Archive for August, 2019

Observations and thoughts in relation to setting targets or benchmarks

August 30, 2019

I have been working on a few projects lately where clients have asked us to help them set or define performance benchmarks or targets for them. These have been in a variety of areas, such as the impact of communication, the success of product launches and the engagement of content. Some clients want to ‘track these over time’, others want to establish short term targets, and the work has stimulated interesting conversation (and at times conflict). So, I thought I would capture some of my thoughts around this topic here. I should point out these are just my thoughts and are intended to stimulate debate and are not a ‘set way of doing things’.

The reason setting targets or benchmarks is useful is because they enable you to make important judgments in as objective a manner as possible. For example, the effectiveness of communications. They also encourage brand owners and their partners to have intelligent debate about how and by how much they expect things to work. For example, say the impact of new packaging or advertising. In addition, they ensure you they have the right research approach in place to measure these expectations.

A key observation is that different parties involved often have different expectations of what the ‘targets’ or ‘benchmarks’ ought to be, depending on different criteria. This could be related to their experience in having set and measured targets previously, the potential ‘risk’ to the targets being set and for some their potential gain (a bonus) or loss (their job or the account). So, taking the time upfront to understand the different parties’ motivations and barriers to setting targets or benchmarks is very important.

Next up when thinking about your benchmarks, make sure they are all relative to something. This might sound obvious, but trust me, I have worked with some clients who have come to us with existing targets, but they cannot explain why specific ones may have been set or what they were linked to. Here are some obvious aspects to consider when setting targets or benchmarks:

Set them in relation to your brand and your objectives:

  • Previous results for your brand
  • What your ‘start point’ is
  • What you have set out to achieve
  • How much investment you will be utilising

Set them in relation to other brands / competitors:

  • Brands / competitors in comparable situations
  • Competitors’ performance
  • Research you have available on other brands / competitors

My final tip, one that I am sure some of you will not agree with, is to avoid norms. Why, well, I believe norms set the wrong ‘expectations’. For example, they can encourage the belief that exceeding the norm = success in the market, which time and again we can see is not the case. In addition, they can create targets or benchmarks that are by definition average, and this encourages us to aspire to the mediocre!

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Trump more than anyone, should know that words have consequences

August 12, 2019

As a child I was taught, like many of you I am sure, that our words have consequences. What we say can influence what others think or do. As an ‘average’ man on the street my words carry little influence, but I am still aware that I can use them to encourage others to do good deeds, or should I be so inclined, not so good deeds.

If an average man like me can use words to prompt thought or action, just imagine how powerful the words of the President of the United States of America can be. I think we have just seen in the recent mass shooting in the US just how impactful Trump’s words can be. He cannot in all consciousness absolve himself of any responsibility for the impact his racially divisive language has had at rousing someone, like the El Paso shooter, to act out violent racist acts.

In a press conference soon after Trump blamed the internet, video games and mental illness but pointedly not guns or hate speech for mass shootings. Sure, when in front of a teleprompter (and being told what to say) he claims “Hate has no place in America. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy”. However, the sheer hypocrisy of the fact is that when he is not hiding behind a teleprompter, and is not being told what to say, he regularly issues harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric and clear ‘hate speech’ and in addition has often re-tweeted statements and images from known white supremacists.

Trump must acknowledge, that the language he uses has consequences, he would not be so prolific a Tweeter if he did not believe this.

When Trump kicked off his presidential campaign, he claimed that Mexico was sending murderers and rapists across the border, and that was just the start, he has continued in this vain ever since. The El Paso shooter posted a manifesto filled with racist rhetoric and language that could have been lifted straight from a Trump rally or tweet-fest and made it clear his actions were “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”.

I am not saying that Trump is responsible for mass shooting in America per se, there were plenty before he came into office and alas there will most likely be plenty once he has left office. However, he has clearly inspired the actions of at least one of these mass killers, and the more he continues with his rhetoric of hate the more he will inspire others because, words have consequences.

Have you fully thought through a framework as to how your creative should work?

August 8, 2019

I get involved in heaps of creative development and evaluation work, and whilst it is work I really enjoy it can often be challenging. The greatest challenge is when there is lack of alignment as to ‘how’ the creative is intended to work and with ‘who’ it is intended to have impact.  This lack of alignment can be between the client and their agency, the researcher and the client, or the agency and the researcher and so on…

When there is alignment between all the interested parties’ and with the researchers, then we are really working in partnership. This is where research adds the greatest contribution towards making the creative idea the very best it can be.

To ensure this alignment is there, a key aspect is ensuring agreement on a ‘framework’ for how the creative is intended to work and how to evaluate it.

What should this framework include?

Don’t assume that the creative brief is the framework. Absolutely this is a key input, but not all briefs are created equal.

The framework can easily be distilled into a one-pager and should be a way of spelling out all the assumptions made by both the client and agency about how the creative will work. It should show how (in detail) the content of the creative delivers the communication strategy and the client’s commercial objectives (this information is generally somewhere in the client’s/agency’s heads but amazingly is often not written down). Most importantly of all, it should absolutely not be a boring set of research objectives.

The beauty of creating this framework is that it makes explicit for the researcher, client and agency what the advertising is designed to do and how it’s designed to work. This then enables the researcher to tailor the design and approach of the research according to what the client and agency are trying to do. The framework then determines who to interview; content and coverage of the discussion guide; correct wording and language to use (and what to listen out for) and ultimately how to judge effectiveness and interpret the findings. An added bonus is that it avoids politics and misunderstandings at the debrief.

Some tips on how to construct a Creative Framework

The framework should ideally be crafted when you have a finished execution, but you can develop one from a script or storyboards, but it should always be done before the research is designed and the discussion guide is drafted.

Always begin with the client’s marketing / commercial objective – and be sure to understand what end result the client is looking to achieve.

Then take the detail in the creative strategy/creative brief, and ask exactly how are we expecting to achieve it? For example, what’s the key way we’re trying to enhance the brand relationship? Among which people (demographics, attitudinal groups, user groups, primary and secondary targets)? What are the key ways in which the advertising execution is achieving its effect?  And which aspects of the execution are tasked with doing this?

The framework should articulate ‘How the creative will do this?’ for each of the key questions mentioned above or whatever relevant points beyond these it covers.  This then enables the researcher to better understand what effects they should expect to see if the creative is working according to the framework. And if it’s not working according to the framework, how best to explore the creative in order to optimise the work.