Archive for the ‘Brand Plannning’ Category

The Secret to Successful Culturally Targeted and Inclusive Advertising

July 15th, 2014 Comments off

Not since the advent of the television ad in 1941 has the potential for new ad formats been so great. The emergence of digital platforms is enabling marketers to experiment with a number of new ad formats, each of which could revolutionize marketing as we know it. Throughout 2014 we are highlighting the most effective of the techniques being broadly adopted.

Part IV: Culturally Targeted and Inclusive Advertising

coke-hilltopIn many ways culture is the lifeblood of advertising. By drawing upon cultural cues advertisers can more easily convey emotional and informational content to consumers. And with the rapidly evolving demographics within the United States, making advertising campaigns inclusive has become a high priority. But there is also a potential danger in using culturally charged content. If a cultural reference within mass media does not resonate at least somewhat broadly, the advertising will fall flat or, in extreme cases, may even alienate members of the general audience and lead to social media backlash.

So how can an advertiser reap the reward of either culturally targeted or inclusive advertising without the risk? The secret is a little talked about psychological principle called cultural congruence. Simply put, people are generally most comfortable in receiving and most receptive to messages within the context of their own culture. This has major ramifications for the choices in executional techniques, selling propositions, and casting within the advertising.

To help advertisers navigate around obstacles to these types of campaigns, MSW-ARS Research has released a white paper on the topic, Cultural Congruence and Advertising Effectiveness. Below are two example best practices from the paper.

1.  Do not assume that advertising will perform similarly across cultural groups.

For many years it was suggested that advertising effectiveness did not vary much among cultural groups. This was based on lack of statistical significance in the mean values between subgroups exposed to the same advertising. But averages can be deceiving. The table below shows the average response by African American and Caucasian consumers to over two thousand of the same pieces of advertising. While the mean scores are not substantially different, the variation in scores between the groups is significant at the 99% confidence level. In other words, there are differences in which ads performed well and performed poorly among these groups.


2. When attempting to transfer ads between cultural groups, adaptations should be made to ensure the selling proposition resonates with the new group.

Cultural congruence can play a powerful role in the motivating power of a selling proposition. If the insight underlying the selling proposition relies on a cultural association, it will not easily transfer to another group. Or even if the insight is relevant to multiple groups, it may be more difficult to deploy for some groups versus others. This can have a substantial impact on sales effectiveness.

For example, a meta-analysis of thirty-eight US Hispanic targeted ads representing twenty product categories shows how advertising effectiveness varies based on the customization of the selling proposition. Ads were segmented by whether they were specifically created for the Hispanic market (thus drawing upon market specific insights), general market advertising adapted to the Hispanic market (changing elements to make insights more relevant to the Hispanic market), or general market advertising simply dubbed into Spanish. It was found that ads created specifically for the Hispanic market were forty percent more persuasive than those simply adapted for this market and three times as effective as ads dubbed into Spanish.


This same principle holds true for inclusive ads but instead of adapting the selling proposition to each group, a universal need or desire is drawn upon to create a selling proposition that transcends groups. As an example this ad from Chevrolet draws upon the universal desire for safety for one’s family.



Additional learnings, best practices, and case studies are included in the full white paper.

To receive a complimentary copy of our full Cultural Congruence White Paper, please contact your MSW●ARS representative.

Celebrity Advertising – Pitfalls or Payoffs?

May 14th, 2014 Comments off

Celebrity Advertising: Pitfalls or Payoffs?celbrity-collage

In many ways we live in a celebrity driven culture.  Whether it be television, movies, music, sports, fashion or politics; star power rules.  We read celebrity news, watch them on talk shows or reality television and follow them on twitter.  Certainly the stars have cashed in on this national – and international – obsession with celebrity.  Some examples – Beyoncé’s $50 million deal with Pepsi, Usain Bolt’s $8.6 million annual contract with Puma and Brad Pitt earning $6.8 million to be the face of Chanel No. 5.  But can the interest and loyalty attached to a celebrity be successfully transferred to a brand that pays for an endorsement?  Or do jaded consumers dismiss these endorsements as a sell-out by their otherwise adored idols?


