Using Brand Lift Studies for Illumination as well as Support

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Working on brand lift studies for audio I am often reminded of David Ogilvy’s complaint in Confessions of an Advertising Man that some marketers use research “as a drunk uses a lamppost—for support rather than illumination.” That quote goes back nearly 60 years now to the Mad Men era of advertising, but the point may be even more valid today.

Some clients ask us to do a brand lift study for only one purpose—to prove that their campaign is working. I get it—we all need to be accountable these days.

The problem is that this sells the opportunity short. A survey-based brand lift study can not only verify that your marketing is working, it can also make marketers smarter by shining a light on the path to success.

Brand lift studies should be more than another box to check on your “to do” list. You get the greatest benefit when the study measures not only the “what” (are we registering a brand lift?), but also the “why” (what’s working and what’s not).

Why Deeper Insights from Brand Lift Studies Matter Now for Audio

The audio landscape has gone through dramatic changes over the past 15 to 20 years. Broadcast radio is re-imagining itself by providing advertisers new opportunities in endorsements, product integration and dynamic ad insertion. The penetration of smart speakers continues to grow. And we’re just getting started on understanding the advertising potential for podcasts and music streaming.

With all this change, there are still a lot of unknowns about how advertisers and publishers/broadcasters can best navigate the expanding pie of audio listening. Brand lift studies can help to fill these knowledge gaps.

Here’s a case in point. We just finished brand lift studies on two podcasts for a publisher that’s taking some early steps into podcasting. Both podcasts generated some good news to take back to their clients. More important, by digging into appeal metrics and open-ended diagnostic questions, the studies uncovered a nugget that explained why one podcast performed better than the other. Building that one nugget into their future planning may well pay for the two studies a few times over.

How Insights from a Brand Lift Study Can Help You Finetune Your Marketing

  1. Is the campaign resonating with your target audience?
    • By comparing results among key audience segments, you can check whether your campaign is hitting the bullseye with your core target: e.g., category users, current customers/prospects, key demos.
  1. Is the marketing moving the needle where it’s relevant for the brand?
    • New or underdeveloped brands should see growth in awareness but have realistic expectations around intent-to-purchase.
    • Category-leading brands should look further down the funnel to check lift on affinity or consideration.
  1. Is the campaign communicating the right brand message(s)?
    • Typically, the campaign is working off a creative brief that identifies key brand perceptions to develop or brand pillars to reinforce.
    • The brand lift study offers an opportunity to re-focus execution on these communications objectives.
  1. Is the ad or campaign attracting attention to the brand?
    • Recall measures help to capture whether the marketing has cut through the clutter and focused listeners’ attention on the brand.  
  1. If the initiative is a branded podcast, is it balancing must-listen content with brand impact?
    • In our work with Pacific Content, one of the leaders in making branded podcasts, we often find a sweet spot for success. That’s where the podcast delivers the appeal that helps it stand apart from 1 million plus other podcasts while still delivering against the client objectives.

Moving the Outcome of the Brand Lift Study from “Stop” or “Go” to “Go with Guidance”

Brand lift studies commissioned only to prove that the campaign is working are risky.

If the results come back positive, everyone’s happy. But if the lift is less than impressive, that could put a hard stop on an initiative that could be a winner.

The better idea? Work with your vendor to design brand lift studies that provide illumination, not just support.