Message Testing

Both articles from this week’s reading explore the concept of message testing to determine how different strategies and tactics work across different audiences.  Online consumer behavior: Comparing Canadian and Chinese website visitors studied and compared how Canadian Students and Chinese Students (both in Canada) and how different emotional factors influenced how the two demographic groups interacted with and preferred their online information.

Developing Media Interventions to Reduce Household Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption was about a public health campaign to educate the Philadelphia area about the dangers or high sugar consumption in sweetened beverages. This campaign was started with a study of what kinds of messages were most effective for their target audience and then built the campaign based on the study’s findings. This study and campaign were not focused on internet user behavior, where the first one was.

I believe that understanding your target audience in every way possible is the key to persuasive communication efforts, whether it’s advertising, public interest, or otherwise. That way you know how to craft your message to obtain the desired behavior from your audience. This is also true for political campaigns. I think that’s a good example of where a lot of money, talent and effort goes into researching target audiences and addressing what they want to hear. For example, Barack Obama is on social media now…. Why? Because the entire nation is on social media. It’s to reach and engage followers because that appeals to them.

Studying an audience and testing the outcomes of different messages is valuable because you understand how they view your issue, which makes it easier to identify opportunities and challenges and how to approach them. Also, media planners or researches could be incorrect about what messages will be most effective, so it’s important to test them. This can provide insights on how to further improve messaging and audience understanding.  For example, the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage study found that people were less likely to respond to images of obese children than other messaging tactics. It is important to understand and confirm these things to maximize the effectiveness of the campaign.

You can also apply this to advertising campaigns by running tests of different kinds of copy, creatives, media inventory, etc. to see what works best for the current campaign. Clients usually find those insights helpful, too.


1) How much do you research target audiences in your current role?

2) If so, do you think your organization puts too much or too little priority on audience understanding?

3) Do you have any experience with studies or campaigns that use split-testing or message testing as part of their efforts?




5 thoughts on “Message Testing

  1. I sometimes work with advertisers to implement split testing of online campaigns. It typically involves two or more variations of a creative. The number of clicks received usually determines the most successful creative. We have found in a lot of cases, the most successful creatives include a call to action in their message.

  2. In school I had multiple projects creating conducting research, creating a media plan, and executing campaigns. Before I even had a concept for my campaign, I conducted a significant amount of research from secondary research on the industry and company to focus groups, online surveys, personal interviews, ethnographic research and more. I wanted to make sure that I truly understood my product and the audience. Without a full understanding it is extremely difficult to know what message to send and if it will be successful or not. While I haven’t done this in a job setting yet, it has proven to be successful in my school campaigns as some are being executed for real companies.

  3. In my current role, I have very little to do with any messages that go out from my organization, so I do not really do any form of research for our target audiences.

    That being said, I do think that my organization should focus more on a specific audience they are communicate with. When I read some of the messages that come from us ( now that I’ve learned things in this program ) I feel as though there really isn’t an intended audience and that we’re just putting ourselves out there for anyone who passes by to take notice.

  4. When I was a newspaper reporter, our industry was focused on diversity and understanding our audience and community for a long time. Then, when the recession hit, it feels like the industry’s focus on diversity went out the window along with half of our reporters. There are so few reporters at my former newspaper that in many cases they are just trying to report the top news of the day and don’t spend enough time really trying to understand their community and write stories that people will relate to.

    It’s too bad I think, because embracing the audience could ultimately be what saves you in the end.

  5. In my current role as a recruiter, our marketing campaigns for current openings have to be tested at least to the point of making sure it’s relevant content that will attract the right type of candidate. If we just posted an “open job” but didn’t have any relevant content in the posting, we’d get candidates with every type of background from teachers to lawyers. I think we as a company need to put more emphasis on the postings to help the company as a whole have a better market presence.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s