Are you offending women….


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As brands, it is imperative to recognize the value of ad testing to gauge audience perception and opinion. Unfortunately, we often cut corners to meet tight deadlines or even evaluate the wrong audience. Sometimes it is important to test your campaign several times with different cultures, geographies and genders to ensure the intended message is being received in a way that is favorable and beneficial to the brand. Performing ad testing before a campaign launches is one of the most vital parts of the campaign process and adds quantifiable insight and direction. The old adage has never been more true, “There is no second chance to make a first impression.”

We live in an increasingly connected world and the female consumer is among the most active. When brands decide to advertise products and services they are giving consumers permission to share their feedback. With the rise of social media sharing there are a multitude of forums where consumers can share their perceptions and provide product reviews. Pre-testing of branding messages can assist us in avoiding negative feedback after a campaign has launched by understanding the customer’s reaction during the design phase and before the launch. Millward Brown reports that consistent pre-testing improves a brand’s ad effectiveness by at least 20-percent compared to brands that do not test. (Source: Kantar Millward Brown – Point of View article. Nigel Hollis, Chief Global Analyst.

In 2013, the Swiffer brand updated the iconic Rosie the Riveter image to show a modern woman holding one of their steam mops in an advertisement designed to sell cleaning products. Rosie the Riveter is one of the most prominent cultural female-focused icons dating back to World War II. The problem was that once the campaign launched, women all over the country voiced outrage about the advertisements because they felt the ads displayed sexism and communicated the idea that “cleaning is women’s work.”

In social media execution, one must always be wary of “bee-hives,” or groups of consumers that can create significant momentum and sway opinion. When Swiffer launched the advertisement, they got “stung” by a backlash of online outrage which catapulted their awareness ratings but, unfortunately, in an undesirable direction. The negative feedback provided by women pivoted the conversation and prompted the Representation Project to launch a hashtag campaign which led to a boycott of Swiffer products – #NotBuyingIt.

Swiffer who is owned by Proctor and Gamble quickly evaluated their situation and within 24 hours pulled all images of the Rosie the Riveter look-alike out of their messaging. They released this statement:

They also released a public statement as follows: “We were made aware of the concerns regarding the image in a Swiffer ad this afternoon. Our core purpose is to make cleaning easier for all consumers, regardless of who is behind the handle of our products. It was not our intention to offend any group with the image, and we are working to remove it from where it’s being used as soon as possible.”

But was the damage already done? Judging by the reactions at the time, yes.

In most cases, companies are doing qualitative research by focus-groups or one-on-ones.  However, the most effective manner is often through ethnography focused behavioral observation.  Brands need to understand a “day in the life in her shoes” to truly understand female perceptions. Evaluating qualitative research then feeds into quantitative research, which enables us to validate and scale efficiencies.  Conducting proper research can also easily mitigate the financial risks inherent in launching a negatively perceived campaign.

The overall value of pre-testing communication messaging up front, can NEVER be underestimated. Just ask Proctor and Gamble.

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