Subscribe to industry newsletters

Testing the test

I have always thought that it was common sense to understand as much as possible about the people who were, or would possibly be, actually buying my products in the real world with their real money. Strange then how much money is not spent by brands understanding this.
A great deal of money, time and effort is spent on consumer research, valuable in its way, but rather secondary in my view to the actual buying part. It is generally quite hard to consume something unless you have bought it first. Rather like "cause and effect".

Not that I am knocking consumer research per se, there is no doubt brands need to understand what people think of the product post-purchase and whether the consumption of the product, in whatever way that may be, lives up to the pre-purchase hype.


In a minute I will get to the point of this article but first I must also mention pre-testing, as this is sort of relevant. When looking at brand expenditure and trying to understand why it doesn't go where I, and all common sense, thinks it should, above-the-line (ATL) plays a large part again in the debate.

There is no doubt that ATL is tremendously useful in generating Awareness. (Capital "A"). I can see how this is important on the path to purchase. What I don't understand is the imbalance between both intellect and creativity investment in the ATL industry and what is now called below-the-line. It comes back to the point about understanding why shoppers buy things.

Why is there this disparity in spend? Coming from the frozen north of the planet, the UK, I always thought that it was because of the places where the adverts were shot. My plan was always to open a POP company in the Seychelles and wait for the clients and agencies to flood through the door. This may be unworthily cynical, but it does highlight the investment issue.

The next test

Aside from the stratospheric amount of money that goes into ATL estimated R33Bn in 2012 according to one estimate I have seen, one of the main differences between that and the world of in-store is that they actually test things before putting them into the public domain. There are various ways of testing in-store equipment but to date not many are truly scientific.

When I was with a display company in the UK back in the early 1900s I would ask Elsie, our accounts assistant, to come and "shop" the prototype display we were going to show the client. This was on the basis that if Elsie could shop it, anyone, no matter what the stature or intellect, would be able to do so as well. It seemed to work.

What it didn't give was any degree of formal quantification of the effectiveness of the display, its usability, its reflection of the brief's objectives, its potential future performance and so on.

Test on display

Why should we not do that with display? Set up test rooms for display, get shoppers to use them, do it as experiential marketing outside stores, give any products the shoppers select free of charge and so on. "It's not real though," I hear you cry.

Just like being in a room with a two-way mirror watching adverts on TV with your family and an interrogator - sorry, facilitator. An intimate occasion, just you, the agency, the full brand team and the marketing department, with the brand director screaming through the glass, "NO, NO, not that one!"

Anyway, the point is: testing is good and from it, we learn things. Probably any testing is better than no testing, although I haven't thought that one through.

What is does lead me to, is the conclusion that all the years I have spent researching things in-store, shaping shopper behaviour and leading them to change their purchasing habits have not been entirely wasted. Of which more another time.

About Martin Kingdon

Martin Kingdon is Strategy Director at Visualfusion. He has been involved in marketing at retail and shopper insight in South Africa through Visualfusion, the in-store specialist below the line agency, applying global knowledge where applicable, to the diverse South African market.

Let's do Biz