Monday, August 31, 2009

Are Value-Themed Ads Making an Impact?

CI SUMMARY: Advertisers are aiming to reach the value-minded consumer with creative advertising executions that deliver recession-themed messaging. Nielsen IAG examined 67 value-themed ads across 11 national advertisers and found that breakthrough retention rates were not as expected. It turns out that the same creative attributes that make for good advertising also make for good value-message advertising. Discover which ones worked and why.

By: Alka Gupta, Senior Vice President, Consumer Goods Research, Nielsen IAG

Recession has gripped the economy since December 2007, but by the time it was officially declared a year later, the announcement only affirmed what had already been felt by consumers for many months. Consumer confidence had already plunged 17 points from the second half of 2007 to the first half of 2008. Although it leveled off by the second half of 2008 and through the first h alf of 2009, it has remained in a trough—about 20 points below 2007 levels.

National TV advertisers also began reacting to the recession before it was declared—a deluge of value-focused ads began appearing in the second half of 2008, and value brands honed their messages to fit the economic environment.

Consumer or consumed?
If consumer state of mind is any indication, receptivity to value-message advertising should be strong. The American Psychological Association reported in February 2009 that 80% of Americans were stressed due to the economy. And behavioral indicators are confirming that sentiment as consumers are seeking value—spending less and saving more. Nielsen reports that 61% of consumers are using coupons and sales, stocking up, switching brands—especially to private label brands—or switching stores. They are also saving more, putting off buying new cars, and even pulling back on buying property, life and health insurance.

Value Chart

Capturing a captive audience
“Staying in” has become the new “going out” and cocooning consumers are tuning-in to television at record-breaking rates. In Q4 2008, time spent watching TV in the home per month reached a historic all-time high, and then went even higher in Q1 2009 when it topped 153 hours.

Capitalizing on a new consumer mindset, advertisers have flooded the airways with recession-themed commercials. But do these value-messages capture more consumer attention?

Breaking through
In a review of TV ad recall, Nielsen IAG found that value-message and recession-themed ads did not breakthrough TV ad clutter at higher rates than ordinary ads. In fact, across an identified set of 67 value-message or recession-themed ads across 11 national advertisers that aired between late 2008 and early 2009, ad recall was slightly lower than the advertisers’ own historical averages in most cases.

Across the spectrum, retention rates varied. Consumer packaged goods brands within this group saw no decline in their breakthrough rates on the whole; retailers saw minor declines; financial services, insurance, automotive and telecommunications advertisers tended to see significant declines.

Yet, not all advertisers who saw a decline in their breakthrough rate were necessarily unsuccessful with their value/recession ads. Breaking through to the widest possible audience certainly plays an important role in ad impact, but for some ads, a moderate breakthrough rate combined with a high-impact message was enough to get the desired effect.

A case in point is the value/recession auto campaign that topped Nielsen IAG’s list for surpassing the advertiser’s own ad performance norms. One Asian auto maker addressed the anxieties of potential car buyers head-on by delivering a unique, innovative and timely buyer protection offer, allowing the owner to return the car without damaging his/her credit score in the event of job loss.

Although it was not the best remembered (auto ads tend not to be well-remembered among general audiences), it was the best liked value/recession campaign and the strongest message conveyor among the smaller base of viewers who recalled it. Most importantly, it generated more ad performance improvement for the advertiser than any other campaign studied. It may also have been the most written-about campaign of the TV season, raising the auto makers profile as a challenger to two bigger American motor companies that spawned rival offers.

Proving that getting a jump on competitors with a unique value message pays off, the Asian carmaker returned far better sales results than its domestic competitors. Its sales were down just 1.5% in March 2009 vs. 50% for the American rivals in the same month. Yes, in a deep recession, success may be measured in terms of minimizing revenue losses. But the Asian carmaker continues to see U.S. market share gains.

