Here’s a story that demonstrates how easy it is to get communications wrong – and to produce an unintended and counterproductive emotional reaction.
There’s a social venture called BrightMind LABS I’m involved with, which released its first product 12 months or so back. The primary target market is the half million or so parents of children aged 4 to 10 who are diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome or high functioning autism – and who are located in the USA. The product is a downloadable application designed to teach these kids to recognise and respond appropriately to emotions – skills that kids on the autistic spectrum often struggle to acquire as easily and naturally as do neurotypical children.
The challenge with this venture is to clearly convey the value proposition on-line – and to demonstrate that although half a world away, we are trustworthy and our offering is clinically robust. All written and visual collateral must single mindedly reinforce that message.
So far so good, right?
As part of our on-line communications package, we decided to produce a short video clip showing three kids in the target age group using the application – along with a voice over explaining the features and benefits. The intended message was this:
“This product is different and better than anything else available because not only is it clinically robust, but you won’t need to coerce your children to engage – they will love to play it”.
The supporting video was professionally produced featuring three local Whangarei kids. I should mention that two of these were my own children.
So we posted the video to the web site and stood by for the incremental lift in sales that would surely result from this clear visual demonstration and explanation of our offering.
But rather than conversion rates increasing, the number of sales per 100 unique visitors to the website actually dropped when we posted the video. How could that be? What was going on here?
It took a while to figure it out, but eventually we got it:
What we saw were three happy, physically healthy Whangarei kids fully engaged in an innovative PC application.
What our target market saw was three unkempt urchins playing on a computer. White trash, dare I say it.
Not an aspirational image at all for our target parents in middle America!
For the Kiwi market, the kids looked normal, outdoorsy and healthy. But for our target market to identify with these kids, we ought to have portrayed an all-American preppy image – with freshly cut hair and ironed shirts. A couple of well placed items of baseball apparel would have completed the picture nicely. And I definitely should have scrubbed the kids’ finger nails before the shoot!
Duh. We sure got it wrong.
But this is not about BrightMind LABS – there is a bigger point to this story, and here it is:
When devising communications for your business, test them on your target market before you invest your time and cash.
It doesn’t matter whether your target market is Whangarei business owners, adolescent girls, Kiwi dairy farmers, high growth start-ups – or US parents of kids on the autistic spectrum.
A professional in this field would probably advise you to conduct focus groups or one-on-one interviews of a sample of your target market before pressing the go button on any communication plan. And this seems great advice if you are investing a significant amount – or if you only have one shot to get it right. But as a minimum, make sure you find a sample of people in your target market who will give you honest feedback – and then ask them to be merciless.
You need to know up front that your message will come across clearly – and that there will be no unintended emotional reactions that will create a barrier to your call to action.