Celebrity Endorsement Track Record

Based on historical results of MSW●ARS television ad testing, in terms of the ability to persuade consumers to choose the brand over competitors, overall, celebrity ads achieve CCPersuasion scores right at parity with the norm.




However, when a celebrity ad clicks, the results can be outstanding.  In fact, among the top scoring established product ads in the MSW●ARS database, celebrity ads have out-performed non-celebrity ads.  The top 5% of celebrity ads have achieved a CCPersuasion index of 233 versus 205 for the top 5% of non-celebrity ads.  Celebrity ads retain a diminishing advantage in the top 10% and top 20%.




But there are challenges to taking full advantage of this effect, as reflected in the overall track record for celebrity ads.  Some additional insight into these challenges can be drawn from a comparison of consumer diagnostics for ads with and without celebrity presenters.  In general, feedback is less positive for celebrity ads across many diagnostic metrics.  The diagnostic elements that show the largest differences provide some insight into what commonly holds back celebrity ads from realizing their full potential:

  • Importance of Main Point:  Too often a celebrity may be used as a replacement for a compelling proposition.
  • Easy to Relate:  Celebrities live in a different world than the rest of us.  This presents a challenge in using them to illustrate how a brand will satisfy “our” needs in a way that is relatable.
  • Ad Believability:  Consumers may be skeptical that the celebrity actually uses – or has even tried – the product and may also be cynical that the celebrity has been “bought”.
  • Made Me Interested in Brand:  This illustrates the challenge of redirecting interest from the celebrity to the brand itself.




Examples: Using Celebrities Effectively

Two of the most important keys to using celebrities effectively are to ensure an appropriate fit between the celebrity’s reputation and the benefits or claims being made about the advertised product; and ensuring that the presenter does not displace the brand as the key focus of the ad.  The following examples illustrate brands that have done this effectively.

In the Epic Splits ad for Volvo Trucks, Jean Claude Van Damme describes the years of hard work that has allowed him to attain a “body crafted to perfection”.  This harmonizes with Volvo’s reputation for quality, attention to detail and heritage.  And the demonstration illustrates not just Van Damme’s amazing flexibility and balance, but also the stability and precision of Volvo’s dynamic steering system.



In his endorsement of the MicroTouch One razor, Rick Harrison’s historical expertise on consumer products, not to mention his clean shaven head, makes him a great fit for their television ad.  The ad achieves a balanced perspective by keeping the product and its attributes the main focus through ample demonstrations and time on screen.



Finally, in this spot from Taylor Swift’s on-going campaign for Cover Girl, she not only portrays beauty but also provides a realistic context for the problem of makeup removal – that is, clean makeup enables “taking off the mask”, a stage performer challenge.


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To receive a complimentary copy of our full Celebrity White Paper, please contact your MSW●ARS representative.

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3 Keys to Balancing Technology With Traditional Qualitative Research

February 28th, 2014 Comments off

qual-onlineThe use of technology and social media in qualitative research over the past few years has undoubtedly been a welcome addition to the researcher’s toolbox.  Indeed, we’re a huge proponent and regularly incorporate such methods into our projects. However, it’s crucial to not let the buzz over technology and social media overshadow the need for solid research design, or to diminish the value that can be gained through more traditional qualitative approaches.  Indeed, in spite of all the hype over the use of technology, the 2014 GreenBook Research Industry Trends Report indicates that the most widely used qualitative methods continue to be in-person focus groups, in-person IDI’s and telephone IDIs; with no significant change in use noted among any type of qualitative method from the previous year.  So we are not advocating the use of one approach over the other, but rather stating the case that there is a place for all of these tools, as long as they are being used for the right reasons.

