Before I talk about message testing, pop quiz:
What do you do when you run into a bear in the woods?
I have no idea. Don’t take my advice on wilderness safety.
But I feel like I’ve heard that you slow down and walk away.
The same goes for people in business.
Clients. Partners. Team members.
Sometimes you’re just walking that trail, following the map, munching your GORP…
And suddenly there’s a bear marking its territory right on your path.
When by all reason it should be busy preparing for winter — like you agreed.
Maybe he snarls. Maybe he beats his chest.
But don’t shout. Don’t try to out-bear the bear by marking your territory, too. Don’t try to reason with the bear because he’ll take it as a threat.
When people look a little feral, just slooooooooooooow dowwwwwwn.
Be more deliberate.
Keep an eye on the bear. But not an “I’m going to dominate you with my gaze” kind of eye. Just a cooly observant eye.
Most of the time this totally works and I’ve never been mauled, so trust me.
Opinions: The Biggest Threat to Your Brand Message
There are few topics that turn ordinary business people into bears as quickly as brand messaging.
Firstly, it’s contentious because brand messaging is recognized as Very Important Strategy. So, the topic can get tangled up in egos.
But also, because people still see messaging as a matter of opinion. (When in fact, it should be data-driven.)
Funnily enough, the same people who say they aren’t wordsmiths and think that copywriting is for underpaid girls will DIE ON THE HILL of a tagline that tickles their fancy.
This, I would argue, is why so many teams either give up on brand messaging…
(And give into chaos)…
Or they compromise with a Frankenstein brand that makes everyone feel their voice has been heard.
Can’t Agree on Your Brand Message? Test It
When someone has a vested interest in a certain brand message…
And you disagree…
Remember that your goal is not to win the brand messaging bear fight.
Your goal is to win market share.
And brand message execution is where things get real.
Everyone who touches your marketing must understand and believe in your brand message — or it will never come to life, and you’ll never realize the benefits of having a brand message. (Namely, clarity, desirability, and memorability, which together generate more conversions.)
One way to slow down the bears and get distance is through message testing.
Try a solution like Wynter to test different versions of your brand message.
Wynter’s positioning is around B2B, but you can use consumer panels inside Wynter. As Founder Peep Laja actually said to me, “Every B2B person is also a consumer. VPs also wear pants and fart.” Haha:)
Message testing is effective if you have two or more completely different sets of brand messaging. (Usually, because you have different opinions on the big idea or brand archetype.)
You can also use it to test elements of a brand message. For example, use Wynter to test two different value propositions. Or two opinions on the most important benefits.
As Wynter explains in their page on pre-testing:
“The target audience is the ultimate judge of your messaging and creativity.
Pre-testing means you can gain insights into how your audience will receive an ad, a landing page, or your value proposition.
The best creative assets engage the user, deliver the intended message, and generate some form of response. Whenever the response is different from the one intended, there’s a problem with the idea or the execution.
But you can fix your messaging before you ship it.
Pre-testing is not 100% foolproof (nothing is), but it’s an additional assurance layer that helps you spot faulty messaging early and save money.”
Do’s and Don’ts of Message Testing
I won’t talk about statistical probability here or test setup. Instead, I want to talk about what’s likely to go wrong: the human element.
Do NOT set up the user test as a competition. Be neutral.
Say something like, “Whatever the outcome, we just want the most persuasive brand message. Does everyone agree that this is a solid test?”
Remember, you don’t want to beat your team (or your boss) into submission on your brand messaging strategy.
Because a brand book that will gather digital dust doesn’t make anyone any money.
What you need is buy-in.
Only, the bear will not give you buy-in. Ever.
Your job is to transform that bear back into a tame businessperson.
So, DO make things boring for the bear. Boredom tends to tame people.
Divest the process of drama. Let the bear do more of the grunt work, like setting up their version of the test page.
When we realize that brand messaging is actually just a lot of hard work, the halo of Mad Men-era creative genius fades.
Message Testing… Or Burn the Whole Brand Down?
Sometimes the messaging debates will be so intense and convoluted, that you’ll want to burn the brand down. For a hot moment.
That’s a sign you should not be facilitating the process yourself. Someone outside of your team can help tame the bears.
Before I started my own business, I was a management consultant and facilitator. I even created a corporate facilitator training program for an organization of 60k people.
The joke is that we do a lot of “holding the space”. Here are some other facilitator jokes that make me chuckle…
Joking aside, I know how much easier it is to guide the process when you’re outside of the organization.
It’s almost impossible to be objective, patient, and facilitative when the brand messaging feels deeply personal.
The truth is, you don’t have to suppress your vested interest entirely. You can hire a brand messaging expert to guide your team and finesse the final product.