Predict the success of marketing. Predicting that influence on brand strategy
By Tom Dougherty
Introduction into the art of how to predict the success of marketing
The purpose for all messaging and communications is to have influence on the audience and to persuade it to act. However, getting your message to the proper audience in today’s economic climate is no longer an issue of choosing among the possibilities. Instead, it has become solely an issue of affordability. There is a need to predict the success of marketing messages. In retrospect, many experts have looked at the success of past advertising campaigns but hindsight is not valuable.
Companies do what they “need” to do, instead of what they “want” to do. How do you measure effectiveness and ensure that you win? These questions can be predicted if not measured. We needed a comprehensive model to predict the success of marketing so we created this marketing metrics. For that “need” to be effective, it must be the most meaningful in the market – and it must resonate considering the current situation, such as an economic climate that has changed the mindsets of consumers.
The unwillingness to address those needs and go with the same tired approach – messaging that’s nearly identical to what was delivered years ago and follows the tired reach-frequency format so many misguided marketers follow – produces a predictable, losing formula. After all, in changing times, there will still be winners and there will still be losers. The difference between the two is one understands the nature of human beings and the other doesn’t.
If you seek to understand something, it always makes sense to model it. The science of physics has been modeling natural laws for centuries. The marketing metrics model presented here is a formula that takes into account the emotional intensities of the primary human motivators within any changing situation, economic or otherwise, to formulate messages that will resonate most strongly with audiences, and predict the success of marketing messages. With this marketing metrics model, you will learn to recognize the elements and, if form follows function, you will be able to understand how to influence and change the model. (Read how precepts control behavior)
Human behavior can be modeled, as you will see, and this marketing metrics model in particular models the behavioral elements of persuasion. Let’s start by asking ourselves, what do we notice? How do we decide what is important and what we remember? When we examine the answers to those questions, we begin to re-think the waste inherent in current marketing. Looking at the elements of human behavior is quite different from modeling a communication process like reach and frequency. For this new model to be usable, it needs to act as a predictor of human behavior and, by definition, should be able to explain past communication successes and failures.
What Human Beings Notice Most
Human beings are egocentric. We cannot get out of our own way and see almost everything through the filter of self. As a result of this filter, what the receiver considers most when confronted with messages is not so much “what’s in it for me” (which is the traditional model of benefits and features) but rather “am I in it”? Human beings notice ideas and products that, in some way, reflect themselves. They remember products and ideas that help them accomplish their major goal of simply becoming themselves. That is why, if a doctor tells you to lose weight because of the onset of diabetes, we notice and pay attention to messages about weight loss — a message we might have ignored the day before. (Another example: Think of how many For Sale signs you saw when you were buying a house. Then think about how, amazingly, they seemed to disappear once you bought the house.)
The New Marketing Metrics Model to Predict the Success of Marketing and Marketing Messages
Imagine this: You are driving down the highway and you see a billboard that featured your photograph. Would you notice it, regardless of message? Absolutely. There is a communications process that empowers every message to become exactly that effective. It requires an anthropologist’s skill at understanding and modeling human behaviors and motivations. Once that has been uncovered, you would need to include that learning in the message itself. It would be nearly as effective – and in a similar way – as starting every message with the customer’s name and image. Through experience and empirical and scientific research, the human motivators have been effectively modeled here and the basic elements are cross-cultural, so personal impression can be noticed and acted upon. The basic queries in this marketing metrics remain constant regardless of culture or national origin. They are global. Understanding the eight elementary human motivators propels your message to the forefront and ensures it is remembered.
The Unquenchable Thirst for Meaning
Human beings, regardless of culture, seek meaning in all of their actions. (Consider this: We even talk to our dogs, expecting them to give reasons for the things they do.) This represents an opportunity for those communicators who understand this tremendous thirst for meaning. This means that the words we choose to create meaning to our messages and our brand is extraordinarily important. It means that everyone who is exposed to your offering or the communication of that offering sees this meaning and, in fact, will use the words you provide to them. This is a double-edged sword. If you get the meaning wrong, those with whom you are communicating will insert meaning that is not important or motivating to them and, therefore, fail to inspire them to your ideas, services, products or brands.
The eight primary human motivators form the basics of self-identification and account for a human’s own sense of self — given that the fundamental needs for sustenance, shelter and health are sated. By addressing each of these in your message, you ensure that everyone who is exposed to your message (reach) will notice the message.
