Spend enough time with children and you will learn the difference between hearing and listening. You can tell kids to clean up until you are blue in the face without even a turn of their head, but whisper ice cream and they come running. This is the difference between reaching your audience and connecting with them.
With children it is easy to tell which messages are connecting. If the room is still a disaster, your message did not connect; when there is a line in front of you for ice cream, this is a sign you got their attention.
Getting the consumers’ attention is not all that different than children. People react to what is of interest to them, in psychology the term for this is salience.[i] As suggested by Max Sutherland & Alice K. Sylvester in Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer, one way advertisers can gain prominence in the minds of consumers is through repetition. The issue here is there is a difference between reach and frequency, and salience.
The key to connecting with your audience is about identifying the insights that make people feel as if you are speaking directly to them. To this point, veteran marketer Graciela Eleta says, “Great insights are not about adding more factual data or reasons for buying your brand. Finding a great insight is like having an ‘aha’ moment; it’s about unearthing a belief that unlocks consumer’s hearts & minds; one that says ‘this brand understands me and my life’.”
While making a connection is critical for all brands and all consumers, it is even more pronounced when reaching out to multicultural audiences. It is for this reason that Lisa Valtierra, an awarding winning pharmaceutical marketer says, “With a multicultural audience, whether you are talking about the Hispanic, African American, or LGBT segments, it is obvious when they are part of your plan from the start or just an afterthought.” This is why she ensures all creative begins with insights relevant to her target audience as opposed to adapting something from the general market.
It is the presence of consumer insights that explains why two brands with similar executions can perform differently. Unlike with children and ice cream, assessing the creative connect with consumers can be more challenging. This is because a rich marketing mix makes it hard to know which message is working or not.
Creative testing is a standard means of assessment. However, it is based on self-reported feedback of participants. With self-reporting there is potential for participants to give socially acceptable responses. Also referred to as the Hawthorne Effect, this is when people modify or improve an aspect of their response as a result of being observed.[ii]
If only we could understand what the consumers were thinking and not just telling us, it would be a game changer. The good news is that we can to some degree. Hans Berger, a German psychiatrist, was the first to record brain waves in the 1920s, having invented the electroencephalogram (EEG). Today, market researchers are incorporating the use of biometric monitoring tools, such as the EEG and eye tracking, in their studies to understand the unspoken responses of consumers.
Working together Nielsen and Univision, SMG Multicultural set out to try and understand Millennials. The work focused on the bi-lingual Millennials reaction to language and the cultural context of messaging. Using a combination of EEG and eye tracking, the study was able to determine that not only the language but the context in which it is delivered impacts message receptivity and drives greater emotional engagement and memory activation.
The problem with using tools such as EEGs has been cost, but this is changing. Cerora, a new company from Bethlehem, PA, is about to make brain monitoring more accessible. Developed to help with early detection of concussions, the Cerora Borealis multimodal biosensor solution is a single lead EEG brainwave sensor that wirelessly transmits data to a tablet or laptop. What this means is with a specialized headband collecting brainwaves and sending results to a tablet, market researchers now have an easy to use and affordable means of understanding what consumers are thinking.
Just because a piece of creative works with one audience does not mean it will work with another. As Lisa Valtierra has identified, the key to success starts with understanding to whom you are speaking. Be focused on who your audience is, what you want to tell them, and how you want them to feel. Keeping these principals in mind and leveraging the tools available today to understand consumers, you will be on your way to making a creative connection.
[i] Max Sutherland & Alice K. Sylvester: Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer.
[ii] McCarney R, Warner J, Iliffe S, van Haselen R, Griffin M, Fisher P; Warner; Iliffe; Van Haselen; Griffin; Fisher (2007).