Archive for the ‘Cognition’ Category


Exposure is just a means to an end

March 11, 2010
The basic idea behind marketing communications hasn’t really changed much over the years, but it’s amazing how this industry continues to miss what’s important. We also seem to miss there’s an actual progression to achieving a marketing goal.

The goal of marketing communications is to change the way a group of people think or feel about a brand. Ulimately, we’re trying to change what people do. Usually, buy the brand.

There’s a natural progression to changing thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and that’s where most marketers seem to stumble. Marcom always involves three basic steps: exposure, attention, and engagement. Without attention or engagement, you can’t ever hope to change a behavior.

Traditionally agencies and media firms have been rewarded based on exposure metrics like impressions and GRPs. Oddly, exposure to a marketing communication activity doesn’t mean the consumer had any awareness of the brand message. In fact, advertising agencies rarely know how many people exposed to an activity actually exhibited any awareness of or engagement with the activity.

There are many levels of awareness and engagement, and awareness tends to bleed into engagement. Engagement is a bit easier to measure because it requires an action from the user, but measuring awareness can be difficult.

We know higher levels of awareness and engagement translate into greater opportunities to change thinking, feelings, and behavior of a consumer. We also know awareness and engagement translates into sales.

Marketers should be placing much more emphasis gauging the effectiveness of their marcom by measuring awareness and engagement, not by relying on what’s easiest to measure: exposure.

TV Ad Exposure Exposed

February 28, 2010

Over the past decade or so there has been a lot of talk about the diminishing efficacy of TV advertising, but I’m not sure how much of this criticism gets to the heart of the matter. According Nielsen the average American still consumes over four hours of TV programming everyday and ad skipping via DVRs still seems to be negligible.

In 2009 Sequent Partners, Ball State University’s Center for Media Design, the Council for Research Excellence, and Nielsen reported findings of a ground breaking research project. If you want to get a better understanding of how Americans use media, I highly recommend reading the full report.

The study reported “TV users were exposed to, on average, roughly an hour a day (61.1 minutes) of live TV ads and promos.” This figure may be a bit inflated, but still stunning if you consider the average participant’s total exposure to computer and mobile screens was only 2 hours and 43 minutes a day. As a comparison, the average daily exposure to television clocked in at 6 hours and 3 minutes. For some reason participants in this study consumed two more hours of television everyday than the Nielsen panel – as reported in the Nielsen Three Screens Report.

What really troubles me about studies like this is the phrase ‘exposure to TV ads’. I submitted a request to the CRE for their definition but haven’t heard back yet. From what I can deduce, ‘exposure to ads’ means being in close enough proximity to a TV to see and/or hear the advertisements. Exposure doesn’t necessarily mean looking at the TV or actively listening to the audio. And there lies the problem.

“Exposure” is not a useful measure of consumer attention or engagement, and without at least a minimal level of attention, one would assume a TV advertisement would have little if any effect on the user.

So what do we know about TV ad exposure and a viewer’s level of attention? Not much, and I’m not so sure our industry is eager to find out.

Page 46 of the VCM final report includes a chart illustrating ‘concurrent media exposure’ during regular TV content and advertisements. The diagram is cryptic, but its obvious concurrent media exposure is significantly elevated when TV commercials are running. I assume environmental factors such as conversations, etc. are accounted for in the data represented by the blue triangle.

Concurrent media exposure sounds benign. Most people assume they can “multi-task” and successfully consume multiple media streams simultaneously. As I noted last November, researchers at Stanford University study found media multi-taskers cannot process more than one information string at a time. A 2007 MRI study reported similar findings.

Based on the VCM study and other studies, I diagrammed my hypothesis of how much attention viewers pay to TV advertising. During TV advertisements, the percentage of viewers who are highly engaged is quite small. How small? We don’t know for sure. To my knowledge, nobody has done a comprehensive study to find out how attentive viewers are to TV commercials. And that seems quite odd given billions of dollars are spent on television advertising every year.

So what does this all mean? Every marketing communications activity should be evaluated by attention and engagement measures, not exposure. CPM (cost-per-thousand) can be extremely misleading when comparing one marcom activity to the next.


Changing the Marcom Mindset (part VI) – Experiences are Broad

January 28, 2010

Brand experiences happen on many levels. Let’s use beer as an example. There is an immediate sensory aspect of the beer experience: the chill of the bottle, the color and texture of the pour, the aroma, the taste…but the brand experience doesn’t end there.

The brand experience goes beyond product/service experience

Price is also an important factor in the beer experience, but the social and environmental situations in which a beer is consumed is equally or more important. If a brand can build a strong association with pleasurable or meaningful social situations, those experiences can become part of the brand experience.

Beer marketers recognize they’re limited in how they can improve the brand experience by what they put in the bottle, so for decades they’ve used advertising and promotion to suggest an association with other experiences.

