How to Test Your Way to the Top

Posted by Rob DeMars on 8/24/15 9:31 AM

Part 2 of The HurryCane Story; From Napkin to the No. 1 Selling Cane in America

Most marketers have a love-hate relationship with creative testing. You love it because you can learn a lot about what creative approaches will likely resonate with your target audiences. But the cost to test? Not so pretty—especially if you’re testing more than one creative concept at a time.

How to Test Your Way to the Top

And then there is the creative itself. You might be gaga over an off-the-wall idea but feel inclined to go with the more traditional approach because it’s a proven formula, even though you personally think it’s boring.

What to do?

Well, herein lies the HurryCane story. Marketing Architects took on the challenge of finding a way to not only creatively market a durable medical equipment product (albeit a downright remarkable cane) in a particularly no-frills industry, but also make a genuine connection with consumers through meaningful product messaging.

We knew it would be hard. But did we succeed? Well…HurryCane is now the No. 1 selling cane in America. And it wouldn’t be the DME category leader it is today without the steps we took to creatively test our way to success. Here’s what we learned works:

Investment capital is crucial. There’s no worse way to shoot yourself in the foot than to not invest enough money into thoroughly testing your product campaign. And by thoroughly testing I mean testing more than one creative approach. A minimum of 2-3 TV spots and/or 3-5 radio spots out of the gate.

We know this for a fact. The only reason we figured out our “Cane That Stands Alone” messaging would resonate so well with target audiences is because we tested it against a very divergent concept. In this instance, a traditional spokesperson approach that boldly challenged the cane industry outperformed a warm lifestyle-driven concept 4 to 1!  4 to 1!  That’s the difference between a product that’s ready to scale vs ready for the graveyard.

Had there not been the investment capital necessary to test more than one creative approach, the HurryCane would have been the HurryCane That Never Was.

Even if you don’t think you have enough cash to fund the costs of testing multiple creative executions, you could still be in luck. Marketing Architects actually invests its own money in the cost of creative production for our clients, from the testing phase all the way through the life of your campaign. We’re the only DR marketing agency that does that!

Leverage your direct response marketing knowledge. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time it comes to creative testing. By that, I mean consider what you already know. Those tried-and-true direct response marketing best practices are best practices for a reason—they work.

With nearly two decades of direct response marketing experience, we were able to take what we learned and apply it to HurryCane. For instance, we have a long history of testing straight forward announcer-driven approaches and understand the subtle nuances that make them work. We knew this approach needed to be in the testing mix as they tend to perform very well.  They aren’t always the spots that win awards, but they have a better than average chance of winning sales. And in this case our experience proved right.

If you know what specific CTA placements and response triggers typically draw the best response, don’t ignore that insight—it’s only going to make your creative stronger. The only thing I caution against is not letting what you already know hinder your ability to think outside the box.

Diversify. Speaking of original ideas, diversifying your creative by sprinkling in unconventional concepts to run against proven approaches is the best way to test. Why? Because you must continue to deepen your well of approaches that create breakthrough performance.  Even the best commercials will age and response will diminish.  So you need to always save a portion of your creative testing to find big new winners.  Direct response is no place to rest on your laurels.  

With the HurryCane, we continued to take a portfolio approach, meaning we create a handful of spots that stick pretty closely to the DR best practices we know to work. But then we kept on swinging big with some bold creative wild cards.

While some of our go-for-the-fence creative concepts underperformed vs. the control, including a spot based on extreme product demonstration and one that used an over-the-top emotional jingle, we found others that truly created incredible response including a concept that repositioned the cane to caregivers, opening up a whole new target segment.

Be nimble. Being quick and nimble definitely pays off in the creative testing world. That means being able to strategically assess the performance of various creative approaches and react nimbly with your new learnings. However, having a production team that’s ready to take those golden nuggets and swiftly incorporate them to the spots is what will really put you in a position to learn the most from testing.

With HurryCane, Marketing Architects was actually able to produce everything in house with our highly-experienced creative team. Handling every aspect (strategy, production, etc.) under one roof ultimately helped to react dynamically throughout the testing process.

Our creative testing approach worked for HurryCane, and it can work for you. We invite you to give us a call to discuss your marketing strategy and to help you understand how Marketing Architects can make your creative testing worthwhile. 

Read more in our series about how Marketing Architects created the No. 1 selling walking cane in America:

Part 1 – How to Name a No. 1 Brand

Part 3 – Why It Matters That Grandma's Shopping Online 

Part 4 – 7 Ways to Tell Your Product's Ready to Scale

Part 5 – Amazon: A Business Owner's Friend of Foe?

Part 6 – Considering Scaling into Retail? 8 Ways to Do It Right

Part 7 – Entreprenuers: How to Say Goodbye to Your Product

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Topics: Direct Response Marketing

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