How to use consumer insights to fuel winning advertising

Kim Malcolm & Janine Klimko
Step up creative effectiveness with early stage consumer insights

Insights should be used for more than just grading creative. It should be used to make creative better throughout the entire creation process. PepsiCo knows that — and they have used insights to achieve a 30% increase in creative effectiveness.

In this session, Zappi's Product Marketing Director (Kim Malcolm) & Senior Product Marketing Manager (Janine Klimko), will talk through how insights teams can help fuel the right advertising decisions and raise the creative bar. They’ll underpin their tips with real-life examples from some of the world’s best advertisers like PepsiCo, Colgate-Palmolive or Heineken.

  • How to infuse insights into every step of the creative process

  • How to transform your insights approach to deliver the above

  • How to use insights to not only validate your creative, but to inspire and optimize it for highest impact

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How to use consumer insights to fuel winning advertising

Kim Malcolm:

Hey everyone, thanks for joining us. Just a quick more detailed introduction, I'm Kim. I've spent over 20 years working with some of the biggest brands and helping them use consumer insights to develop advertising that's engaging, that's memorable, that builds a brand and that drives sales. It's been a whole lot of fun and I guess, if I'm totally honest, it's been a real privilege to have played even that very small or tiny part in the development of so many incredible campaigns. And I'm joined today by Janine and I'll just let her quickly give a little introduction too.

Janine Klimko:

Hi everyone, I'm Janine. I'm the product marketing manager at Zappi, and I have over 15 years of marketing experience across advertising, innovation, product marketing, research out of which then spent at Heineken. So I'll be sharing with you some tips and tricks today and also some insights from my personal experience.

Kim Malcolm:

Great, thanks Janine. So today we're going to talk about our passion at Zappi, which is about being consumer obsessed and using their insights to power better advertising. So let's kick it off.

Firstly, something that we all know and it's important to acknowledge. Making advertising that works isn't easy. I guess when I think of it, it's a mixture of art and science. It requires the right creativity and that creativity needs to be harnessed in the right way. It's about the big idea, but it's also about the small details that make it successful or not, and it's every little decision that you take along the way. So yeah, I guess when you put it like that, it's not easy and that's why we keep going back to this age-old quote that's as relevant today as ever.

But getting the creative content right is of course absolutely critical, because it has such a huge impact on the return you get for each dollar spent. It's the biggest factor in success. There's loads of different stats you can find around this. They all say a similar thing, and here the one we've got is roughly half of the effect comes from your creative content in terms of having an impact.

Now to the positive bit, the hope. So there are a number of companies and brands out there who are being successful, who are using consumer insights in the right way, at the right time, to make the job that little bit easier. Or I guess if not easier at least ultimately producing incredible work. And here we have a really wonderful example from PepsiCo where the work that the incredible insights team have done to bring insights into the business and really partner with them has resulted in a 30% improvement in creative effectiveness year-on-year, and that's just amazing.

So whilst we'll use a number of PepsiCo examples to bring the principles to life today, what we're actually drawing on is the experience and the observations from lots of the world's biggest advertisers, lots of the fantastic brands that are out there who we're really proud to partner with. Obviously there's no one way, but there are some fantastic unlocked principles that we can learn by looking across the best of each, looking across all of the brands and how they use consumer insights. So today what we're going to do is bring you those principles through our C.R.E.A.T.E framework for the best way to unlock effectiveness by using consumer insights.

If we start with C, it probably won't be surprising to see that the C stands for consumer. And I guess when we think about why consumers are so important in ad development, it's because the best ads are highly creative. But of course creativity is a double-edged sword. I think when it works, it's like magic. But inevitably with it being creative, clever, new, never tried before, sometimes it'll totally miss the mark, and that's okay because if you really understand your consumers and if you check in with them, then you can be really bold with your creativity and you don't need to worry about whether it will land or not. Some things will land, some won't, but the ones that you move forward with will be the right ones where that art and science comes together and it really flourishes.