But advertising is almost always passive. A suggestion of an experience isn’t an experience, even if consumers associate a particular beer brand with certain experiences in their mind. In the future brands will need to work harder by augmenting the experiences they want to be associated with.

Next Time: Marcom as an Experience


Changing the Marcom Mindset (part IV) – Pleasure and Meaning

January 19, 2010

The second requirement of an extraordinary experience is the intensity of pleasure and meaning it provides. Pleasure is a state that is more about a sensation or feeling – something that is usually short-lived. Meaning is more about intellect and understanding – something that’s long lasting.

The lists below contain examples of both. The ‘meaning list’ is mostly borrowed from a presentation by Shedroff.

Intensity matters

Extraordinary experiences provide a high intensity of pleasure, meaning, or both. Brands need to think about what kind of pleasure or meaning they’re trying to evoke and find ways to dial up their intensity.

Next time: The Nuances of Experiences


Changing the Marcom Mindset (part III) – Experiences and Interactivity

January 13, 2010

So if brands are experiences, shouldn’t we understand the basic things that determine whether an experience is good or not?

What experiences are made of

Extraordinary experiences usually have two qualities: 1) they’re interactive and 2) they provide pleasure or meaning.

Almost every brand I can think of offers some element of interactivity. Consumers USE most products and services, so it stands to reason brands are interactive. The quality of the interactive experience is also important.

Most products and services also have a sensorial element. You can see them, taste them, smell them, touch them, or hear them. Interactivity that involves more than one of our senses can be very powerful.

Nathan ShedroffWhat is interactivity?

In the mid ‘90s Nathan Shedroff diagrammed an interactivity continuum. It does a great job of illustrating the factors that make something interactive. This continuum can be used to analyze different types of media, but also evaluate almost any human activity. High levels of interactivity plotted on the right and low levels on the left.

You can even use this scale to analyze how one brand stacks up against another. In almost every case, brands that provide higher levels of interactivity are more successful than their counterparts.

Some brands can even create interactivity that results in a flow experience, such as video games, adventure vacations, and toys.

Next time: Meaning, Pleasure, and Intensity


The Price For Attention…Going Up?

November 28, 2009

Out of the hundreds of RFPs and briefs I’ve read over the past several years, the majority of them say creating ‘increased attention’ for a particular brand (product or service) is their primary goal.

Our industry doesn’t have a reliably accurate awareness metric like Cost-Per-Attention. Sure, we can commission recall studies, or extrapolate neuromarketing results to ad exposures, but no one can truly measure the cost for generating attention or recall, let alone attribute those costs to a specific marketing activity. But if we could…

Will marketers pay more or less to generate attention in the future?

My sense is marketers are an optimistic bunch. They see technology as a cost-cutter, providing advances in media mix modeling, behavioral targeting, and results attribution – things that should lead to greater efficiency. They also see developments in digital media and what has been touted as Web 2.0 as an effective, low cost method of engaging consumers and generating awareness via word of mouth.

On the flip side, we’re seeing an avalanche of content, media, and activities competing for attention. Media costs aren’t getting cheaper and consumers are increasingly successful in avoiding advertising. We’re also seeng more SKUs and services than ever, all competing for our attention.

Add to that the cost of agency services. Margins are falling as brand marketers adopted a cattle-call/jumpball approach to selecting agencies. What brand marketers don’t seem to understand is they’re paying bloated rate cards to offset the increasing cost of prospecting and pitching. Every time a brand manager does an agency search, or sends out an RFP to a dozen agencies, they’re burning tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars in agency costs. Those costs need to be made up somewhere, and in the end, they’re paid in hidden fees by the agency’s customers – the brand.

My guess is price for attention is going to increase over the coming years, but unfortunately nobody will be measuring it.


Can Attention Really Get More Diluted?

November 22, 2009

According to the most recent Three Screen report from Nielsen 57% of Americans use TV and the Internet simultaneously. This may sound like just another media factoid until you realize media-multitaskers suck at media-multitasking.

In a recent Stanford University study researchers found media-multitaskers cannot process more than one information string at a time.

“When they’re in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal,” said Wagner, an associate professor of psychology. “That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.”

Even when people aren’t consuming more than one media, they admit to being less than focused. A 2007 MRI study reported “34.7% of TV viewers and 16.5% of radio listeners report being “very focused” while using these media – compared with 54.6% for internet users, 50.0% for newspaper readers and 41.8% for magazine readers.”

What does this mean to marketers? More media touchpoints don’t necessarily mean a better chance of getting a consumer’s attention, and exposure metrics like GRPs, impressions, and views need to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

If most people aren’t very attentive to the content they’re consuming, just how attentive can they be to your advertising?