Should You Test Market?

If you are trying to determine whether or not a media strategy will work for your product or service or you’re launching something new, you might consider conducting a test market media campaign. This type of campaign focuses on a small geographic area or audience to try out your plan. It can help determine if a bigger effort will make an impact, and if you are spending your dollars wisely.

The book Advertising Media Planning by Jack Scissors and Roger Baron describes a media test as “a simple field study of some advertising variable. An experiment is a carefully designed study in which the researcher controls and manipulates conditions to see how an experimental variable affects audience behavior.” The book says that most of the time, test marketing is done for consumer packaged goods.

One of the most memorable test market campaigns I managed was when the agency I was working for had the client Metabolife and they were launching new diet and energy bars. They had Outrageous Oatmeal Raisin, Perfectly Peanut, Downright Chocolate and Lemony Lemon flavors. Before we set out on a national television campaign we decided to plan local television advertising schedules to test out the response. We chose a few affordable TV markets to experiment on and found we were getting a good–enough response to launch the product nationally. We also found out which flavors were the most popular. 

If you are choosing a geographic test, I believe you should pick a smaller market, but not too small, that has a similar makeup as the larger market you plan on pursuing. You can find a list of Designated Market Area (DMA) television and radio markets here. DMA List Do some research to find out about the population.

The Advertising Media Planning book says that the Peoria, Illinois population has a similar population distribution as the United States as a whole, so marketers often use this market as a test.

There are a lot of things to consider when you are thinking about doing a test. You should ask questions like, what medium do I want to use? Should I use the internet, TV, radio or test out a new ad medium like coffee sleeves? Will I use multiple mediums or just one? What percentage of dollars will I allocate to each medium? Am I planning on doing a promotion or event? 

A lot of your answers should come from the research you did to find out what your target audience habits are so that you are getting your message to the right people. There are also considerations like how long will the test last and what will determine whether the test was a success or failure? Often your budget limits the options to how many mediums you will use and for how long.

Some marketers also test the message they are sending to see which one gets the most response. And, don’t forget that creativity can go a long way, like how Uber handled the Covid 19 crisis. They created a “Move What Matters” campaign that told people to stay home. Then they gave free rides and food deliveries to healthcare workers, older people and people needing help. Chiquita banana has also been creative in using transit to spread their message in Greece and London. In addition, they are creating memory recall by using blue stickers and also focusing on the color yellow or partnering with movies like Despicable Me. And, who can forget the timeless famous jingle?

So, now it’s your turn. Gather your team. Brainstorm. Answer the questions I raised and come up with creative solutions. Have fun.