The winter of our (dis)content! The effect of different media on the consumer

By November 16, 2016Uncategorized
fmcs advertising brands

If you read the first blog in this series: Carrots, sticks and sticky carrots: how consumer engagement is evolving then you’ve got a steer on your social media spend, so now let’s go broad with this next question:

What is advertising good for?

It’s a fair question. (And a pretty existential one, if you’re an ad agency.) It can raise awareness, capture interest, create desire, or drive action. And different channels—broadcast, print, online—support each goal to different degrees. That’s Marketing 101. But here’s the rub . . .

. . . in today’s mediasphere, a “channel” isn’t simply one medium, like the web. It can be a single site. A topic area crossing many sites Even a conversation around a single blog post. Which makes getting your media mix right a lot harder than anything Don Draper had to deal with.

In this blog—part of a short series looking at fresh thinking on engaging consumers—you’ll discover a way to bring simplicity back: a back-of-envelope method you can use to work out whether your chosen channels are playing to their strengths.

Turning mindset into dataset

Far from the demographic approach of days past, it uses psychographics: how we think and feel, rather than where we live and work. Psychographics matter. Think Pepsi. It may look demographic (all those young people punching the sky) but the brand’s all psyched about aspiration. (“Casting brief” does not equal “target audience”.) Around half of all packaged goods do the same.

Similarly, Lynx is about fun, not youth. You don’t need 2.4 children to eat Kellogg’s. No longer is Persil or Ariel’s creative strictly women-only. And even Old Spice made an honest attempt to get away from the coffin-dodger demographic a few years back. (Sorry, Grandpa.)

The emotional magnets that draw us towards brands, and the less emotional proof points we need to feel right about the purchase, often involve a multitude of customer touchpoints across different media, as the customer builds a picture of the brand in her mind. A brand is a mindset.

So to judge how different media affect the consumer, why not look at the different ways they make us think? Here’s an idea for finding out.

S1 and S2: from the heart to the head

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman (of “Thinking, fast and slow” fame) hypothesises human decisionmaking is driven by two competing factors in our brains: System 1 and System 2.

System 1—the animal instincts we learned millions of years ago on the African savannah—is easier to act on. It’s the decisions we make with gut feel, driven by emotion (love, fear, lust) in the heat of the moment. We’re all influenced by our S1. Some of us overwhelmingly so. (Hi, Donald Trump!)

System 2 is our by-the-numbers approach: cooler-headed reason and logic. It’s harder to access, needing time and effort to engage—but it’s great for following instructions or making use of data. Whenever you cook up a recipe, use Excel, or scribble a sudoku, you’re using S2.

(Note neither is “right” or “wrong”. Indeed, for most of human history S1 won out. In the time of the sabre-toothed, if your instinct told you to run, it was generally the right decision—those who stood around thinking too long ended up as lunch. S1 and S2 are different parts of the brain, and each is useful in its own way.) Key here is that we use S1 and S2 when consuming advertising messages. A car brand ad, full of roaring engines and glistening imagery (Audi’s “Birth” is a prime cut) appeals to our S1. But a sober comparison of fuel consumption and safety features in a magazine shifts us into S2 mode.

Can S1 and S2 help decide what you say in different channels?

Buying decisions for consumer goods use both. S1 may prompt initial interest, S2 is more useful for building loyalty. Get the right combination of both for each channel you use, and you’re winning. So to see which media choices appeal more to S1 or S2, let’s do some scratchpad research on three fruity brands in the fmcg aisle, all known for use of different media: smoothie giant Innocent, shower gellists Original Source, and teabagger Tetleys.

Working with an alumni of a top business school (who wrote his dissertation on Kahneman’s work) we “scored” our three brands across a number of spots across media—noting how strongly each appealed to System 1’s touchy-feeliness or System 2’s steely-eyed logic. The white gaps in the middle of some graphs indicate the extent to which an ad appealed strongly to neither.

Scoring the Systems

Comparing brands by their ad creative is of course subjective—but so is a great deal of advertising, so we’re in good company. Some might say the ad biz has become too obsessed by numbers and metrics in the last decade, so a bit of subjectivity might be a refreshing change. (We don’t quite agree—our clients use us because we never forget about their ROI!—but we’ll still compare our creative skills with any big name out there. How many agencies our size have ex-Sky directors on the creative team?)

We scored each piece of creative we found in various different channels out of 100 on an aggregate of whether evidence of three cognitive biases Kahneman used to develop his theories—confirmation biasendowment bias, and loss aversion—showed up in their messaging and design. (It’s a method used in fields including cognitive psychology and behavioural economics; more on these in our next blog.) You don’t need to know what these tendences involve. For now, just understand they’re three of the biggies defining human behavioural instincts: evidence of any is a clear appeal to System 1. (Hard facts and numbers indicate appeal to System 2.)

