Concept testing is a crucial part of any marketer’s process. In a competitive market, brands often only get one chance to deliver content that will resonate with customers, and research plays a critical role in avoiding the cost of less-than-stellar advertising campaigns.
Microsoft has always been well aware of the influence research should have in the advertising process - running ad pre-tests and in-market tests once the content has been created. However, before the global rollout of the company’s flagship 'Real People' campaign, the technology giant wanted to get closer than ever to consumers, sooner in the creative lifecycle, to choose the characters best-placed to showcase the innovation and power of Windows PCs.
Both the research and ad teams at Microsoft wanted to know whether the characters they’d chosen as their real people would resonate with consumers. Would their potential customers identify with the personalities of the people they planned to feature in their ads? Are their stories relatable? While quantitative research helped guide them in the past, they were looking for even more depth to truly hear the consumer voice.
To get these answers, and determine which characters would make ad campaigns most appealing, Microsoft partnered with Voxpopme to go beyond traditional quant research with agile qual - delivered through Voxpopme’s end-to-end video research platform.
The ad campaign was being carefully crafted to offer a glimpse into real stories from people doing work across industries – teachers, humanitarians, scientists, artists, crime sketch artists, chefs, bloggers, students – and show how they each use Microsoft products to power their work and their passions.
Even amongst the full complement of characters, internal theories had been established as to which people would perform best in different markets. With Voxpopme's 'Video Feedback' solution, Microsoft was able to begin deeply exploring these theories and determine whom should feature in the ad campaigns, and why. To put these characters to the test, Microsoft shared screening videos directly with consumers, asking them to watch the lives and work of these amazing people.
Immediately after watching, respondents were asked to leave short, self-recorded videos to determine the best ‘Real People’ to work with. Once consumers had recorded, Microsoft’s research team were able to leverage the advanced video analytics in Voxpopme’s platform, exploring all of the content collected by searching and filtering transcripts and data points in a matter clicks. The platform’s automated analytics also highlighted the key themes that emerged in the content and sentiment associated with the characters shared.
By using technology to power this analysis, Microsoft was able to benefit from the depth of qual research at the speed of quant. Voxpopme’s built-in editing tools also meant the research team could serve this real, human feedback back to colleagues within the tight timelines underpinning their creative process, informing ad direction and production.
With a testimonial-structured campaign, Microsoft’s research team saw an opportunity to give their ad team and agency even more power to make decisions and cast the people they wanted to in their ads based on the consumer story.
Two characters, in particular, stood out for Microsoft as they’d been considering using one for the US only campaign and another for international markets. However, with the enhanced advertising insight delivered by consumer-recorded video, the researchers were able to highlight the strength of 'Katherine' - the character planned for international markets - and demonstrate how well she connected with critical audiences. The result: Katherine was used in both domestic and global campaigns.
The additional context provided by video enabled Microsoft to optimise the ad content to avoid distraction from the campaign message. Furthermore, the post-campaign testing showed how influential Katherine was with the final ad landing in the top percentile of ads tested post-campaign.
”In addition to helping us choose the right character for our ads, we obtained additional context through the video feedback. This gave us some information about the character we didn’t even know we needed - we also saw some initial hints at things that could easily derail the spot” commented Anne Sedgwick, Senior Research Manager at Microsoft.
While the research results can’t take credit for the stellar ad production, it’s no surprise that when getting deeper insights and listening to the true voice of the customer earlier in the creative lifecycle, the final result was ad content that outperformed all past advertisements, norms, and benchmarks.