Change, Data and the Emotional Connection with Audiences. Insights From the ARF ConsumerxScience Conference

ARF conferences always offer fascinating insights into groundbreaking research, data and analytics. 

At this year’s ConsumerxScience conference, challenges such as fake news and Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data was alluded to in the opening remarks. 

“Science, dispassionate, methodical, skeptical, collegial, evidence-based and theoretically-grounded, is core to our mission,” noted Scott McDonald, President and CEO, ARF. But, he added, “Facts are not the same as values. Values arise from the shared understanding of what we regard as right, ethical, decent or fair.”  In these data-centric times, we need a code of conduct applied towards any use of personal consumer data and the insights that the data reveals. 

Some of the takeaways from the conference include:

Stay Current. The Ad Ecosystem Is Changing in Unexpected Ways
A range of surprising results regarding the advertising business in general – from ad length to the future of agencies – are challenging accepted historical norms. McDonald listed the following:
·         Six second ads can work under some conditions.

·         > Don’t dismiss Outlier behavior. It offers as much valuable insights as the Average because of polarized and hyper-connected populations.

·         > Agencies face competition not just from consultancies, but also from media companies that bundle media research with the media buy (despite worries about grading their own homework).

·        > Ad view time may not be as good a measure of engagement. Research indicates that the relationship is not at all linear – and may not be a good proxy for ROI.

·        > There will be new assessments of the caliber and viability of return-path data and location data, but we are not sure whether those will be big headlines at this time.

Radio is Surprisingly Popular, Especially with Millennials
“Sound is exploding,” stated Michele Mandansky, EVP, Research, Insights and Analytics, iHeartMedia. In a recent study, Nielsen found that Radio has higher reach than TV or Smartphones, especially among 18-34s (92%, 79% and 91%, respectively). To further extend radio’s value to advertisers, iHeartMedia conducted a study on radio creative with Veritonic to predict how a radio spot will perform. The results suggest:

·         Jingles greatly increase the success of the spot and that brands that advertised with a jingle had a higher performance on purchase intent.

·         Clarity and focus on a specific product also increased purchase intent especially when the product was clearly mentioned with its attributes.

·         Conversely, when multiple products were mentioned in a spot, it diminished the ad impact.
·         Always emphasize your products and not your competitors.

·         Disclaimers can work well when they are handled well.

New Data Enables a More Nuanced Look at Creative
There were several companies that presented research on how to best craft creative for the greatest consumer response. Viacom, in conjunction with The Family Room analyzed intra-family dynamics in making consumer purchasing decisions. Theresa Pepe, VP Marketing and Partner Insights, Viacom, noted that teens are developing brand loyalty at a much younger age. “The family dynamic has changed,” she noted. To that end, they developed a set of passion points to map the level of emotional importance for specific brands and categories.

Messaging may tend towards Rational Drivers but it is the Emotional Drivers that create the connection to consumer purchase intent. For example, in the automotive category, Rational Drivers can include size, mileage, storage and cost. But the Emotional Drivers, as George Carey, Founder and CEO, The Family Room, explained, are, “The everyday care and love I have for my child, our time together as a family, protection, love and security.” When Emotional Drivers are included in the messaging, the connection is strengthened and the purchase intent increases.

Brand Mission and Purpose Impacts Consumer Loyalty
Emotional connection that enters into the altruistic is another way for advertisers to connect with their consumers. Sana Carlton, NE Group SVP, Kantar Millward Brown, noted that a brand’s purpose is vital to customer loyalty. “Strong emotional connections that customers have with brands are the irreplaceable, meaningful differentiator of brand choice,” she stated. General product differences like convenience or cost can be replicated. “It is the emotional reaction that stimulates the immediate unconscious desire for choice and the more thoughtful justification of brand choice that is truly unique for a brand and irreplaceable by competitors,” she concluded.

In the ever changing media research ecosystem, the more creative use of data can yield new and actionable insights that move the business forward. The secret to success, according to McDonald, is to “Get out of the comfort zone” by expanding beyond the usual software and multivariate statistics and employing data science techniques. Judging by this year’s ARF ConsumerxScience, the expansion into this new data territory is leading to fruitful insights and successful applications. 

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