This example illustrates another important finding about value/recession ads. When a creative campaign is designed around the message, it often inadvertently sacrifices breakthrough. Apparently, entertainment value is dampened when the value/recession theme is dialed up. And viewers look to TV primarily to be entertained—perhaps even more so in a recession. Hitting the bull’s-eye with its message, the Asian carmaker overcame the handicap of lackluster breakthrough.

But what happens to advertisers without a ground-breaking value message?

Messaging masterpiece
Walmart and Target came aboard the recession-themed bandwagon in late 2008 with new value campaigns. For Walmart, value has always been a central message, but the shift from “Always Low Prices,” to “Save Money. Live Better” signaled Walmart’s acknowledgment of a tougher economic climate for customers. They showcased a series of ads that demonstrated how to stretch a budget with lifestyle trade-offs, including:
  • Buying a coffee maker for home-brewed coffee vs. daily coffee shop coffee (save $400/yr.)
  • Making home cooked meals vs. dinner out for a family of four (save $425/yr.)

The ads were short and straightforward with a clear message echoed in the voice-over and in the visuals. They were not blockbuster ads by any stretch of the imagination, but they did capture more viewer attention than Walmart’s previous ad campaigns and gave the retailer a slight edge in the crowded world of retail advertising at a crucial time when consumers were actively seeking value

Messaging miss
Target on the other hand, had less impact with its “Brand New Day” campaign, which also conveyed lifestyle trade-offs, including:

  • The New Movie night—a DVD
  • The New Vacation Glow—self-tanner
The campaign married Target’s playful style-focused approach with the recession-themed message, but the feel-good visuals and music arguably overshadowed the value messaging, and it fell short compared to Walmart’s more direct and unambiguous approach.

In its later ads, Target took a completely different path when it introduced the moms who “love Target” because they can get “bargains on basics” and “steals on staples.” The new creative did indeed have more overt messaging, but it came at a price. Without Target’s iconic and stylish visuals and music, viewers were less able to connect the ads to the retailer

Staying true
Brand equity is precious. The core messages associated with a brand will be the ones that consumers are most likely to remember—even when presented in a new way. It may also follow that the primary reasons why consumers bought the brand in the first place will be the same reasons they continue to buy the brand.

Take the example of a major consumer packaged goods manufacturer that launched two similar creatives which were simultaneously aired in late 2008 supporting the message that their brand was an economical way to feed the family. While both ads conveyed this essential campaign message, the second one also utilized the brand’s traditional nutrition/taste message.

Viewers of the second ad had no trouble recalling the nutrition/taste message, but viewers of the first ad were hard-pressed to accurately recall the ad’s value message. This is more remarkable considering that recall measures were based on real-world viewing of the campaign and that most consumers would have been exposed to a heavier dose of the value message because it was in both ads.

Guiding principles
Ultimately, whether an ad is value-focused or not, success is highly dependent on creative execution. The same creative attributes that make for good advertising also make for good value-message advertising. Some rules-of-thumb include:

  • Give viewers a reason to watch;
  • Be entertaining;
  • Use easily recognizable brand cues;
  • Have a clear and simple message;
  • Don’t cram too much information into a single ad;
  • Keep the visuals uncluttered.

Everyone is talking about value-for-money these days, especially US consumer companies whose sales experience the biggest hit by the financial crisis. The question would be: do you have an effective value messaging in your ad among plethora of value-screaming copies?

The first place to look for the answer is by understanding how your consumers define "value" in their mind & their behaviour implication in order to tap on their receptivity points. Walmart's messaging shift from 'everyday low prices' to 'save money. live better' has come strongly at the right time. Refreshing the message with 'saving' has been being more relevant way to communicate the value instead of just being in all time promotions. Furthermore, it triggers more creative ways to to capture consumers attention.

How to Be a Smart Protégé

Eight tips for setting up a network of mentors

By Dawn E. Chandler, Douglas T. Hall and Kathy E. Kram

August 17, 2009

It’s not easy to be a protégé these days.