Here’s how our scoring played out across a randomly chosen selection of video, print, web, social, and earned media from each brand. The findings suggest two brands appeal to our hearts and heads in strategically distinct ways . . . and one outlier has a lot to learn.

innocent: fun at heart

Few people have anything bad to say about innocent, and its clever marketing has a lot to do with it. What shows up is an obvious split in the way it uses specific channels to appeal to head and heart. Above all, innocent is all about your S1 . . . when it’s in the medium that makes most difference.

innocent advertising agency

The blue bar is the S1 score for each medium: how strongly the brand appeals to our emotions. The red bar, the appeal to our S2. Notice they sum to more than 1 in every medium, indicating the brand is using each channel to full effect. (The green bar adds the amount of overlap, i.e. the “profit” from each channel.)

So innocent’s web, social, and (just barely) earned media all show strong S1 appeal. Even its PPC has some S1 appeal, although it’s cleverly woven into a strong S2 promise. (“Fancy living well and dying old?”) While—scoring 93% for S1—innocent’s video is at the extreme edge. Mostly on its YouTube channel, it’s got nothing to do with the product: it’s all about liking the company—pure emotional pull.

innocent’s PPC and print, however, show a much stronger S2 tilt. This is where it’s about health and wellness, the logical stuff that appeals to our rational thinking. There are more numbers, more stuff to read. And its earned media has the strongest combined appeal of all, suggesting the brand’s getting a great deal from bloggers and journalists.

Short version: innocent is making you love it with visuals, and sealing the deal when you’re ready to think. This is a brand that’s firing on all cylinders. Clever stuff.

Original Source: the whole fruit

OS is the OG of the fruity shower experience sector. And it shows: the scores are strong, vivid, and consistent across all media except PPC (which doesn’t seem to be on the media plan.) Like innocent, the consistency of scores within each channel suggests a marketer that knows what it’s doing.

original source advertising

Particularly clever are its video spots, which strike a perfect balance between S1 and S2—artful, emotional visuals of green fields and forests teamed with S2-friendly plain facts about the product. Its print scores invert innocent’s—explosions of colour with 76% appeal to S1 versus the smoothiemaker’s 27%. It evens things up on video, though, where innocent goes all-out for emotion. ‘Source’s social media, however, is very S2, focussed on price and availability.

The brand has one weak spot: earned and PPC. (Note the green bars are negative, showing the “opportunity” Source is missing out on.) It doesn’t do any pay-per-click campaigning, and its earned media appeal sums to less than 1 for each channel. In other words, despite the brand’s smarts in web display ads and social media, it could be making still more of the web.

Summing up: Original Source strikes a great mix between S1 and S2 across its media choices, too evenly to be coincidental. Again, evidence of serious marketing smarts.

Tetley: trouble brewing

Tea brand Tetleys is more problematic. Across all media, most scores are weak for both S1 and S2. It doesn’t use PPC to any extent, either. This brand hasn’t got a grip on multichannel marketing the way its fruity surveymates have.

Across all other channels, both S1 and S2 average low scores on appeal. (It’s OK to score low on one if the other is high, but not both—the more to the left your green bar is, the less effective your advertising.) Not a single channel sums to more than +1. In other words, it’s leaving customer engagement opportunities on the (tea)table.

tetley tea advertising

But even that’s not the whole story. Hidden in the graph data, there was far more variance in Tetley’s S1 scores for the various ad spots examined within channel—which matters more. Because it suggests this brand doesn’t quite know what it’s doing. It’s trying to appeal to our S1 hearts haphazardly, without the backup S2 information that leads to strong brand loyalty over time.

On our scoreboard of emotional and logical appeal, Tetley’s tea isn’t exactly a builder’s brew strengthwise. There’s room for the loveable Yorkshire dwarfs to use different channels a lot more logically.

The verdict

Innocent’s trash-talking fruit spouting health benefits. Original Source’s plain-talking naked-man-in-a-field. They’re artful mixes of S1 and S2 appeal, in consistently different proportions for each channel. And they’re all very, very good.

The two leaders suggest S1 appeal lives in the realm of the senses: channels that allow vivid visuals. (Who’d have thought it?!) While when you’re giving your audience something to read and think about, these are the media where you should concentrate on S2 appeal.

Despite selling products hugely dependent on brand image, neither of our leading brands skimps on appealing to our S2. And they do it in consistent ways specific to each channel. Which is the sign of a well-executed marketing strategy.


So here’s an idea: spread your recent advertising executions across a table—every PPC headline, every TVC spot—and rank them on the split between feeling and thinking, S1 versus S2. The above will give you a steer. (Scorch is here to help if you’d like us to work with you.) If there’s a big variance in your scores in a single channel, you’re risking the negative green bars in our graphs above—where your advertising is simply passing folk by rather than engaging their whole mind.

Next time around, we’ll add to these ideas on consumer engagement and media suitability, looking again at fmcg—with some suggestions for metrics useful in today’s Millennial-infested world.