With most consumers now craving some form of normality, much of the brand advertising that was made prior to lockdown can be more impactful now if only advertisers realised the potential, writes Richard Colwell.
Does advertising impact consumers more or less at the moment? This is one of the most common questions we have been asked by our clients, as they try to decide how to react which their brand communication during the lockdown.
The good news is that that is appears to be having a greater impact than ever. RED C’s wide reaching adverting evaluation testing, that has continued to be conducted since the lockdown started for a large range of clients in different industries, has seen evidence that consumers are both more emotionally open to connect with and be impacted by messaging at present, when compared to the pre-Covid 19 outbreak.
Two to three weeks ago we reported on the claimed strong increase in consumer media consumption, based on tracking we were conducting into consumer reactions to lockdown. Since then there has been evidence from work conducted by Core, that consumers have become somewhat jaded by the news cycle, and that that increased consumption had fallen back somewhat.
Despite this, the benefits from spending on advertising at the moment would still appear to exist. Listening to Peter Field talking on a System 1 Research webinar today, he certainly exposes that the fundamentals for a positive impact by continuing to spend remain a strong reason to keep communicating at this time.
The possibility to obtain greater Excess Market Share of Voice is very much one of these aspects, but what about the impact that ads might have now on consumers vs. pre-Covid 19 and the lockdown?
Well, at RED C we are lucky enough to conduct a lot of continuous ad testing, using our RED Star evaluation framework for testing ads across channels and within a large range of industries.
The positive news when we look at the average impact of ads during that time is that on the whole awareness of adverts tested has increased across the broad spectrum of campaigns – even where we are testing exactly the same ad before and after the crisis started.
This is perhaps to be expected, as if people are consuming more media and there is less noise generally, it makes sense that they are more likely to see our advert if we continue to play it.
But getting noticed is one thing, what about whether people are in the right frame of mind to listen to and be influenced by advertising?
In the qualitative work we have conducted we have seen that while consumers are obviously concerned about the virus, and worried about their families and the impact on the economy, what they crave more than anything is some semblance of normality.
It’s no surprise then, based on the testing that we have completed in March and April, to see that consumers are well disposed to ads at the moment. Overall, in our data the impact of the ads people are seeing is generally greater than it was beforehand. Lending weight to the concept that people are more attentive of the media they are consuming at the moment.
The most important finding is that ads are being seen to have a greater emotional impact. The RED Star framework in heavily impacted by emotional repose to advertising, as we know that this is most likely to drive long term sales.
The affection score in the model, which indicates the immediate system 1 emotional impact that the ad has on a consumer, has seen average improvements on average of at least +5 percent across the board, and in some cases even greater.
This is really important, because we know from academic studies that if people are happier when they consume ads, then they’re more likely to notice the ads and the ads are likely to have a greater impact.
A great study that set out to determine this run by a guy called Ted Branner, from the University of Australia. He gathered a represented sample of people and asked them to flick through a copy of that weekends paper.
Then he asked them whether they would say they were in a good mood or a bad mood overall. The study found that those people who were in a good mood, were also those who were more likely to notice and recall ads in the paper.
It also just makes sense, you can imagine that if you were in a bad mood, you might be less likely to accept the messaging in an advert or believe the claims made.
But surely its counterintuitive that people are happier at the moment? Well it’s true that consumers are of course very concerned, so them generally being happier doesn’t make sense. But what does make more sense is that they are perhaps more “emotionally receptive”.
So, ads that are designed to provoke a happy response or to create a positive emotional reaction, do so more easily. People want their spirits to be lifted, and ads that are attempting to link their brand to a positive emotional reaction manage to do this.
So, do brands need to change how they are advertising? Our research suggests that most consumers are craving normality, and if your advertising was already made as a longer term brand building campaign, then the impact should be greater now than ever.
Those campaigns that were right before the crisis, are on the whole going to be right now. Obviously, you need to sense check that there’s nothing specifically within that advertising that doesn’t sit well with the current situation, but I think that’s only likely to be an issue for very few of the ads that are out there.
Most of the campaigns we tested are those that worked well before the crisis. And those are working just as well now if not better. Particularly those that do engender a positive emotional reaction.
It’s clear that current crisis and the situation that consumers are in, only magnifies the fundamental truths of advertising. That is to “Get noticed” and “Be Distinctive”. At the moment it appears to be both somewhat easier to get noticed and be distinctive in the current situation.
- Firstly, because people are consuming more media, and different types of media than they normally do.
- Secondly, that there is less noise generally and
- Thirdly, that people are more emotionally receptive at the moment.
Richard Colwell is a founder and CEO of Red C