Consumer Testing: Marketing Messages & Brand Permissions

When creating a new marketing or branding strategy, testing some of the ideas with your target market is a great idea. The last risk we want to take is rolling out new marketing messages or brand promises without knowing whether or not they are likely to resonate with your target market.

  • Will the new messages align with target customer needs, wants or purchase plans?
  • Will new brand positioning strike your target market as believable or authentic—or be perceived as marketing hype?

Testing Brand Permissions

One topic to consider is brand permission. That is, what do you have permission to say or claim?

For example, if Colgate, a company widely associated with toothpaste, decided to start marketing a new product line related to paper products, that would be a challenge for them. It’s not a position they currently own, and it would be a huge jump. They don’t currently have “permission” to enter that market.

Or imagine an unknown start-up software company messaging around identity theft protection. It’s a hard sell that typically requires significant joint marketing with, or endorsements by, more established brands. On its own, the start-up is unlikely to be trusted enough to be successful.

Of course, if your research suggests you do not have permission, this is just one decision factor as you make your go/no go decision on the new marketing strategy. Messages, slogans and advertising that you don’t have immediate permission for will take longer and cost you more money to be successful. You might even turn off loyal customers by appearing to be diverging too much from your current strategy. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it, it’s just that you need to understand the level of risk you are taking—a little, or a lot.

Using Surveys to Test

In an online survey you can test permissions by asking some basic questions.

Example 1: Let’s imagine we’re talking about slogans, and you want to know if you have permission to use a specific new slogan idea. The online survey could have a question with, say, four different slogans (your preferred one and three others) and ask, A) which of the slogans appeals to them the most, and B) for the selected slogan, which of the following companies they think would use it. So now you would find out if your target market likes the slogan, and who they think has the most permission to use it—your company, or a competitor?

We can also use a survey to see what types of messages or value propositions are likely to resonate.

Example 2: In this case, let’s say you want to discover customer values, so that you can craft new marketing messages accordingly. How does your target market perceive itself? An example of this is as follows:

Consumer Testing Customer Values

The answers to a question like this can help you understand what is important to your target market, so you can make sure your new marketing strategy will truly resonate. The question can be modified to capture propensity to be an early adopter of technology, for political activity, for family lifestyle attributes and so on.

Consumer Testing Reduces Risk

A simple online survey can reduce the risks you will encounter with new marketing strategies, but giving you an objective signal about what matters to your target market, and what they will perceive as authentic from your brand.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathryn Korostoff
Kathryn Korostoff taught market research best practices at Ask Your Target Market, and is the president of Research Rockstar, delivering market research training and support services. She can be reached at KKorostoff AT ResearchRockstar DOT com.