How not to use research

Posted on Feb 9, 2012

Doing no research at all is obviously foolish. Assuming what your prospects want can be risky, especially if you assume prospects are just like customers. It’s MBWT again.

But even if you’ve done enough research to know prospects desire X rather than Y, things can still go very wrong. Typical X/Y choices might be low-cost vs. high-quality, or innovative-idea vs. choice-that-won’t-get-me-fired, or beer-with-impressive-badge-value vs. beer-with-manly-badge-value.

If X seems clearly preferred, many brands and (sadly) some agencies will simply hammer “we’ve got X” in hopes that the message sent will be absorbed after 7-times frequency. The ideal ad message, by contrast, gets the audience to internalize “why, they must have X,” a feat requiring considerable creative skill … and far fewer repetitions.

If you doubt marketers are that naive, take this challenge: sharpen your #2 pencil, turn on a local radio or TV station, and score the next ten commercials. How many tell you a benefit vs. tell you a story that lets you assign a benefit? One out of ten? National/network spots will score a higher percentage than local, but it sure won’t be 100.

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2 Comments

  1. JoAnne
    February 16, 2012

    Great points, but can you share some examples of ads/campaigns that you think do it right?

    Reply
  2. Bob
    February 16, 2012

    Sure. (I see I puzzled a few people since “not telling the benefit” goes against Salesmanship 101, where everyone was sternly reminded to sell benefits, not features.) Salesmanship 101 was correct up to a point, and it’s still a good precept when involved with face-to-face selling.

    But advertising (in particular) creates a lot of resistance, and anything that’s blatantly a sales pitch causes the message-avoidance-mechanisms to rise. So we have the progression from telling the audience about the features, to telling the audience about the benefit … and then? What can help us overcome the hostility to the message that moves us beyond that?

    The answer is show us the brand story in a way that evokes from us the attributes that define our expectations. That way, it’s coming from us – it’s our idea – and we align ourselves with the brand.

    Fur eggs ample?

    Let’s take a look at the beer category. Anybody selling features (the water! the hops! the brewmaster!) is pretty much doomed. Moving up one level, selling the benefit works a little better (it’s a badge product, and there are lots of “I’m trendy” and “I’m macho” badges available). But the only campaign moving the needle recently is Dos Equis, which spins the story of The Most Interesting Man in the World, It’s amusingly arch (his mother has a tattoo reading “Son”) and the character, who’s 40 years older than the target demo, is almost casual about his endorsement (“I don’t always drink beer, but…”) The badge evoked from us is sophisticated/male/worldly … someone who doesn’t need to try too hard to impress ….exactly what the targeted male is insecure about. The targets, men aged 21 to 21.1, are basically insecurities with wallets.

    Reply

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