How To Clear Up The “Fuzzy” Front-End Of Marketing Communications

How To Clear Up The “Fuzzy” Front-End Of Marketing Communications

Evidence Based Messaging

Wouldn’t it be nice to present a creative brief to your client/boss and be able to say, “Here’s what we KNOW.” vs. “Here’s what we THINK.”? I think we can all agree that a fact-based approach is more convincing and certainly more successful. So how do you get to the stage of “Here’s what we KNOW”? The first step is coming to the realization that “we THINK” is not good enough. Secondly, you must involve the customer or potential customer in the development process. All too often customers are left out of the “fuzzy” front-end and direction is based off intuition rather than actual customer insight. Let’s take a look at a practical way to involve customers in the development of marketing communications.

What to say

The first step in identifying what to say is expanding the range of possibilities. In other words, before you can begin to refine your message, you must make sure you’ve considered a variety of options. This type of exercise is done through an online brainstorming tool that gathers open-ended VOC feedback. By allowing customers to express their input in a long-form approach (2-4 sentences), you can better understand what’s really important to them and the language they use.

The best way to say it

Now that you have an idea of what attributes or values are important to consumers, it’s time to identify the combination of messaging attributes that create the “optimum” message. For example, you may have a series of messaging attributes (i.e. warranty, credibility, mission statement, etc.) as part of your value proposition but don’t know which messaging elements work best together.

Let’s look at two messaging attributes to give you an example (the bullet points underneath are referred to as “levels” beneath an attribute)

Product Manufacturing

  • Made in the USA
  • All products made from recycled material
  • No animals were harmed in production


  • 3 months
  • 6 months
  • 12 months

In this example, you may find that including the product manufacturing statement “Made in the USA” in your marketing message increases intent to buy by 4%. You may also find that including a warranty level of “6 months” increases intent to buy by 3%. However, you may find that including both “Made in the USA” and “6-month warranty” in the same marketing message increases intent to buy by 13%. That’s an extra 6 percentage point lift in intent to buy by presenting those specific messaging elements together. The real “ah ha” moment happens when you can identify the “1+1=3 relationships”.

This type of insight is created by using an online Conjoint Analysis tool. During the study, the respondent only sees one concept at a time and is asked to rate the concept by a specific standard (i.e. intent to buy). What the respondent doesn’t know is that each choice they make is helping tease out the value of each part. By using an experimental design, the different combinations of messaging elements the respondent sees are strategically predetermined. At the end you get a utility value for each messaging attribute (i.e. warranty, color, price, etc.) and each attribute level (i.e. for color it might be red, green, & blue).

After running a few simulations with this data, you can begin to formulate a fact-based messaging strategy. By identifying the “1+1-3 relationships”, you back up your messaging strategy by presenting statements like, “If we communicate X, Y, and Z to our customers we can increase intent to buy by 20%”.

Diamond Principal

To illustrate this strategy we like to use the Diamond Principal. At the top half of the diamond you need to expand the range of possibilities to make sure you’re covering all your bases. Now that you’ve considered a range of possibilities, you can begin to refine things down to an optimal solution or message (bottom half of the diamond).


Not only does this strategy help sell your brief to your client/boss but it provides important direction for your marketing communications. The days of “we think” are over.

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