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Go Bold or Go Home: The Science Behind Media Buy Testing

December 3, 2020

Marketers afraid to be bold are in the wrong line of work. In order to get real value from a media buy strategy, testing must be bold to differentiate exactly what is driving outcomes.

A marketing team can embolden its testing strategy by understanding the importance of testing and then going for it!

Bold Testing Looks Like This

Every marketing team tests but few do it well. The testing process is time-consuming. And there is an assumption that bold testing means expensive, causing some marketers to pull back. The result: Inconclusive results, wasted time and resources.

When marketers apply a bold testing strategy, they can deliver decisive data to support ROI.

To create a bold test, you could:

  • Double or triple the frequency of a particular testing effort.
  • Test quarterly or more, and don’t stop. Results from Q1 tests can be implemented in Q3 at the soonest. Skipping Q2 and Q4 leave you high and dry for changes soon enough to make a difference.
  • Go dark with traditional marketing vehicles in one test market segment, moving those resources into targeted digital. (You’ll conclusively know which drives more sales — expect lots of pushback!)
  • Test entirely new creative rather than making minor image or content adjustments.
  • Direct 50% of your media spend to a targeted testing initiative rather than just 10%.

Whether these bold tests reinforce the existing marketing plan or lead to pivots and adjustments, they provide conclusive feedback and direction.

Embrace the Mind of a Scientist

Data generated by your bold tests becomes even more valuable when applied in a layered method. Think like a scientist and expect that each test benefits the next by starting with the biggest questions and working down to smaller nuances in future tests.

For example, let’s say you’re looking to test the success rate of a new circular in markets with good newspaper coverage. You’ve picked your test markets and control markets. Don’t just run the test for one week in one market. Embolden it by running the test for six weeks in 10 markets.

Did the regions with the circular consistently generate more sales than those without?

Once you know the answer — positive or negative — explore secondary questions. Future tests could:

  • Optimize the circular to confront or avoid competitors
  • Adjust creative, such as coupons and promotions, to compare success rates
  • Replace the circulars — if the initial test failed — with an increased spend in digital channels to test consumer response and sales

Testing subsequent questions transforms your team into a learning organization. Apply the findings of each test to improve future media mix and spend.

Be Good, Be Bad, But Never Be Inconclusive

Whether your test results support your marketing strategy or illustrate its shortcomings, learn and improve. A definitive, bold testing result — even a negative one — is worth more to your organization than an inconclusive outcome that teaches nothing.

The entire team should be salivating to see the latest test results and apply the learnings. If not, your tests are simply not daring enough. Your next test must deliver actionable results or cancel it. An inconclusive test will never be worth your time or the money spent.