The tricky question of how to test ideas, live.


A nice ad, based on a nice insight, for a nice new product…


Then…. someone thought it was a good idea to involve people further…









Which obviously led to this


The agency said don’t worry, it’s aimed at girls, the risks are low, we’ll get nice stories back, maybe even as many as one hundred if we promote it on TV.

The moderation was in place so few will see the above comments.

But no one thought, maybe, just maybe, it’s a tricky ‘involvement’ idea.

Would people submit nice stories? Would they inspire our next TV ad? Would anyone bother? What would happen if they don’t? Is it best to be seen to be doing facebook (as a test) rather than worrying about the numbers. After all it’s not about ‘likes’ these days is it?

All common questions and considerations.

But any failure will be very public.

So the answer might have been to test the idea better.

All of the above concerns can be answered by posing simple questions to existing communities through community management. The resulting involvement (or lack of) and the consequent insights can guide the next lot of paid-for promotion. Learnings about what mechanic will get women to spread the word about a tissue product can be gathered. Public failure averted.

But this requires managers to stagger investment, test hunches live, resist having every channel launch with a bang at the same time, and generally operate in a tricky new area of test and learn around ideas.

It’s a tricky area because ‘involvement’ (emotional, physical, through sharing, commenting etc) is in the realms of social sciences, not ‘campaign messaging’. It’s psychology, not messaging. People share things to make themselves look good, respond to things that move them, mostly are passive, love free ideas and inspiration and care about their friends. Often these things conflict with brand messages and the marketer’s desire to create fast reach and awareness to hit short-term sales targets.

Messaging is messaging – here’s a point of view we want you to know. Paid media delivers this very well. FMCG product launches are often best delivered this way.

Involvement however is messy. It requires opinions, slow growth, test and learn, debates about products and their pros and cons, ideas for new products and services, new ideas for positioning. openness and continuous marketing processes.  This is tricky in a single ‘big bang’ campaign push. And tricky if you’re not set up to make it work.

So we all run a massive risk of getting it wrong. It’s massively difficult to get people to do things they have limited interest in doing so that we can implant a message into their heads and get them to share this message with their friends. It’s also a rather odd thing to do isn’t it? Looking at it like that.

Which is why involvement seems to work best at a brand vision, company direction and product innovation level, not at an ‘extending the campaign reach’ level.

Unless of course your campaign is extraordinary and the involvement you’re asking for is a simple mechanic like passing it on or ‘liking’ it. Which means a fab product and a wonderfully creative idea.

Which I don’t think this product or campaign quite managed.

If you were the brand manager, what would you do?


Thanks to Alex Jena and Simon Walton for the images.



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