A leading biopharmaceutical company was preparing to launch a new product into the U.S. market. Concerned about the fallout from potential negative news reports about the product, they developed a consumer directed messaging program to help answer potential consumer questions and concerns about the product. They enlisted G&R to pre-test the communications program. G&R recommended a two test cell plus control design that framed the different mindsets that consumers might bring to the communications by stimulating exposure to either a negative or neutral news article about the product, before exposing the messaging strategy. To evaluate the effectiveness of the communications, G&R measured levels of consumer concern on key dimensions before and after each framing cell of respondents was shown the messaging.
The research showed that the communications were successful in reducing overall concern levels by over 20%and answering the prevailing consumer question about the product by over half in both cells. The research also found areas where the messaging program did not adequately address consumer questions and suggested additional content strategies to help alleviate those concerns.
If you would like to learn about G&R’s Framing Research, please Read More >
Ad research pioneers George Gallup and Horace Schwerin had mixed opinions about the value of norms. They understood the theoretical importance of benchmarking, but they also understood the knowable and unknowable error that all benchmarks have. Indeed, Horace Schwerin once commented that he believed copy tests should be conducted without norms. It was his view that norms could be a crutch that helped marketers avoid thinking in absolute terms about what their advertisement should achieve.
Although an unconventional view today, it is still an interesting and important proposition. Even in the early days of copy testing, when the development of norms was a relatively straightforward undertaking, norms were not always the useful benchmarks they seem. A main idea communication norm, for example, is likely to be based on both advertisements that have a single key selling message, as well as ones that have more complex, multi-faceted communications. Moreover, the norm will usually be based on what the respondents of each test perceive the selling message to be, which may or may not have been the same as the communication objective. Or it may include ideas that are inherently easier or more difficult than yours to convey. Depending on your own communication objectives, it can be preferable to set an absolute criterion that the message must be played back by a certain proportion of respondents rather than compare to a norm based on commercials with message content and strategies.
But questions about norms are even more relevant today. Today’s advertising world is more complex than in Gallup and Schwerin’s time, when advertisers had a mass market orientation. Copy testing companies simply provided extensive, broadly-based, category-specific norms based on methodologies that could accumulate extensive databases based upon samples of men and/or women between the ages of 18 and 49 or 65. Since then, media has evolved from providing mass appeal programming and publications toward a diverse industry replete with a vast landscape of special interest offerings. Meanwhile marketers, armed with segmentation research that facilitate honing communications in on target markets with the greatest leveragability, take advantage of the expanding media opportunities with initiatives targeted to more specifically designated audiences. Thus the advertiser’s need for norms has changed with implications for the quality of norm that is often available.
- Today, advertisers often specify that samples meet specific target definitions designed to match their demographic or psychographic targets. Competitors within the same category may specify different sampling targets or more have different screening criteria for identifying like samples. A norm for travel and leisure services, as an example, may consequently be comprised of a variety of sample definitions, some based on advertising targeted to the premium traveler, others to the budget minded; some to family vacationers, others to business travelers; some to the youthful and adventurous, others to older vacationers with a more relaxed mindset. As a result, when a category norm may exist, it may not reflect the specific target in which the marketer is interested.
- The increased use of pretesting has given advertisers greater flexibility and agencies greater creative freedom. A downside to this positive development, though, is that tested concepts are often included into a normative database even though not all will have been taken into final production nor received media support. When a norm is based on finished commercials, as were typical erstwhile syndicated services, it represents, by definition, all executions that were judged “airworthy.” If pretested concepts are included, today’s normative databases may present a lower than desirable hurdle if they include concepts that failed to pass muster.
- Even highly effective advertising will not have been developed to be effective on all performance measures. Some commercials are developed to be strong in some aspects of communication and other commercials are developed to “move the needle” in other areas. For example, sometimes ad liking will be an important criterion and sometimes it is not. The same can be said, at times, about recall, persuasion and ad advocacy. Since most ads are tested within a standardized system for the company, they are tested against measures that are not always relevant to the objectives of the advertising. Since norms are typically compiled based on complete test results, they may be based on cases where the measure itself was not relevant to the test commercial’s communication objectives.