So the way we think about this within Zappi is that we talk about being consumer obsessed, and really connecting in with that audience. But more of you will probably have heard Mark Ritson talk about it as market orientation. And I guess the point is this, and this is what Mark says, from the moment that you work for a brand and you work within that category, you see things differently. You can no longer think like your consumers, you are too close to your brand, you're too close to your category. But of course the best thing you can do is just acknowledge that. Acknowledge that you don't know. Acknowledge that you can't put yourself in the shoes of consumers. And then spend time watching your consumers, listening, learning from them, seeing things really through their eyes. And if we think specifically about when it comes to advertising, they'll be really able to help you. They can react to the advertising overall and they can react within the moments in it and make sure you stay on track.

So the first example we bring in on this comes from PepsiCo and it comes from Fernando who looks after the snacks part of the business. He's a fantastic marketer who acknowledges the role of consumer centricity in creative excellence. In fact, you can see a small bit of his quote here where he talks about creative excellence being about consumer centricity.

And one example he uses to talk about the benefit of consumer centricity is Wotsits Giants. I've picked this one to talk about today, partly because I love Fernando's work and partly because I honestly think it's just such a fantastic and clever innovation. I happen to love them, but more importantly than me as one individual loving them, I think it's super clever that they managed to open up a new category entry point for what its by introducing Wotsits Giants because suddenly they became relevant to a sharing occasion that they wouldn't have been before.

So what about the launch ad? Well, as they were developing it, they had numerous options on the table, and there's two particular ones that he contrasts when he was talking to us about it. There was one where they followed a recommendation to introduce the brand early, and there was another where they hold off a little bit later for that reveal. And what he found was that with the particular creative that they had, it was much more successful where they kept the anticipation of what this huge thing was before the reveal. People totally loved it. They were waiting for the reveal and therefore there was no need to introduce the brand earlier. You could just enjoy that moment. So this idea and this intrigue made a later reveal possible and he was able to move forward with the right idea, with the right ad, as a result of just checking in with consumers and understanding how they responded.

So the final point in this section, and I'm sure most of you, or all of you who are with us today totally get the need for consumer centricity. But we should acknowledge that sometimes there is some negativity that comes when we think about using consumers to help develop advertising. And that usually comes from poor use of consumers, poor use of the data, or poor expectations in terms of what you should get from the research. So to finish off this sections, I think it's really important to think about using consumers well, using their reactions throughout, using their voices and expressions of how they're responding to the ad, and use that as inspiration. Don't ask them to tell you what to do. You'll have a fantastic creative team that you're working with who will find amazing ways to solve for and to maximize the ads based on the insights that they get. So we don't need consumers to tell us what to do, we just need to understand how they're reacting to it so that we can then do the right thing creatively.

Okay, so C was for the consumer. R is for relevance. So it's not just any consumer, and it's not just about a narrow group of consumers, but it's about making sure that you use relevant consumers for your brand and your advertising. And once you access that relevant group of people, you need to also make sure that the insights that you get are relevant, actionable, inspiring, and that you can use them to drive things forward. So R is all about relevance.

Let's look first at what we mean by relevant consumers or a relevant audience. What we've got here is a quote from Byron Sharp on the right-hand side, and what we mean by relevant consumer, the audience, is about really talking to or listening to a relevant category audience who can drive your brand growth. So Byron talks about how market share growth comes from increasing the popularity, and that means gaining more buyers. But of course most of those buyers are light or non-current buyers. So if we focus only on the people who already like and use the brand, we miss a huge opportunity. And I guess when I was reflecting on this as well, it's not always the case, but generally what is compelling for non or light buyers does also work to top up salience for existing heavier buyers and give them kind of good feelings about your brand too. So it can help retain your existing users as well as then introduce it to very infrequent or non-buyers of the brand. So what that means in terms of your research is that generally you should look at category users, category buyers, non-rejectors, and then of course you can explore the differences within those subgroups to help with optimization.

