At it’s core, marketing is about communicating. Communicating thoughts, ideas, values; all with the goal to prompt an action.
Basic communication theory suggests that communication is a process (as depicted below).
As marketers, we may have a brilliant idea and “code” the message perfectly (or so we think). But unfortunately, there is the decoding process on the receiver’s end. How they decode or interpret your message depends on a number of factors, including their experience, knowledge of your organization, personal opinions, attitudes and more.
Take a look at the bus ad below. What do you first think of?
Believe it or not, this is an add for a hair cutting place, but unless you saw the logo (and chances are you wouldn’t as the bus drove by) you wouldn’t know that. What do you think of when you read “Snip. Snip.” and see a happy (and small family)? Probably not hair cutting.
The 5 Second Test
Whenever creating an ad, we run the risk of the ad being misunderstood for all the reasons mentioned above. One idea to help mitigate that risk is to run a 5 second test. The 5 second test is simple. Just show copies of your ads to those not involved with the design and planning, give them 5 seconds and then ask what their impressions are. If the impressions don’t line up with what you intended, you may have a marketing misunderstanding.
I wonder if First Choice Haircutters would have done the 5 second test, if they would have still proceeded with this ad.