December 22, 2016

How Conversation Research Supports Traditional Advertising

An advertising agency friend recently challenged me that conversation research isn’t relevant to traditional advertising. “We focus on print, radio and TV, so that online stuff isn’t a primary concern.” Yes, I laughed and performed a hearty shaking of my head.

“So when consumers see those advertisements, what do you think they do next?” I replied.

“They either buy or they don’t.”

More furious head shaking.

“No, they go online to research. They talk to friends to see if someone knows more about that brand or has experience with them. They look for validation. In fact, I would argue that the online conversation is more important to purchase consideration than your ad in the first place (though they go hand-in-hand and one isn’t likely without the other).

So he asked me to prove conversation research would support traditional advertising. Even in a three-month-old company, I had a case study.

We were approached recently by a high-end home and lifestyle brand who had some suspicions about their advertising campaign. They didn’t think their messaging around quality and style was really resonating with consumers. Their campaign was developed on assumptions, not assertions and they felt like they’d guessed wrong.

So we analyzed what consumers were saying about their brand — when they turned to the social web to find out more about it — and discovered the brand’s suspicions were correct. The buying decision topics that emerged were almost completely focused on price. There were no (as in zero) conversations discussing quality and style.

Now, the presence of topics (or lack thereof) doesn’t an insight make. Deeper conversation research could yield more understanding of why. Were style and quality assumptions? Did those decision points even matter? Were they simply too high priced for consumers to focus on anything else?

All of those questions made for a great follow-up research project.

The point to my friend was to say that conversation research supports traditional advertising many ways. Some include:

  • Validating assumptions made without adequate consumer research
  • Confirming consumer talking points about the product to focus one’s messaging
  • Discovering tangential topics or qualities resonating with consumers the brand isn’t aware of
  • Uncovering audience segments for better targeting that fall outside the brand designation of its target

And there’s more.

So how’s your advertising doing? Are you happy with the results? Does your messaging resonate with your audience? How do you know?

If you don’t, we can help. Drop us a line and we can chat about how.

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