And that takes us nicely to the second part of relevance, which is you've got relevant people, how do you use them to get relevant insights? So our point of view, and it's not just our point of view, it's the strong point of view of all those wonderful brands we looked at earlier who have been partnering with us, is that there is far too much emphasis on research for testing, for passing, for failing ads. And this is not what we think we should do with research. It should be an inspiration, a way to understand, a way to get holistic feedback, like we've written here. See how they react moment by moment, understand the detail of what they tell you overall and about key moments, and use that to decide what next in the context of your brand and your communication's objectives. So I've covered consumers and making sure they're relevant ones and that we get the relevant insights from them. And I'll now pass you to Janine who will take you through the rest of the C.R.E.A.T.E Framework. Over to you Janine.

Janine Klimko:

Thank you Kim. So let's go to the next one. E is for early. By early we mean listening to your audience from the start. If you look at this curve of consumer research, you can see that the opportunity to maximize ROI on creative content is the highest in the early stages of creative development. This is when you are making the big decisions about your creative direction. When you are trying to understand whether the creative idea and the insight behind it works, which of the directions works well, works better, and so on. However, most of the companies are still injecting consumer insights only at this stage, which is very close to the launch late in the development process when you don't have that much room to improve your creative. It's more of a go, no-go before you invest media into that advertisement. And there is also wealth of research in this part when the campaign goes live and we are trying to optimize things in flight, scale, and so on. However, the impact here is way lower.

So let's have a look at an example how PopCorners, one of the PepsiCo brands, through research at early stages uncovered the big potential of their 2023 Super Bowl ad. And not only that, but I also were able to save quite some money on celebrity involvement. So what did they do? They translated their creative idea into a couple of Storyboards, very simple Storyboards with narration which they could share with consumers. They had three very distinct routes, and they were trying to understand which of these routes works the best. Consumer feedback showed that the route which we eventually saw at the Super Bowl with a Breaking Bad analogy, and they called it Breaking into Something Good, was the most successful one, way more distinctive and triggering almost 30% higher emotional response. And not only that, at this very early stage, consumer feedback helped them identify optimization opportunities, but also it helped them identify other important decisions. One of those was big celebrity presence.

So they took this within Storyboards and made two versions of it, one with the Breaking Bad actors, and the other one with the Breaking Bad actors plus an additional big celebrity, which is considered sort of a must at the Super Bowl these days. Although we have seen from 2023 that that didn't work that well for many brands and that actually brands without big celebrity presence were winning.

And this early Storyboard research showed that they don't really need that big celebrity presence. The concept which was featuring the Breaking Bad actors without an additional big celebrity performed way better, generating much better emotional response and performing better on other metrics as well, which helped PepsiCo not only achieve higher creative effectiveness in the end, but also save on the celebrity costs. And this ad was one of the top three ads in terms of creative effectiveness on this year's Super Bowl. So a plus to PepsiCo.

And that is a nice segue to the next one. The next letter is letter A for Agile. Like a cook tasting and seasoning as he or she prepares a meal. It's one of the secrets to great cooking to do this, to taste as you go and adjust accordingly. And in the same way it's one of the secrets to great advertising. Check in with consumers regularly and optimize, iterate, adjust as you go. So it's really about using that rich consumer feedback throughout the whole development process from start to finish, from idea through storylines, down to executions at different stages. And now today, with the speed at which research can be delivered within hours, it makes it very easy for us to use consumer research as a coach at every stage. To bring in a personal experience, I remember when I was working as a marketer at Heineken, the moment when I first got early stage research results overnight was eye-opening for me. All of a sudden everything was easier. Not only I was able to get to a more, to a better place, to a more effective place faster, but also it made the whole process much easier. Communication with agencies, discussing the further direction, alignment with stakeholders. Everything is easier when you have these insights at hand and when you can be informed by your real boss, by the consumer.