1)     Rather than pitting technology against traditional methods, or viewing these varied approaches as an either/or proposition, consider all approaches as viable and complementary

  • An increasing amount of qualitative consists of a hybrid of methods vs. a singular approach
  • We encourage experimenting with new methods in order to better understand the value they offer
  • There’s always room for new tools, it’s a matter of knowing how and when to use them

2)     Make certain that the research objectives and requirements are driving the methodology… not the other way around

  • Remember, garbage in-garbage out
  • Fairly weigh the pros and cons of each approach, and determine which will best suite the research, as opposed to force fitting a method for no other reason than its novelty or newness

3)     Above all, don’t overlook the skill set required of the qualitative consultants conducting the research, regardless of the chosen method

  • The need for a solid foundation and understanding of qualitative design
  • The mindset that, “anyone can conduct focus groups,” is as false for technology-based methods as it is for traditional approaches
  • The importance of asking the right questions and knowing how to listen
  • The ability to extract valuable insights is where the true value lies
  • Working with researchers who understand people more than technology

Following are a few examples which illustrate how technology and traditional methods can co-exist, and when one approach may offer advantages over the other:

qual-mobileMobile Ethnography:  Mobile technology allows participants to self-report “in the moment,” communicating via any combination of text, audio and video from whatever environment the research calls for.  While this method may offer the benefit of capturing a person’s feelings and experiences in-situ, there may be other behaviors or actions that the respondent is not capturing or reporting, or possibly not even aware of, that a trained ethnographer would notice.  Thus, immediacy and speed may be gained at the loss of small, but very telling details; as what people don’t tell and don’t do can be some of the most valuable information gained in an ethnographic project.

We might suggest that a combination of shopping trips with and without a researcher present may provide balance, as learning gained on the assisted trips may help explain behaviors noted on the self-reported ones.  Or, self-reported trips followed by either in-person or webcam interviews allowing for further probing and exploration might also be considered.

qual-groupFocus Groups/IDI’s:  Both face-to-face and online interviews (real time or bulletin board) have their pros and cons.  Deciding which route to follow may be dependent on a number of factors–such as the ease/difficulty of recruiting qualified respondents, budget and time constraints, geography—but the key determinant should be the objectives of the research.

A relatively simple, straightforward concept screen or evaluation can easily be handled by any number of online platforms offering markup tools, which allow participants to view, critique and comment on concepts without being influenced by others, and then allow for discussion.  However, a project more exploratory in nature, where the sharing and building of ideas is important, or having people with different views challenge each other and engage in more natural flowing conversation is critical, would better lend itself to face-to-face groups.

While both of these scenarios could be handled through either method, for the latter example the benefit of being able to read non-verbal cues such as facial expressions or body language, and hear voice intonation would favor a more traditional group approach.

qual-social-mediaSocial Media:  Social media is too big to be ignored as a source of real-time information for companies and researchers, but caution needs to be taken in terms of how it is used as a qualitative tool and its influence on decision making.  One of the primary concerns is not knowing enough about the people providing commentary, or having the opinions of few speak for many.  Some research conducted on social media shows that the majority of people use it for consumption without being active contributors in sharing content or interacting with others, and while there may still be valid learning gained from those who do participate, researchers need to be aware of the bias that exists.  And while there are numerous text aggregation and analytic tools that troll popular social sites, is there one that can truly interpret language nuances and understand the context in which comments are made–incomplete and grammatically incorrect sentences, sarcasm, humor, anger, irony?

As this early stage, social media content may be most valuable in providing fodder for further qualitative exploration… through either tech or traditional methods:  developing hypotheses, identifying language used around brands or categories, bringing potential problems with products or services to light, and raising other questions that may prompt meaningful discussion on key issues.  However, at this early stage, we advise caution in viewing social media research as a stand-alone qualitative tool.

MSW●ARS recognizes the value technology offers, and is continually experimenting with new methods and tools, without losing sight of the value brought by tried and true qualitative approaches.  Please give us a call to discuss your qualitative needs, and allow us to recommend an approach that utilizes the best of both worlds.


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