Using Message Testing to Support Marketing Strategy

By Matt Bernstein and Alex Ain
person writting messages

Message Testing is an essential element of an optimal brand communication strategy. HawkPartners has been conducting qualitative and quantitative message testing since our earliest days as a firm. More recently, we have been using a formal online Message Testing Tool during qualitative market research. Our Message Testing Tool was designed to replicate traditional in-person message testing online by allowing respondents to manipulate and sort messages in a virtual environment.

Below, we answer your most important questions about the value of message testing and what makes HawkPartners’ approach unique.

Why is message testing important? What can we learn?

Getting the right message in front of your target audience is a key challenge for marketers today. How do you know what the “right message” is? How do you tell a compelling story about your product or brand? One technique marketers can rely on is message testing, presenting different ways of communicating benefits or features to your customers to gather their input as to what should be at the heart of your communications.

Like testing for other marketing communications materials, message testing is designed to let marketers hear directly from their customers what is most valuable to them, rather than relying on assumptions and speculation about audience reaction. By incorporating direct customer insights, marketers can be sure they are putting their “best foot forward,” ideally leading to improved awareness, interest, and uptake of a given product.

What methodology is best for message testing?

Message testing can be conducted via quantitative or qualitative research. Just like when testing other marketing communications, quantitative research can be a preferred option if you’re seeking more analytic rigor and want to measure perceptions among a larger sample or multiple subgroups. Alternatively, qualitative research can be the right choice when you want to understand the “why” behind what you hear, or if communications are still in a more developmental stage. Our Message Testing Tool provides a unique methodology, which we have found especially valuable for online qualitative research.

What does the HawkPartners Message Testing Tool do? How does it work?

The Message Testing Tool ultimately consists of two exercises: a Message Prioritization exercise and a Story Optimization exercise. In the Message Prioritization exercise, respondents can physically sort messages within topic areas. In the Story Optimization exercise, the Tool enables respondents to create a compelling story flow by focusing not only on which messages are most compelling overall, but also what the optimal message sequence is. During both exercises, the HawkPartners moderator and client viewers can observe how respondents prioritize these messages in real-time to facilitate probing on key questions and exploration of opportunities for optimization.

Why would I use a tool like the HawkPartners Message Testing Tool?

Using this Tool allows for much more rigorous message testing than would be possible if presenting stimuli in a static format, like PowerPoint. Messages and groups can appear on the screen in random order, minimizing response order bias, and the interactive nature of the tool keeps respondents fully engaged.

Overall, by utilizing the Message Testing Tool, clients can develop better messages and optimize message flow, in order to create the most compelling product and brand stories, connecting with audiences in a more authentic way.

Connect with Matt Bernstein and Alex Ain to strategize the best way to put your brand messages front and center.