So to continue with the PopCorner's example, after the early research, they continued iterating at further stages of the creative development. They tested four different a animatic versions to see the nuances in the setting, in the messaging, branding, and so on. What came out of that was quite good results overall, but two key opportunity areas to focus on. One was the emotional response. So they saw the animatics were not generating as much emotional response as they would like to, and two, brand recall. Brand recall wasn't that strong. So they looked in more detail at consumer feedback and they found out that in terms of the emotional response, consumers that were not too familiar with Breaking Bad, and with the story behind that, there were quite some emotional lows from these people throughout the story when the references to Breaking Bad were very specific. And because the Super Bowl audience is so broad, it's important to have that universe of relevance, and therefore they focused on those bits, replaced them with more universal references, and were able, at the final film stage, to achieve much better emotional response from the audience.

And then the second bit, very interesting and very specific, you see here you have the red bag at the animatic stage and here you have the blue bag. Why did they change? So their are main flavor, the kettle corn, which was pictured in the animatics, they found out from consumer feedback that it was confused with their sister brand Doritos, which also has a red bag. And thanks to that they decided to change to the blue bag at the final stage. And this resulted into much higher brand recall, and then to an overall higher creative effectiveness.

So actually with those two main areas of changes, emotional resonance and brand recall, they were able to double their creative effectiveness of the ad. But more importantly, they were able to double the growth rate of the brand post Super Bowl. So actually PopCorners, so growth rate doubling from 40 to 80% post Super Bowl and for their white cheddar flavor, the blue bag, it was even more amazing success. And that's not just that one ad, it's a whole way of developing ads. So as Tim put it here, "We don't just use the tool to kill or proceed, it's about nurturing those ideas and making them bigger and better and more resonant for consumers." And that you can see in many, many examples in PepsiCo and also with our other partners, how they are approaching the creative process. And sometimes it can be very specific feedback like with the Super Bowl ads, in the past three years PepsiCo made great improvements on their ads and some of them are just based on things like adding more music to liven it up, or switching some of the scenes because they were not that resonant with the consumers. And then with that arriving to a much higher emotional resonance of the ads overall and of the whole campaign. So that brings us to the next letter, letter T and T is from transform. And that's all about not just doing it once but doing it again and again. Don't just develop one ad well, but take those learnings and develop better advertising overall.

And what enables you to do that is actually connecting those dots of your pre-launch research, which historically was quite disconnected. So if you are able to transform how you collect and use the pre-launch data, it will allow you to connect the dots and drive those learnings and raise the creative bar. And let's listen to Jane Wakely from PepsiCo on how they connect the dots and raise the creative bar.

Jane Wakely:

Where we've built up a very significant database of first party data about how our advertising works, how our competition's advertising works, actually of course we can connect the dots and draw meta learners and really raise the bar. So in a way, being able to measure the effectiveness of your creative, if you do it at a single project level, that gives you one level of insight. The real value in raising the creative bar is when you begin to get to that meta insight, when you connect the dots, when you see a body of work and you can really ladder up and see what is the lightning in the bottle, what's the difference between being in the top five to 10% performing ads versus being in the mushy middle. And look, with brands like we have at PepsiCo, we deserve to be in the top five to 10%. And that's where we really want to aim for.

Janine Klimko:

And this is not only PepsiCo, although they are an amazing example in this space, it's many other of our customers that are able, thanks to having all the data available on one platform and consolidated together, drive those meta learnings and ask themselves questions that help them improve their advertising. For example, one of our clients asked how do brand versus product focused ads perform? Based on over a hundred ads that they tested in the past period, they were able to do an analysis that gave them that response. They actually found out that their product ads were performing less well than their brand ads. And the reason was not that it's a product ad, the reason was that those ads were lagging behind on the overall emotion, on a distinctiveness, on brand differentiation, and therefore this was impacting their overall creative effectiveness.