Everybody knows the setup of the classic mentoring relationship: Older workers take junior colleagues under their wing and stay in their lives for years, giving them one-on-one advice and shepherding them through their careers. Nowadays, though, seasoned workers rarely stay in a job long enough to stick close to a protégé for any length of time. And they’re often too harried managing their own careers to devote lots of attention to somebody else’s.

Last year in these pages, Kathy E. Kram and Monica C. Higgins proposed a different model—the developmental network. Instead of looking to one person as a guide, a would-be protégé should build up a team of mentors drawn from all areas of his or her professional and personal lives. That way, you don’t have to rely too heavily on one person to give you all the guidance you need. And you get a broader range of advice and information.

But there’s a snag: Most people aren’t very good at creating and maintaining these networks. Obviously, it takes a lot more effort to track down a team of helpers than a single mentor. But it also takes a special blend of skills and strategy to find just the right people and cultivate rewarding relationships with them.

To find out the best way to approach the task, we looked for people who are “relationally savvy”—in other words, they have demonstrated a knack for building networks. We interviewed a number of these talented protégés, as well as their mentors and three career coaches, to figure out what makes them tick—the abilities they bring to the table and the approaches they use to keep people on their side.

Here’s a look at how Savvys make networking work for them.

1. Talk First—and Often.

Savvys aren’t shy about initiating—and maintaining—contact with people who can support their development. They constantly ask for information, help, feedback and advice. As one Savvy puts it: “The way I see it, a lot of people are waiting to be invited for someone to tap them on the shoulder and then take them under their wing. In my experience, that just doesn’t happen; you have to go after someone.”

And they don’t just talk to the peers and bosses they deal with every day, who have a vested interest in helping them along. They might talk to senior managers in other parts of the company, for instance, and ask to learn about their side of the operation. Savvys who are bosses might ask their subordinates for feedback on their management and leadership skills.

In their communities, meanwhile, Savvys often reach out to folks in volunteer and industry associations, as well as schools where they’re getting graduate degrees.

2. Read Between the Lines.

Savvys are expert at recognizing when colleagues are interested in becoming mentors—even when the colleagues aren’t being direct about it. Let’s say a senior colleague asks a junior about the kinds of challenges he or she is facing. Most people might just think the older worker is being nice. A Savvy would see potential there and try to strike up a relationship.

One Savvy, for instance, realized she was getting signals from a senior co-worker while working on a project. The co-worker was giving cues that said, “ ‘I think you’re a smart, interesting young woman and I’d like to mentor you,’ or ‘I think you’re a smart woman. I want to be friends with you,’ ” the Savvy says. “It was an invitation to continue the relationship after the work had been finished. And I don’t think that people think of it as an invitation, but you have to.”

3. Go the Extra Mile.

Savvys put in lots of work at the start of a relationship with a mentor, to make sure that it gets off the ground. That might mean, for instance, being assertive about getting together outside of work so they can talk privately and informally. One Savvy who had just accepted a job happened to be near the office on a holiday. She decided to stop in and see if the woman who had hired her was around. As it turns out, the woman was at her desk—and was impressed with the new hire’s initiative. The mentoring relationship began then and there.

Likewise, Savvys keep in frequent contact with their mentors—even if it’s just to touch base. That helps keep the relationship strong.

As one Savvy describes her time with a mentor: “We had a standing [weekly] coffee chat, where we got together for half an hour to an hour. It was important to talk about the work, but it was more often just checking up on what we were doing…. I asked if we could do that because we didn’t have any regular contact. I thought it would be helpful if we got together on a weekly basis just for checking in. She thought it was a great idea.”

4. Do Your Homework.

Savvys always come prepared for meetings with a current or potential mentor. Let’s say there’s a particular challenge they want to discuss. They might research the topic thoroughly and come up with a bunch of different approaches for the mentor to review. This shows the mentor that the Savvy is competent and eager to meet challenges, and values their time together.

But the thoroughness doesn’t end there. Savvys follow up with people who have counseled them, to let them know how their support helped and otherwise keep them up-to-date. Again, this shows the Savvy is eager to improve and values the wisdom the mentor brings to the table.

