand or product, such as a new smartphone by a particular manufacturer. Suddenly, you begin to notice advertisements for the same smartphone appearing on various websites you visit, social media platforms, and even video streaming sites. The frequency illusion makes you feel like the smartphone is more talked about and popular than it actually is, making it seem more desirable.

Social Media Trends: Suppose you have recently become interested in a digital marketing strategy, like influencer marketing. After following a few influencers and marketing experts on social media, you start to notice a significant increase in posts and discussions related to influencer marketing. This frequency illusion may lead you to believe that influencer marketing is a bigger trend than it actually is and potentially influence your decision to invest more time and resources in this area.

Email Marketing: After signing up for a newsletter from a specific industry, such as fashion or technology, you start getting regular emails containing updates and news related to that industry. This increased exposure may lead you to perceive that the mentioned trends or products are more popular and important than they actually are, due to the frequency illusion. For example, if a specific clothing brand is often mentioned in the newsletters you receive, you might be influenced to think it’s a highly popular brand dominating the market.

Frequency Illusion

What is the Frequency Illusion?

The Frequency Illusion, also known as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, is a cognitive bias where a person perceives information or objects they’ve recently come across more frequently than before. This usually occurs when the person is introduced to a new concept or idea, leading them to believe it is more significant or more prevalent than it actually is.

What causes the Frequency Illusion?

The Frequency Illusion is caused by two psychological processes: selective attention and cognitive confirmation bias. Selective attention occurs when a person becomes aware of a new concept and starts to pay more attention to it. Cognitive confirmation bias then makes a person more likely to continue noticing the concept because it confirms their belief that the concept is more prevalent.

How can the Frequency Illusion affect decision making?

The Frequency Illusion can influence decision making by making certain ideas, concepts, or objects seem more important or prevalent than they actually are. This can lead a person to overestimate the importance of certain things, which may affect their decisions and actions. It’s important to be aware of the Frequency Illusion and try to account for it when making decisions.

How can I avoid the Frequency Illusion?

To avoid the Frequency Illusion, you can practice being more mindful of your thought processes and actively try to differentiate between new concepts that are actually more prevalent and those that are just new to you. Additionally, critically evaluating the sources of your information and seeking out diverse perspectives can help minimize the occurrence of the Frequency Illusion.

Are there any real-world examples of the Frequency Illusion?

Yes, real-world examples of the Frequency Illusion are common. A popular example is when someone learns about a new word, concept, or even a type of car, and suddenly, they start noticing the word, concept, or car more frequently than before. In reality, these occurrences haven’t increased – it’s just that the person is now more aware of their existence.

Related Digital Marketing Terms

  • Confirmation Bias
  • Brand Awareness
  • Retargeting
  • Cognitive Bias
  • Selective Attention

Sources for More Information

Reviewed by digital marketing experts

More terms

Guides, Tips, and More