Updated: Testing, testing 1, 2, 3

Ben Leet, COO

Updated: Testing, testing 1, 2, 3

Ben Leet, COO

Ad Testing

We’ve written a lot about the pandemic these past few months, but if we distilled our advice to brands down to one single point, it would be this – COVID-19 is creating sudden, seismic shifts in consumer opinion, you need to respond fast.

In June our founder and CEO JT published a blog about the need for brands to evaluate their ad testing during the pandemic.  At the time we knew this message was important. Now we believe it’s vital

Our third COVID white paper “United Divided: The challenge for Brands and Consumers in a changing COVID culture” reveals how rapidly we are forming into new consumer groups.  You can download the white paper here

And in the light of our new findings, we’re republishing our blog. There’s never been a more important time for brands to re-evaluate their ad testing methodologies.

And in the light of our new findings, we’re republishing our blog. There’s never been a more important time for brands to re-evaluate their ad testing methodologies.

Do we need ad testing at all?

Ad testing is more important now than ever before in our lifetime. The global pandemic has thrown marketers into an immediate quandary, one that none of us has ever faced – just how much have our audiences changed? How and when can we advertise at scale? What tone of voice should our advertising take?  (And just how long must I continue making my own sourdough?)

We need to keep ad testing; we just need to stop paying it lip service and give it the credibility that it deserves.

For years markets have used benchmarks and norms as an indicator of success which make little, if any, change to the creative. In ‘norm-al’ times, we could probably get away with a testing methodology that “just hits the mark” more often than not. But now that COVID-19 has meaningfully changed the game for the foreseeable future, we’re playing with new rules.

As we know, ‘normal’ times don’t exist anymore. Within weeks, the pandemic has affected the lives of almost every person on the planet. Coronavirus has accelerated the demise of the physical consumer experience, forcing rapid change in our buying behaviours and expectations.

It’s more important now more than ever to know how we should engage with our audience.

Do marketers still know their audiences?

Let’s start with some good news. In the UK, less than a third of the population (30%) want no advertising at all during this pandemic. It’s great to see that consumers are still open to receiving communications and promotions from their brands.

This is sector dependent, of course. People are least likely to reject healthcare and grocery advertising (15% and 18%, respectively), as this speaks to our most fundamental physiological and safety needs.  But there’s less interest in gambling and casinos (55%).

Looks like Maslow nailed it again with his hierarchy of needs!

Now, more than ever it’s more important to know how we should engage with our audience. Interestingly, considering we’re in a crisis, we don’t have to play it too soberly. Only 22% of consumers want an empathetic or serious tone to their advertising. People would much prefer practical or helpful messaging (65%), or something (appropriately) funny or entertaining (45%). A third (34%) would like content that’s optimistic and looks to a brighter future.

So, it seems consumers don’t want overly serious or empathetic messaging that reminds them how bad things are, as long as their ads play into their basic needs for food, shelter or health.

(Simple. Now I can go back to my sourdough).

No new norms in the new normal

In a lockdown landscape, ad testing needs to change. What worked before may no longer work in the new normal. For fans of the Netflix show “Stranger Things”, marketing is in the Upside Down now. (Although not literally, and we should probably give 80s nostalgia a rest for a while.)

If we continue to rely on existing norms, one of two things can happen:

Brands create average ads, benchmarked against a set of safe averages that may no longer be relevant.

Or, it could cause brands to hit a potential landmine by stepping on the very spot they should be avoiding.

To successfully navigate the pandemic (and post-pandemic) world, it’s time for brands and marketers to leave behind their established norms. They need to test their creative executions against new measures that reveal the shifting behavioural attitudes of their audiences.

Whats the solution?

As we said at the start, ad testing is more important than ever. There has never been a better time to reappraise our methodologies in the light of our new environment. Ad testing has an incredible ROI now, simply by virtue of the uncertain climate and the risks that advertising poses.

‘Off the shelf’ testing (testing with norms) is fraught with danger.  What are the norms in a world where normal has been redefined and continues to change daily?

Delineate has been working with brands to test creative executions not against norms, but against measures fit for the current climate to ensure a higher chance of success.

We also draw on the expertise gained from cutting edge platforms like our COVID-19 Impact Tracker to help you identify and avoid any potential pitfalls with your marketing campaigns using, “The Power of Now” to understand what is going on in the world in real time.  Times have changed and brands no longer have the luxury of waiting days, weeks or months for diagnostic data when change and consumer perception is evolving at such a rapid pace.  At Delineate, we want to empower every marketer to make smarter decisions, decisions with real time data and information.

Want to know more? Get in touch, by clicking on the chat button or give us a call and one of our experts can advise on the best approach for testing your campaign.

This article was first published in June 2020 by Delineate Founder and CEO, James (JT) Turner.

Covid-19: Tracking evolving consumer behaviour

Our latest white paper moves the story on – from initial lockdown to today. It gives marketers and communicators intelligence on how best to engage with consumers right now. Download your free copy.


COVID-19 White Paper






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