- Advertisers also have a wide variety of techniques and vendors from which to choose. Consequently, any given vendor may have experience in a category but only with a limited repertoire of clientele. Unless a program is in place to add non-client readings to their database, a prospective new client may be comparing their results to a “norm” based upon a non-representative sampling of category advertising.
The consequence of all this is that any particular norm today is based on a data set that is likely shallower and less comprehensive than they have been, making their use less straightforward than in earlier already problematic times. Schwerin’s proposition may even begin to have greater appeal under these circumstances, but solutions exist for ensuring that useful benchmarks are also considered. Knowledgeable firms will usually have addressed these issues and be in a position to provide workable answers through means like the following:
- Using their experience and breadth of testing to craft a norm specific to your target audience;
- Establishing that performance within subgroups does not to show much variation; and/or
- Devising a test design that will provide its own benchmarks.
As a result you can be more confident that you are comparing the specific target audience reactions of your advertising to that of your competition, giving you a strong perspective for assessing the likely effectiveness of your messages.
It was mentioned above that it has been customary since copy testing’s early days for most companies to evaluate their advertising against category-specific norms. However, there is a school of thought that all advertising norms provide a better benchmark because each ad must compete against the totality of all advertising in order to break through. While there is merit to maintaining perspective on how all advertising tends to perform in a given testing system, losing sight of how well your advertising is doing relative to your competition among your target audience is risky business. A company in a high interest category that accepts an ad that is above the all advertising average without determining that it may nevertheless be below industry norms will be at a disadvantage.
As with other aspects of research, experienced professionals at your vendor will be able to provide guidance on how to best establish action standards for your test and will be best able to use these capabilities to get the most out of your results and provide strong direction for your communications.
Successful advertisers have one thing in common: their messaging distinguishes their brand in the minds of their target audience. It establishes who they are and what they stand for. It differentiates the brand from its competitors in a way that rings true with loyal brand users and provides distinctive appeals to non-users.
Strategic research is a valuable tool for developing this kind of successful advertising. It provides companies with insight into the triggers behind consumer brand selection – the core values and beliefs that people hold when deciding between marketplace alternatives. Well-designed strategic research unveils positioning opportunities for the brand. It identifies what is important to the buyers of your brand and the buyers of your competitor’s brands as well as how successfully each brand delivers on these expectations. Insights developed from this research reveal positioning opportunities for the brand to drive successful creative that resonates with your user base and attacks competitive vulnerabilities.
G&R was recently enlisted to evaluate the position that a leading company occupies in the crowded retail space and investigate the effectiveness of the company’s communications. Using a stimulus-aided questionnaire and advanced analytics and data displays, the research identified the company’s position relative to its key competitors, spotlighted a positioning opportunity for the brand that capitalizes on brand strengths important to both brand shoppers and competitive shoppers where the competition underperforms expectations. Armed with this insight our client can now exploit competitive weaknesses with a positioning built on brand strengths that both customers and competitive shoppers value.
If you would like to know our positioning capabilities, please contact us.
Spring has arrived and with it major league baseball, game broadcasts, and warm weather advertisements. It’s a great time for baseball fans and for advertising fans. The contrasts between the commercials that air between innings and pitching changes are almost as compelling as games between teams dominated by Moneyball influences versus those driven by old school beliefs.
