Mere or meaningful exposure?

Have you ever heard of the mere exposure effect?
It's a psychological artifact first studied by Robert Zajonc.
Zajonc briefly exposed subjects to a picture or piece of music.
Later they rated it more positively than other similar stimuli.
Ones they had not been shown.
This psychological effect is well known to advertisers.
But think about Zajonc's experiment for a minute.
Subjects were exposed to a bunch of meaningless stimuli.
And they preferred the more familiar to the less familiar.
So if two stimuli are fairly meaningless, one should employ the mere exposure effect.
That's why local politicians litter the landscape with "Vote for Our Candidate" signs.
When faced on a ballot with a choice between two meaningless names, people will vote for the more familiar one.
They rate it more positively and they assume, based on the abundance of signs, that a majority of others do too.
Familiarity makes their choice feel safe.
And what about advertising goods and services?
Does the principle work in the same way?
For products that consumers have ascribed little personal meaning to, like gum.
But for ones with values associated with them, like reputation, identity, and affiliation, mere exposure is simply that.
Mere exposure.
It signals social acceptance, but does little to convey meaning.
So before you shell out limited resources to take a surface approach and incessantly repeat your message, think twice.
Your competitors may be hard at work going deep and adding relevance and meaning to theirs.