Actually, what we actually say always is this: testing is useful in a direct proportion to your willingness to ignore its findings. Right. That's not confusing, is it? Here's what we mean: test away, get your copy tested and your tv tested and test 'til your heart's content and your ass is covered out the wazoo, but don't be a slave to the findings. Learn what you need to make your creative more of what you want it to be. Don't use the findings to make your creative something that you didn't want it to be: a watered down version of an interesting idea.
You're probably wondering why we bring this up. Yes, yes, you are. If you read this far, you are. Admit it. We brought it up because the other day we accidentally got some focus grouping that saved our bacon on a creative project.
Here's how it went down:
Client radio Unleashed is a nationally syndicated radio program and they wanted to send out a letter to prospective stations that might be interested in picking up their show. "A letter?" we said, with full-tilt maximum disdain and condescension, (we're trying to become more tactful, really we are), "letters are stupid!" (see above parenthetical note) "What you need is something that will cut through the clutter." It's true, it's totally true. Our point of view on letters is exactly that: you send a letter to a prospective client, that client's secretary isn't even gonna read it. Send something fun and funky. Somethign that makes your point in a way they haven't seen before. Something memorable. And so that's what we came up with.
The creative solution
Pee. Yup. Pee. Specifically pee stains on a piece of newspaper. Make pee stains on a piece of newspaper and send it out to your people with a little note on the bottom of the paper that says something like "Good radio is no accident." Fun. Different. Gross. Still, it will totally cut through. How many times do people get something like that in the mail? And if your whole branding is your dog logo and your line "music with teeth", then it's perfect. No? Yes! (see branding case study here.)
So here's how we did it. Yellow food coloring in a spray bottle sprayed on newspaper pages, a sticker on the bottom and nice printed letterhead envelopes. Like so:
Genius! Everyone said so and we were so happy to have once again come up with a great idea! The only rub: half of the people who were looking at it were looking right through the pee stain and reading the newspaper behind it! Nooooo! That's not the point! "It's the pee!" we screamed. (silently)
While at lunch, Dave, the radio Unleashed client gave the envelope to Richard, the proprietor of Bistro-to-go, where we were dining and Richard (no dummy) opened it up and started reading the article on the newspaper under the stain.
What to do? Well we came up with a simple solution that addressed what we'd learned through our small sample of testing. And here it is, on the back of the envelope:
Simple. Write on the back of each envelope: "(not real pee)" Fabulous!! It serves so many purposes. First, it intrigues. Come ONNNN! You gotta open an envelope with that written on the back. Right? Secondly, it focuses the reader's attention on the pee once they open up the envelope, and draws their attention AWAY from newspaper text. Lastly, and most literally, it helps diminish the gross factor. Yay! And since we're only sending out 200 pieces, it's easy enough to execute.
So here's how it goes now: (sorry, we took the photos and we're gonna use them)
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the true story of how a little focus group feedback made our creative a lot stronger. Live and learn.