The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
While advertising is part art and part science, there is more science to it than one might realize. There are many “rules of thumb” that ad agencies and advertisers have developed over time, based on experience or research or both. I have found the following types of research to be important to creating strong brand advertising:
• Qualitative research (focus group, mini-group, one-on-one, anthropological, etc.) to better understand the target customer’s hopes, needs, desires, aspirations, fears and concerns
• Brand preference testing (before and after exposure to the ad). Asking people what they would tell others about your products and services before and after exposure to the ad is also insightful. (David Ogilvy’s book, Ogilvy on Advertising, states that people whose brand preference increase after having seen an ad are three times more likely to purchase the brand then those whose preference does not change.)
• The split-run technique. This technique allows you to test two forms of the ad in the marketplace to determine which one is the most effective.
• Occasionally, you may want to understand how existing loyal customers are responding to your ads, especially if your ad’s intent is to attract new customers. For instance, are the ads offering new customers something that you are not offering existing customers? Are the ads promising something that current customers have found not to be true? Are your ads helping existing customers to feel better about your brand? Are they reinforcing the wisdom of having purchased your brand?
When measuring the effectiveness of your ads, increased top-of-mind awareness and purchase intent are the two most important measures. Ad likeability, another useful measure, correlates highly with purchase intent. Other measures tend to be: more specific changes in customer attitude or behavior based upon the specific marketing objective for the ad.
Keep in mind, too, that because advertising’s effect is gradual and cumulative (much like the growth of a child), it is difficult to measure the effect of an individual ad on sales or market share. That (and for diagnostic reasons) is why it is important to measure the effect of ads on attitudes. Ad recognition and recall and message takeaways also help diagnose an ad (which is particularly important when an ad is not working).
A word of caution regarding advertising research: it is unwise to delegate this task to your advertising agency. It is best to conduct it yourself or to employ a third party to conduct it. Checks and balances are a good thing. And, to mix metaphors, there is no sense in hiring the “fox to guard the chicken coop.”
If you are interested in learning more about advertising research, I would suggest that you go to the Advertising Research Foundation’s website and consider subscribing to their Journal of Advertising Research. Another source is the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing Research.
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