I think it was my first week in advertising. My art director and I had a "discussion" with a client about whether an ad should feature a visual of the product, or some other image we felt was more compelling. We weren’t too jacked up about the product’s package design, and argued long and hard for the alternate image. (They went with our recommendation.)
Fast forward 17 years.
Since then, I’ve seen that debate reenacted 1,000 times. It could be a video game company wanting screen grabs, or an auto manufacturer clamoring for sheet metal, but the issue is always the same. It’s an image of the product versus an image of something less expected.
Testing StrategyWhile the discussions over the meaning of this image or that image can sound like a Hollywood parody of the ad industry, at the core are issues involving audience awareness, brand recognition and point-of-purchase sales.
Consider the product package argument. Part of it is based in brand recognition. Particularly relevant to consumer packaged goods, the logic goes that if a consumer sees the package design in an ad, they’re more likely to recognize it in the store. This could be less of a factor with ecommerce, but then again, online shopping gets more visual by the click.
Package design also factors large for brand image. Theoretically, the product design comes out of the same strategy that’s driving all product/brand communications. And there are plenty of products in which the package design was or is the dominant brand component. The original Coke bottle. Marlboro cigarettes. Absolut. You can understand how a brand manager, having spent a considerable amount of money refining the package design, may want to showcase the results.
Those ‘brand clues’ are even more important for a new product with a clean slate like Sugarshots.
So why wouldn’t we feature the package design in the ad?
For starters, not all package designs are created equal. The truth is that in a cost-conscious business world, most aren’t as defining as, say, a Coke bottle. In that situation, an image of something more functionally relevant or emotionally evocative could grab more initial interest, and have a greater long-term effect on brand impact or awareness.
There’s also the issue of media clutter. When the obvious tactic is to show a package design, something more unique can provide needed separation from the surrounding noise. Put another way, when everyone else zigs, zag.
Lastly, we’re dealing with a food product. Although the package may be nice, consumers won’t be eating or drinking it. Showing the product in use could add relevance to the message. Testing ConstructWe’ll test this debate with a graphic image face-off. One ad with a package visual, the other featuring product use.
The logical product shot is the Sugarshots bottle. (See ad 1)
For our alternate ad, we’re going to use an image of a glass of iced tea. (See ad 2) This visual was chosen for its simplicity and its standard table-top food shot style.
Iced tea is also a common use for beverage sweeteners, and it’s a broadly popular drink. And, we happen to be in summertime.
In addition, while we’re primarily promoting the Taste benefit, we’re also making the supporting claim that liquid sugar mixes better. Anyone who’s ever put sugar in iced tea has experienced the undissolved pile at the bottom of the glass. That could provide some added relevance.
Goals & ObjectivesLike one of our previous tests, this test can help evaluate our audience’s familiarity with the product category, only sliced visually instead of textually. It’s also a look at how different creative tactics can affect campaign performance.
As for predictions, I find this a tough call. When the ads are viewed side by side, I find the glass version more impacting. Additionally, the glass next to the term ‘liquid sugar’ would seem to form a more complete idea of what liquid sugar is about.
Of course, people are fascinated by new products. And an image of a new product, whatever the package design, can drive a lot of curiosity. We’ve all seen glasses of iced tea, but not many have seen the Sugarshots brand. That additional bit of information provided by the product image could be the defining difference.
We’ll cover the results this Thursday.
Doug Schumacher is the President of Basement, Inc.
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