Who—and what—do you ask?

 December 23, 2015

Back to the basics: Health Care Marketing Revisited

Who—and what—do you ask?

Given the inherent uncertainty of advertising, it is no surprise that many people who invest in it want to achieve some level of comfort that the material they’re putting their money behind is good. So, they show it around, formally or informally, to gather opinions about its “effectiveness.” They solicit input from spouses, coworkers, friends, neighbors, and any number of other folks. Or, they get serious about it and assemble focus groups to gather opinions on a more formal basis.

While such efforts sometimes help, as often as not they are a waste of time and money.

Here’s why.

First of all, the only people entitled to an opinion are real-world prospects for your product. Anyone else, at home or the office or the club or wherever, cannot possibly offer anything of value. Even if they are trained marketing and advertising professionals it’s iffy, because they don’t know the objectives, strategies, and tactics driving the message.

Which brings up the next point: Focus groups, if professionally organized and moderated, can be helpful. But, even then, there are pitfalls. The fact is, people do not know how or why they respond to advertising. They do not analyze the messages they encounter in real life—they are exposed, respond on some level, and move on, all without really thinking about it.

But—and this is a big but—put them on the spot by asking for an opinion about an advertisement and they’ll give you one. Having been asked, they feel obligated to respond. And they will. Even if they have to make something up. Not only that, they’ll pretend expertise in art direction, copywriting, graphic design, film and video production—you name it, they’ll talk about it.

To no end.

If you want to test the “effectiveness” of a message, the only way to get any realistic feedback is to expose the test subject(s) to the message, take it away, then ask what the advertisement had to say.

That’s all. If they got the message, you’ve got the makings of a winner.

Next time: Who do you believe?

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