These eight prime motivators are the filters through which all messages are received, accepted, ignored or rejected. The more they reflect the “self-settings” of the recipient, the more likely they are to be acted upon.
Good Times vs. Tough Times and Times of Change
In creating this model, we looked at each of the eight prime motivators needed to predict the success of marketing messages and measured the differences between cultural norms in both good and tough economic times because most companies and brands in the U.S. have become handicapped by this situation. The marketing metrics model will demonstrate the differences in these motivators, predict success and explain failure. We are able to recognize the intensities of each motivator in relation to the situation as well as the rate with which they change during changing situations. In this case, that situation is economic: Going from “good times” to the “tough times” of today. The motivators below are listed in order of intensity during good times and tough times. Also, the way in which each motivator is defined changes slightly, depending on overall circumstances. It is those nuances that often make the difference between a winning message in the context of the times and a losing one. Each motivator has been given an intensity measurement, a ranking on a 10-point scale based on the particular situation. In addition to differing definitions, the rate of change for the intensity of a human motivator from one situation to another is referred to as Acceleration, and those rates are measured on a 10-point scale.
In good times, the most important human motivator is Desire. It derives its power from its relationship with the other motivators. Simply taking into account the desires of the target audience that you seek to influence is not nearly enough to promise success. It is simply a starting point. A traditional usage and attitudinal study (U&A Study) can discover what people need or want and the results are then used to create messaging that fulfills those desires. However, there is a more powerful means to understand and use this dynamic — one that will make it useful to you as a predictor of success and as a tool to understand past successes or failures in the marketing metrics.
In good times, the fulfillment of desires is defined as “What I Want.” In tough times, it is defined as “What I Need.” Comparing the relative importance of each definition in good or tough times demonstrates why the benefit you offered in relative good times will not resonate as important in tough times. As a general rule, all intensities are increased in tough times and each of the prime motivators is realized as more important. But understanding the nuances is critical in the marketing metrics because it’s what makes the difference between surviving in tough times. In this case, that means your message must be about “need,” not “want.” Think of it this way: In tough times, you “need” products to simply do their job. In good times, you “want” something more. In tough times, we simply need coffee, so you accept the one at the grocery store. In good times, you want Starbucks. And thus, you have a predictor of what Starbucks is currently going through unless they adapt their communications to the particular nuance.
All communicators understand how important familiarity is to any idea, product, or service because if someone is unfamiliar with that product or service they are less likely to adopt it as a new behavior. Familiarity is also linked to top-of-mind awareness in the marketing metrics but even that is misunderstood. It is not so much about the familiarity of the brand or product, but what is it about that brand or product that makes it feels familiar and at ease.
In good times, the fulfillment of familiarity is defined as “What is Easy.” In tough times, it is defined as “What is Safest.” That is, in good times, consumers are looking to what makes things easy for them, even if its outcome may have risks. In tough times, risk is less accepted. Safe feels familiar to audiences now because it offers a refuge that may herald back to nostalgia.
For example, when you are thirsty in good times, you might choose what is “easy.” That is, we might grab what is most available. In tough times, we seek “safest,” meaning we might inconvenience ourselves and go somewhere else for something that is healthier or cheaper.
When we think about leadership as a human motivator in the marketing metrics we are not talking about taking the lead on something as we might in geopolitical terms. We are talking about leadership in terms of responsibility — meaning, “Who takes the responsibility for this action?” It is an internal question asked by everyone before they take any action.
In good times, from the point of view of the target audience, the fulfillment of Leadership is defined as “My Responsibility” (the consumer) and in tough times it is defined as “Your Responsibility” (the brand). In good times, audiences are more than happy to assume the responsibility because the risks are fewer. Once the element of risk has become more threatening, however, audiences want the responsibility to fall to the experts (or communicator of the message).
As strange at it may sound, according to the marketing metrics, we listen to experts more in tough times. Even if they were the ones who let us down in good times. That’s because the responsibility has shifted. Choice, as we will examine more closely in Scope, becomes less of a motivator.
One of the ways human beings seek meaning is by looking for affirmation in their choices. Consumers wish to make sure that all of their actions are somehow affirmed as “being correct.” As a primary human motivator – regardless of culture, product and category – everyone that your brand or marketing message contacts are seeking this sense of affirmation and certainty.
