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Communications pre-testing best practice

Comms testing

Pre-test before you invest

You’re probably already well aware that advertising and communications consume the largest chunk of most marketing budgets, which in turn account for roughly 13% of company revenue.

So, with this in mind, it’s no surprise that launching an expensive marketing campaign can be daunting when you’re not 100% certain that your communications will resonate with your target audience.

What if the tone is off? What if your marketing fails to promote your product’s unique selling points? What if your target audience fails to see the appeal, based on your advertising? Any single one of these mistakes can cost thousands or even millions of dollars in lost opportunity, not to mention wasted time and resources.

This is why advertising and communications pre-testing exists – for peace of mind that you’ve ironed out all the kinks before you launch a new campaign.


What is pre-testing?

In the context of marketing, pre-testing is the process of evaluating your advertising and communications prior to rolling out your campaign. Through a process of qualitative and then quantitative research, a brand can assess whether their latest campaign idea and specific executions such as TV ads, billboards or even social content will have the desired effect on their target audience.

Qualitative research is best used to help explore and define different creative areas in support of validating the creative direction of the communications. Quantitative research is usually used after the strategy has been defined to validate it with the desired target audience and to provide further input for refinement and optimisation.   We’ll now focus on the benefits of quantitative pre-testing. 

What questions can pre-testing answer?

There are a large number of areas where quantitative pre-testing can support the refinement and/or validation of concepts or finished creative assets. Here are just some of the questions that research at this stage can answer:  

  • Does the concept resonate with my target audience?
  • Is the appeal stronger amongst different groups of people? (which often helps define the real audience for the product/service)
  • Is the appeal consistent across geography or markets?
  • What is appealing or unappealing about different elements of the communication e.g. message, visual stimulus, music etc?
  • Have we recognised and reflected cultural nuances for different markets? 
  • How likely is the communication to motivate people to act?
  • What are the best channels to use to reach my desired audience? (thinking beyond paid advertising channels to consider partnerships and earned media ideas)


Case in point – Reckitt’s evaluation of  Enfa messaging

Multinational consumer goods firm Reckitt needed data to rank and assess the messaging strategy for Enfa, its main infant and toddler brand which specialises in child nutrition products. Reckitt needed to determine if Enfa’s core brand messaging was on point across four key markets.

Specifically, Reckitt needed to know if the advertising and communications that Enfa was about to launch were relevant, believable and would invoke purchase intent in these new markets. Given that time was a factor, Reckitt needed rapid-pace research to get these insights quickly.

Glow was able to provide a solution. Using the intuitive Glow platform, Reckitt was able to create a questionnaire, develop a rotation methodology to avoid bias, then translate and deploy the survey throughout the four key markets (Mexico, Philippines, Thailand and the United States)… all within a week.

Based on the real-time data that the research produced, Reckitt and Enfa were able to align their overall messaging across all markets, as well as optimise local messaging to reflect market, language and cultural differences. Since then, Reckitt has utilised Glow for numerous similar projects.


Two key considerations:


Measure holistically

Quantitative comms research can help you to validate or refine the go-to-market strategy before you launch a campaign so that you can be confident the campaign will deliver on the investment behind it. 

But the best pre-testing approaches take a holistic approach to assessing your campaign because the sales impacts of advertising activity have been proven to come from a mix of components. The creative (quality, messaging relevance and context) is generally considered to account for roughly half the sales impact of advertising, while media (reach, targeting and recency effects) drive around a third of impact and brand effects the remainder. 

So, remember to ensure you are testing and validating all the components of your communications approach.


Testing doesn’t end at launch

Consumer behaviour is a rapidly evolving phenomenon, regardless of what markets you’re communicating with. Once your marketing is out there, it’s important to continue monitoring its impact on your audience to see how it can be further optimised.

If you are about to launch a major campaign it is good practice to ensure you are ready to measure its impact not only on hard measures like website visits and sales but also softer brand health metrics such as awareness and consideration.

To do this many brands implement either a pre & post campaign brand ‘dip’ or establish ongoing brand tracking research. 

To make it easier to get your pre-testing right, here’s a checklist to  remind you of considerations before you launch your next major marketing campaign.


Pre-testing checklist: 

  1. Test if – your campaign marketing spend is over $1M or you are investing over $100k in creative production, then plan to test it. At this scale or above the value of testing should more than offset its cost. 
  2. Time to optimize – allow 2-3 weeks for strategy/creative testing to ensure you have the time not only to field the research but also, critically, to optimise your approach based on your learnings
  3. Assess holistically – make sure you are validating all the components of your campaign approach before you launch including target audience, creative and channels
  4. Account for culture – if you are running activity across different markets or distinctive cultural groups, then ensure you have tested those cohorts separately (in local language) to ensure you measure for cultural and communication nuances. You don’t want to end up on this list
  5. Set benchmarks – ensure you have a clear read on brand health before you launch your new campaign so you can assess its impact on attitudes as well as sales 
  6. Measure ongoing – your activity doesn’t happen in isolation, so ensure you measure your brand health and marketing impacts with a cadence that reflects the dynamics of your category. 
  7. Plan for problems – sometimes s#@t just happens. Make sure you’ve planned for challenges and can assess your research progress in real-time so when things go wrong or the data tells a story you weren’t expecting, you can respond quickly. 


The ROI of research 

For most research use cases, the cost of robust research will be less than 5% of any significant marketing budget. 

Would you pay 5% to ensure the remaining 95% is invested appropriately?


Let’s Glow.

Have an upcoming campaign that you want to test comms for? Or want to assess the impact of in-market activity? Glow’s unique research technology empowers you to test strategy, evaluate concepts and get your messaging right the first time, every time – book an intro today to find out how Glow can help your business grow.