We’ve seen it, heard it, maybe even written it: marketing that tries to be relatable but misses the mark. For companies trying to stand out in a genuine, authentic way, today’s challenge isn’t just finding the right message, it’s making sure your message makes sense in the moment.
Right now, companies can’t afford to waste marketing dollars on campaigns that don’t deliver. According to a SurveyMonkey Audience study of 492 respondents in May, 42 percent of companies say their marketing budgets have been cut since COVID-19 started, with some seeing budget cuts of up to 70 percent. Yet more than half of marketing teams say the scope of their activities hasn’t decreased in line with these budget cuts.
Maybe that’s why research has become a hot spot for savvy brands. Companies report plans to increase their internal capabilities to bring research projects in-house. In fact, since COVID-19, insights teams plan to adopt more DIY tools and online surveys, while decreasing their use of full-service vendors. In addition, 41 percent of companies say they plan to increase the use of DIY research tools, and almost half plan to increase their use of online surveys.
Doing more with less
The shift to internal research has led insights teams to brace themselves for a potential avalanche of research requests. However, new technologies have made it fast, easy and affordable for internal teams to conduct the kind of customized, detailed studies that could cost six figures and take months if outsourced.
We decided to put these tools to the test by evaluating some of the coronavirus-oriented campaigns in the market today. We conducted two studies: a claims analysis for a national CPG company and an ad creative analysis for a major retailer. Here are the results.
Study No. 1: Are consumers ready for COVID-19-specific package claims?
We ran a product packaging study for a new hand cream from a major cosmetics company to test claims for a “new advanced formula that both moisturizes skin and kills 99.9 percent of flu germs.”
The claims we tested included antibacterial, antiviral and anti-COVID-19.
How we did it:
We collected 1,201 responses using SurveyMonkey’s Messaging & Claims Analysis, asking respondents to evaluate the three claims using nine attributes, and added benchmark data from personal care and skin care industries. Here’s what we found:
How to read the scorecard: Letters are assigned to each claim at the top. For each attribute, letters and highlights in the cell indicate statistically significant differences between the concepts at a 95% confidence level so you can see the “winner” at a glance. In the table, you’ll find the Top 2 box score for each attribute and letters/highlights indicating statistically significant differences. For example, the antibacterial claim received a score of 60 percent for overall appeal, and this is statistically significantly higher than the anti-COVID claim that received a score of 43 percent.
- Despite scoring highest among respondents for the unique attribute, the term anti-COVID-19 generated the lowest scores overall, specifically around believable and relevant.
- When asked to describe the product with one word, the most common write-ins for the anti-COVID-19 claim were “false,” “unbelievable” and “questionable.”
- It turns out that consumers question COVID-19 claims, which potentially could lead to brand distrust.
Study No. 2: How do consumers respond to feel-good vs. practical COVID-19 ads?
We found a major retailer running ads for its revised consumer shopping experience during COVID-19 and tested four of them, each emphasizing a different message.
The ads we tested (branding and font-masked below):
How we did it:
We collected 1,601 responses using SurveyMonkey’s Ad Creative Analysis, asking respondents to evaluate the four ads on five attributes, and added benchmark data from the retail stores industry. Here’s what we found:
- While the deep cleaning ad scored higher in overall appeal, the reserved hours ad scored the highest in the other three attributes.
- Unique write-ins for the deep cleaning ad were “reassuring” and “comforting,” while top write-ins for the reserved hours ad were “caring” and “thoughtful.”
- It turns out that feel-good/do-good messages resonated more than practical, informational ads for this retailer.
To conduct the studies, we used SurveyMonkey Expert Solutions, which helped us collect responses from a target audience and generate presentation-ready results in a single day without any involvement by an insights professional. Expert Solutions automates the process of data collection and analysis so even nontechnical marketers can run studies and get quick insights.
Make sure your ideas are market-ready
What we learned at first felt surprising: The more COVID-19-forward messages didn’t resonate as much as the messages that focused on customer value and problem-solving.
Perhaps our more important takeaway is that there are no rules, magic bullets or absolutes in how companies should approach consumers today. What is critical is that companies constantly test their messages, ask questions and keep tabs on the market to understand how to approach consumers in a way that will resonate at any given time.
As consumers and companies come to grips with the reality of COVID-19, it’s clear that messages and marketing need to continually evolve. Instead of waiting the pandemic out, leading companies are diving in, using technology to better understand and meet the needs of their target audiences.