The need for marketers to better predict which advertising and marketing ideas will work best has recently been made more achievable.

There is no doubt that Nobel Prize winning author Daniel Kahneman has challenged existing perceptions of how people make decisions, in his 2011 best-seller Thinking Fast and Slow. The implications of his findings do help us create more sensitive instruments to enable a better prediction of which creative ideas will best ‘work’.

By way of a rapid précis, Kahneman found that there are two ‘systems’ in the mind involved in decision making

  • ‘System 1’ thinking is effortless, easy and very fast. We appear to have little if any conscious self-awareness over its operations. Its job is to rapidly assess situations (e.g. threats), but it is also very important in how we form opinions about things. This system of thinking rapidly links connections between images, words, sounds, and feelings etc. that it is immediately exposed to. It helps us to ‘leap to conclusions’ quickly and instinctively. It’s how we get an immediate ‘feeling’ for a brand
  • System 2’ thinking is conscious but slow, deliberate and the home of rationality. It requires effort and energy to engage. It’s the home of logic and helps us to make worked-through decisions. Rather than leaping to conclusions, it seeks out incremental information to improve decision making and tends to have the ‘final say’ in decisions. But with high energy required to ‘work’, it often flips to the easier System 1 thinking patterns. It’s the system that we use when labouring through mobile phone plans. When we get cognitive overload we either go and do something else or rely on some sense of ‘gut feel’ (System 1 influence) for the decision needed

While advertising engages both Systems, System One is more often and more readily engaged – as there is less need for cognitive effort and strain.

Further, Kahneman suggests that we have two selves – the ‘Experienced self’ and the ‘Remembered self’.

• The former lives solely in the moment, in real time – it is responsible for the feelings upon initial engagement with something new (e.g. an ad).

• Whereas the latter composes stories based on experience for retrieval at later times – especially as a reference for use in decision making. It is where brands are memorized and stored and where brand ‘stories’ are created…those personal beliefs about a brand created from a myriad of inputs of time and source

In other words, for brand selection, the ‘Remembered self’ is the ultimate decider. It focuses on what you have learned about brands over time not just immediate one’s experience. However, the ‘gut feel’ you get via System 1 thinking is an important input to the System 2 memory banks.

Marketing and research have traditionally over-played the importance of the ‘Remembered self’ and System 2 thinking. Kahneman’s contribution has been to help us understand the importance of also engaging with the ‘Experienced self’ and to consider the contribution of System 1 thinking.

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At arnold & bolingbroke, we too have evolved our thinking to include, based on Kahneman’s findings, new ways to help understand how advertising concepts and campaigns perform, for pre (and post) testing and in both qualitative and quantitative research designs.

Our approach is informed by the need for:

• Simple, affordable and fast research designs
• Outputs that focus on the macro (the communications strategy and brand planning)
• Outputs that also focus on the micro – identifying how to better construct advertising that both engages the target and achieves the intended brand effect
• Understanding of ATL, BTL and digital campaign elements via our multi-platform research system

In essence, the approach features an emphasis is on first observing emotions and exploring feelings (System 1 inputs) before exploring the target’s System 2 processing of copy and creative ideas, as shown below.

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Some academics believe that System 1 response to communications concepts is all that is required to understand – as it is more predictive than correct message recall or persuasion. We believe there is a need to understand both Systems of thinking – the immediate, emotional response and the more considered, rational appraisal.

The purist approach to understanding System 1 thinking is by measuring or observing physiological/biometric response to an ad; for example by considering levels of brain activity, facial expressions used, where and how the eyes look or measuring perspiration, heart rate changes etc.

These biometric forms of measurement currently lack consistency in their ability to predictive advertising concept success. They also lack diagnostic value – it is hard to make changes to creative ideas based on this data.

At a&b, we have chosen to use innovative but essentially simple techniques to explore System 1 and 2 thinking. In a typical study, we expose the communications concept and then:

  1. Observe facial expressions of the target during exposure (noting that this is not an absolute measure but a contributory input to understanding. We use this in qualitative investigations only)
  2. Explore whether the viewer experienced a physiological response to the concept (did they ‘feel’ anything inside)
  3. Quickly and simply determine, from the target, whether their instinct is to view again or to discard the idea
  4. Map the emotions the viewer associates with the communications concept by use of the hybrid Plutchik/A&B emotions wheel. This allows the target to simply (with minimal Type 2 processing) place their emotional state on to a model (see below)

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5. Understand which frames or elements of the communications concept were delivering the intensity of emotion felt
6. Explore, via the targets System 2 thinking the messaging outtake amid a suite of more traditional pre/post testing communications questions

What does this tell us?

We can determine whether the creative concept will succeed based on:

• Whether the concept yields a positive emotional response
• What specific emotion is provoked by the concept
• What the concept communicates – is the messaging to strategy
• Are we conveying the right brand attributes – are we in accord with the overall brand positioning

What forms of communications concept do we research?

We can work with all forms of communication stimuli:

• TV concepts (scripts, narrative, animatic, key frames etc.)
• Radio concepts
• Print
• Digital (research via our own App)

When to use?
Our approach is equally valid for both pre-testing of concepts and post-testing of finished creative.
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