Do consumers feelings or thoughts move the brand needle most?

Looking back at the decade’s best research insights, the Marketing Science paper by Mike Hanssens and friends stands out to me: ‘Consumer Attitudes for Guiding Marketing Mix Decisions’, available for free at https://escholarship.org/content/qt6t57r4wx/qt6t57r4wx.pdf

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Featuring it as its Journal Selection, the Marketing Science Institute highlights the four metric criteria —potential for growth, responsiveness to marketing stimuli, stickiness (resistance to erosion), and sales conversion—that determine the connection between marketing actions, attitudinal metrics, and sales outcomes. https://www.msi.org/articles/which-marketing-actions-move-the-needle/. For both a lower and a higher awareness brand, the optimal marketing mix path increases projected sales revenues by 30-40% by quantifying the four criteria for each metric:

Brand liking has the highest sales conversion – sales increase with the square root of liking. This feelings conversion is more than three times the thoughts conversion of brand consideration and of advertising awareness. However, liking has two less desirable characteristics for brands. First, it is less sticky than the thoughts attitudes. Second, brand liking is responsive to advertising in only half of the studied categories.

Brand consideration is the next most powerful in driving sales, and most responsive to advertising, followed by price and promotion. This thoughts metric has the highest potential to grow (73% vs 19% for brand liking). Consideration is especially important in emerging markets, where consumers are quick to become aware of a new brand, but slow to consider it as they check friends and family for validation (https://analyticdashboards.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/how-should-you-adjust-your-marketing-across-cultures/)

Advertising awareness is most responsive to advertising and has a higher sales conversion for large brands. A plausible rationale is that, once they notice a brand’s advertising, consumers have an easier time remembering, finding, and buying bigger versus smaller brands. This is consistent with the double jeopardy effect (Ehrenberg et al. 1990) and explains why Coke still advertises (a lot): while its brand awareness is near 100% and no longer drives sales, advertising awareness still has growth potential and is one of the 5 key sales drivers (Chapter 8 in notsizedata.com).

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Sales conversion is highest in categories where consumers are more involved, such as shampoo. In contrasts, low involvement products such as beverages do not show a significant attitude change before sales growth or decline (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1470785319873253). This shows the limitation of relying only on attitudinal response for making marketing impact inferences. Even when marketing succeeds in lifting an attitudinal metric, it does not imply that this specific attitude metric, in turn, converts into sales. Accounting for the full chain reaction of events allows for an actionable connection between marketing and financial performance metrics.

Wishing you a healthy and happy 2020, I hope you can apply these insights for a successful decade!

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