So we encourage you to use insights from past campaigns to inspire new creative, and to really build better advertising overall. And with that, I'm handing over to Kim to tell us about empowerment.

Kim Malcolm:

Thanks Janine. So yeah, I'll close up the last letter from the C.R.E.A.T.E framework. So empowerment is all about making sure that the organization as a whole is consumer-centric. It's not marketing who should be consumer-centric. It's not insights, it's not sales, or production, or service function. It really is everyone. Everyone has to own the customer for that to be a good experience. Now obviously today, I'm not going to go into all of the different functions, but as a minimum, we did want to talk about the idea that the way of working and the systems, and the roles, and the structures should support marketing in being consumer obsessed.

So if we flick forward a slide, what we really want to make sure is that insights and marketing teams have consumers and have data from those consumers at their fingertips. That they can check in with consumers, as Janine just talked about, early and often to inform their decisions. And of course, I guess what we've learned from working with these organizations is that the easier you make it to be consumer obsessed, the more likely it is that everyone in the organization becomes consumer obsessed. So if marketing can get and use insights, they'll use them more, they'll stay on track more, and they'll deliver more success.

And in some organizations this is about insights, having to get those insights and use the insights. In other companies, it's about actually letting marketing serve themselves and have everything so easily available and preconfigured, and using AI to, that marketing teams can actually quickly run their own research and take their own decisions. And then the insights role is set up nicely so that they are the ones who sit above that data. They are the ones who can do what Janine just talked about. They can look across all of those individual data points, all of those individual projects, all of those individual pieces of advertising, and really learn how to make the whole strategy flourish.

And the other role of insights is to make sure of course, that they set the systems up to deliver that so that they're consistent and so that they can learn. And we've got a really nice example here of one of our particular partners, which is Pernod, and how they've done this within their organization. Now, like I say, there's perhaps no optimum way or no one right way of doing this within an organization, but within Pernod what they've done is they've standardized a platform overall. They have made sure that the way that the research is run is consistent time after time. And they've made sure that it's really easy to do, because they've preconfigured all the important stuff to work for their business so that each time they want to run some research, they can just go in, click a few buttons and get some insights back. Because insights team have done all of the hardworking systematizing that, it means that marketing are then able to work, work with that themselves. They're empowered, they can pretest their own creative, they do it within those guardrails and then it means that they can continue to learn.

And they then have a really strategic insights team. They have an insights team who are partners to the business, an insights team who are invited to share the point of view based on all of their knowledge across all of the individual consumers and all of the different pieces of research they've run to really inform strategy and not just individual decisions. So I guess the really nice thing is, if you empower everyone, you get better outcomes for the business as a whole. But you also get a lot more satisfaction from both the marketing team, who Janine talked about this earlier, really enjoy getting all of those insights to use and really feel like they can do an incredible job with them. And the insights team, who can bring all their wonderful skills to bear and instead of spending their time running projects, setting stuff up and worrying about how we've phrased question three in the survey, they can really elevate what they bring to the business and unlock that business.

Okay, so that's us through the whole C.R.E.A.T.E framework. Let's just try and quickly summarize it before we jump to questions. So the C is about putting consumers at the heart of what you do and being consumer obsessed. The R is all about making sure that those consumers are relevant and that you get relevant insights from them. The E was for early, so it was all about listening to those consumers early when the opportunity was at its greatest, not bringing them in when much of that opportunity has gone. A was for Agile, which is really about the way that you work with consumer insights, how you iterate, check in, optimize, evolve. It's not a one shot and moving on. Transform was about how you use your insights to learn and to get a longitudinal view so that your advertising as a whole is better, not just making an individual ad better. And the E was for empower, which was all about empowering your organization so that everyone can easily be consumer obsessed and create more and more advertising that really does grow the brand and sales. So we hope that was useful and I guess now we can jump into questions.

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