This year’s commercial equivalent of Moneyball might be the “Every Pitch” spot from DICK’S Sporting Goods which opens with a batter swinging and missing at a pitch and then takes the viewer on a tour of the field to experience the “dead time” between pitches. We watch the third baseman feint to keep the runner on third close to the bag. The shortstop turns to the outfield, tells them, “no doubles,” and gestures with his hand not to let a ball get hit over their heads. An outfielder jumps in place to keep his muscles loose. The pitcher throws to first to keep that runner close. Meanwhile the camera moves onto the field itself, taking all this activity in before honing in on the pitcher as he prepares to release the next pitch. We are enveloped in the inner world of a game in progress, the dynamic that occurs between pitches that immediately connects with every athlete who has ever played the game at any level. It’s as atmospheric as any commercial in recent memory. The closing billboards simply take us from the game through “Every Pitch. Every Game. Every Season starts at DICK’S.” to form an indelible connection to the brand.
The pleasant reverie created by the Dick’s spot rarely lasts long thanks to the Scotts Lawn Care advertising, which has been as subtle as a Nolan Ryan “bowtie.” Few commercial breaks occur during games on the MLB network or ESPN that do not have a Scotts commercial. Each commercial features Scott, the Scot spokesman for Scotts. Get it? Are you sure you GET IT??? Scott the Scot from Scotts lectures unknowledgeable homeowners on the virtues of Scotts fertilizer, grass seed and spreader, ending not just with an encouragement to “Feed your lawn” but with an insistent follow-up to “Feed it!” In the advertising world of Scott’s Lawn Care, you cannot belabor a point too much. Kudos to the rational voice in the copy review meeting that talked the team out of putting Scott the Scot from Scotts in a kilt and tam o’shanter. But it’s a shame he or she could not have encouraged a little more subtlety in the media schedule, the tagline, or the actor’s intended-to-be-friendly smile that has all the sincerity of a ravenous wolf seeing you as dinner.
Usually, we are proponents of the “old school” rationally oriented commercials that present a USP to create brand distinction and provide consumers with a reason to buy. The Scotts commercials all present strong appeals and it’s often the case that well-visualized product advantages will outweigh grating presentational aspects in the consumer’s mind. Plus there is always the concern that risking a media budget on something as elusive as forming an emotional connection with consumers for a brand through something as fundamentally and recognizably commercial as an advertising spot is a high stakes gamble. But when one connects, as does the DICK’S commercial, arching home runs have more glory than grunted-out singles.
This weekend I had planned to stop by my local Home Depot to load up on my yard care needs for the season but I think instead I’ll just head on over to the nearby DICK’S for some Neatsfoot. My glove needs oiling. And maybe I’ll pick up a few other things while I am there.
Many companies use Content Marketing to supplement traditional marcom channels and communicate new information via a variety of alternative media contexts. Recently, a prominent hospital launched a custom magazine publication in an effort to grow awareness in the healthcare market, communicate with leading medical, academic, and business influencers, and position the hospital as the definitive resource and leader in the medical and biotechnology fields. The company engaged Gallup & Robinson to design and conduct research to help the hospital better understand the magazine’s effectiveness, including the characteristics and needs of its audience, their attitudes towards the custom magazine, and the publication’s influence on perceptions about the hospital. The research provided benchmarks for quantifying performance and revealed how the audience thought and felt about the magazine. It resulted in new insights about how to improve lower-rated elements, adjust delivery methods and strengthen engagement moving forward. Learn More >
Raising awareness or encouraging behavior modification for a social or public health issue is quite a different communications challenge than persuading consumers to purchase commercial products. Campaign designers and funding sources face two underlying questions: 1) is a campaign worth the investment of time and resources; and 2) how does one increase the chances that the campaign will be effective?
G&R was recently enlisted to evaluate a campaign which sought to establish a comprehensive community health model aimed at promoting healthy adolescent development and preventing dating violence. The initiative’s co-sponsors wanted to understand the target audience reactions to 8 concept executions and to determine which of the executions might be considered stronger or weaker candidates for the campaign. The research identified the strongest campaign ads based on overall stopping power, behavioral disposition, and emotional engagement. Select executions were recommended for strategic positioning in order to reach target subgroups and ways to optimize campaign communication were presented.
If you would like to learn about G&R’s Cause Marketing capabilities, please Read More >