Without this value in the marketing metrics, target audiences gravitate towards inaction: A refusal to make a choice or fall back into a habit of what “I have always done.” This is a surefire way to assure continued market dominance by the category leader. It means that if we do not provide our audiences with a sense of affirmation, little or no change will take place in the marketplace and the market leader will continue to benefit from this inaction.
In good times, the fulfillment of Affirmation is defined as making the Best Choice and in tough times it is defined as making the Right Choice. For example, in good times, we will look for the best choice in automobiles, something that is top of the line or sporty fits us best. In tough times, we look for those things that are right, such as a hybrid or something more economical. The world, in a way, has determined that it’s right. Talking about the choices consumers make in terms of affirming they have made the right choice makes your messages more meaningful in a difficult economic climate.
Scope is one the most complex of the human motivators in the marketing metrics. When we consider Scope, we see it in terms of how large audiences want their considered set to be. This is related to the other motivators, such as leadership or the transfer of the responsibility of the decision to others. What we seek to understand in looking at scope is what gives the customer or prospect permission to include the scope of either your product or category into their consideration.
In good times, the fulfillment of Scope is defined as having many choices and in tough times it is defined as having precision and more focus. In good times, audiences seek a wide scope, with lots of choices. In tough times, we are looking for “right,” so more focus is needed. Our considered set is smaller and we often give expert advice more weight. This, for example, is why Borders (which is all about choice) found it difficult to survive in a difficult economic climate.
Human beings seek comfort no matter the situation, but the intensity surrounding it is much stronger depending on that situation.
According to the marketing metrics, in good times, Comfort is simply accepted as the norm. In tough times, it is actively sought. In good times, most of us feel that we already have comfort so a comfort message is relatively meaningless. In tough times, however, comfort is no longer a given. Therefore, we seek it and a comfort promise – instead of achieving, which has risks – resonates. Note the differences in intensities with this motivator within the two situations. It is only a 2.0 on a 10-point scale in good times. In tough times, it’s a 9.0 with one of the highest rates of acceleration among all the motivators.
The longing for human beings to be in control is a prime motivator. It is within the dynamic of change in the marketing metrics that the need for control becomes most evident. When we think about change as a key persuasive human motivator, we actually think about it as a barrier than as an attraction. The changing situation determines its intensity.
In good times, the resistance to Change is simply uncomfortable and in tough times it is outright feared. Therefore, in tough times, change messages should be softened, otherwise they will feel to audiences like a loss of control.
Community in the marketing metrics, refers to the acceptance of the community that affirms our existence and is related to Affirmation. It represents the wish of all human beings to be part of an affirmed group. Very few people are capable of acting as completely independent individuals. Therefore, for the vast majority of people we wish to influence, we must understand the importance of community and the acceptance that community offers.
In good times, the fulfillment of Community is simply about the individual and in tough times it is satisfied through the safety of numbers. In good times, you can risk going it alone – being a leader, a rebel, etc. – because there is less at stake. In tough times, there is too much at risk in going it alone, so you seek safety in a community or being a part of a group.
Companies and their brands have reached the point in which their communications must change in order to survive in such a changing market. The marketing metrics of the Comprehensive Model for Persuasive Human Communications allows them to alter their messaging so that it becomes more meaningful in context. If nobody adapts to the current context, the default choice will always be the market leader. But the situation actually presents an opportunity for those chasing the market leader (as well as for the market leaders themselves) that reaches target audiences so deeply it causes action. How the primary human motivators are addressed will become the difference between who survives and who doesn’t.
Definitions COMPREHENSIVE MODEL FOR PERSUASIVE HUMAN COMMUNICATIONS: A mathematical model that measures the impact changing conditions have on emotional intensities of primary human motivators. The model can be used to predict and formulate messages for brands that will resonate most strongly with target audiences.
INTENSITIES: The relative strength of human motivators expressed as a ranking on a 10-point scale based on the particular attributes examined by the model. ACCELERATION: The rate of change for the intensity of a human motivator from one state to another, measured on a 10-point scale.
VALUE OF MESSAGE CHANGE: A mathematical representation using intensity and acceleration to predict the value in terms of its overall impact on each motivator.