One mentor says of her Savvy protégé: “Unlike other relationships I’ve had, that one I thought really worked nicely because she took it very seriously and spent time thinking through what she wanted to cover…. Then, she would come back the next time and say, ‘You know how we talked about this…. I did that. I talked to [so and so], and it actually worked out great. That was good advice, thank you. I learned something there.’ ”

5. Share Information.

Most people don’t like talking about their problems and weaknesses—for perfectly understandable reasons. These can be sensitive areas, and people don’t like to look weak in front of colleagues. Savvys, however, understand that deep relationships are based on openness, sharing and trust. When you share problems with people, they realize that you hold them in esteem and appreciate your confidence.

To be sure, that doesn’t mean pouring out your deepest and darkest secrets to your mentors. Instead, what Savvys disclose are things like career failures that taught them a lesson, challenges that stood in the way of their success, disabilities that they have struggled with and conflicts with another person in the organization.

6. Make It Mutual.

Mentoring networks involve shared learning between two people. Too many people enter the relationships thinking of themselves as plebeian protégés who get support. Savvys, on the other hand, realize they have something to offer their mentors, too, and help them out whenever they can—which gives the other person a deeper vested interest in them.

One Savvy, a technology consultant, describes how she fostered relationships with three senior colleagues: “If I saw a senior consultant who was swamped with something, and I realized that I didn’t necessarily have the computer intellect to be on his level there, but I could type really fast and I could be creative and design the presentation, and I could help with all the interviewing, I said as much to him. I said to him, ‘Listen, I’d like to help you out if you’d like it.’ ”

7. Be Personable…

The final qualities Savvys offer are perhaps the most basic—but also the toughest to duplicate.

For one, they’re simply easy to get along with. They have empathy, the ability to listen, strong conflict management and other social skills, which help them build rapport with others and manage disagreements. They leave people feeling positive toward them and eager to continue the relationship.

For instance, one colleague says of a Savvy: “He’s an engaging guy, just a nice, delightful person to talk to.” Contrast that with the reaction to someone who isn’t so socially skilled: “When he is in a bad mood, we kind of tiptoe around him.”

8. …And Have a Positive Attitude.

Of course, not everybody has a strong, charismatic personality. And it can be tough to summon one up if it doesn’t come naturally. But there are practical lessons you can take away from Savvys without having to become the life of the party.

You might try adopting the positive attitudes that Savvys bring to the table. For instance, simply assume that people around you want to lend a hand. Humility is all well and good, but you’re going to hamper your ability to network if you keep thinking, “If I ask for help, I’m bothering people,” or “I just don’t want to be presumptuous and assume that somebody wants to help me.”

Savvys lean on people without thinking of it as a burden—instead, they see it as a chance to build bridges. That attitude puts them and the other person at ease.

I found that the people that are most successful in business actually realize that asking for help gives people the opportunity to help you,” says a career coach. “It earns you a huge amount of respect in the workplace.”

“Try to figure out if there’s something you could do to make yourself useful,” says another coach. “And sometimes the way you make yourself useful is by needing advice. People love to give advice.”

In summary: Get the Knack

“Relationally savvy” people who succeed at building and sustaining networks of mentors are more likely than others to:

  1. Take the initiative to strike up and maintain relationships with mentors.
  2. Recognize and respond to even subtle expressions of interest from would-be mentors.
  3. Reach beyond immediate peers and bosses to others in the company, as well as in the community.
  4. Make sure they have frequent contact with each of their mentors.
  5. Prepare for meetings with their mentors and let them know how their advice has helped them.
  6. Lend their mentors a hand when they can on projects at work.
  7. Be open with their mentors about challenges they’re facing at work.
  8. Do their best to be positive and personable.


Having good mentors to help boost own needs proactive actions & becoming personal responsibility, not relying on systems to setup one. We can learn from 8 steps outlined in the articles for quick actionable steps to do tomorrow and remind ourselves that the most important one is the last one: having positive Attitude.