Brands Need to Think Ahead on Messaging

Having worked with over 70 of the top 100 advertisers, in most cases within my own experience, the creative that will be on the air 13 weeks from any given point in time exists only as the vaguest of ideas. Today’s ads tend to be part of a somewhat longer-range vision of the brand’s USP and image. There are no standards for USP and image, nor should there be, but as a result USP and image are not necessarily rigorously defined. Put all of these things together and the result is creative briefs which could probably be made more specific, leading to a series of ideas which could be unfolded over a series of campaigns.

If we lived in that world, where creative planning is longer-range, at least at the level of communications strategy, it would greatly improve advertising effectiveness, because the media could be optimized for the creative even before the specific executions are thought of.

For example, in the upfront, the average brand does not know where the creative is going to go that far in advance, so optimizing alignment with context cannot be achieved for the most important buy of the year. The solution is to at least know what the creative strategy will be for the next 15 months, during which the upfront buy will run in the last 12 of them. That enables an average +18% to +28% increase in ROAS on the largest buy of the year, as proven by the Nielsen NCS study. A significant achievement that only requires a little more forward planning in terms of creative strategy. How would that work?

The brand knows its own image, and may have some desire to bolster or add to some of the attributes within that brand image. The brand may have evidence that audiences it would like to target (e.g., competitive users, moveable middle, etc.) have certain values, and those values would make sense to be added to or bolstered within the brand image. The mechanism for moving this image change to actually occur, starts with writing the creative brief and updating it with new knowledge all the time. Ideally not on a check-the-box recurring schedule but as often as possible, driven by continuous new data being converted to understanding by human minds. No one campaign with its creative executions can fully accomplish a brand image shift, so the likelihood is that the same set of image objectives will remain similar over a period of a couple of years at least.

The achievement of the objective of being able to align media to creative that doesn’t exist yet requires a small set of motivating values which apply across all product and service categories, because they are the immutable human behavior drivers. Fortunately, my work led to rigorously validating 15 motivational values human beings have, which shift in relative importance to them over the course of their lives. The work involved field experiments at scale and unintentionally validated Maslow’s thinking, but the empirical reality is more complex than in Maslow’s vision:

In order to make it easier to visualize how this taxonomy could be used, let’s look at some actual data. Here is a brand analyzed in terms of 6 campaigns it ran across about a two year period, using RMT technology:

As you can see, two-thirds of the campaigns subconsciously and/or consciously transmitted the Power motivation. However, if Power were the major implied promise of the brand, there were times it was missing. More likely, the creative brief and strategy did not intentionally specify any of these primal values to all human beings.

The RMT technology uses human content coding and in work with partner Semasio also uses AI content coding trained by the human content coding.

Brands ought to look long and hard at each one of the 15 Motivations to decide whether you have always wanted to be identified with that value, or whether you would like to somehow earn that brand perception now, or if that value is antithetical to your brand, or realistically unachievable by the brand. These are the 15 motives which cause human behavior.

The six campaigns may have been pre-orchestrated, but at first glance appear to convey a large proportion of the values which appear in their ads almost randomly. Probably the copywriters and art directors created metaphors to get across a specific brand attribute, and the primal motives crept into the ads unintentionally as a result of their metaphor choices.

It would make more sense to have a research/data-driven plan in advance for how specific values attributes could build one upon the other over a period containing multiple sets of creative executions.

Once you have decided on the messaging in terms of the values you wish to communicate over the next year or two, you can also benefit by programmatically targeting people who are motivated by those same values. RMT/Semasio are already set up and doing this in the U.S. and Canada, and are rapidly rolling out to other markets, buying made easy by Semasio RMT integrations with Trade Desk and 21 other major players.

The RMT lens of 15 values is about to be launched as part of the “MRI/Simmons of Canada”, Vividata, the Canadian nonprofit research and measurement agency used by almost every major buy-side and sell-side company/agency in the marketing field in Canada. RMT and Vividata have built the RMT system into Vividata and created a self-serve dashboard for users to access analyses of the values relevant to segments of users of brands and media brands. We will bring you some of the insights gained from this innovation by our good neighbor to the north.