Resonant marketing messages are the kind that stick with us. They break through our superficial psyche and become something important enough to form a memory.
So, what types of advertising messages resonate the most? Nielsen asked that very question as part of their 2013 Global Survey of Trust in Advertising.
According to their research, humorous content resonates the most with consumers (47%), followed closely by real-life situations (46%).
The least resonating types of advertising messages messages are celebrity endorsements (12%) and athlete endorsements (8%).
Some of this data flies in the face of conventional wisdom which may suggest that celebrity endorsements are the bread and butter of good advertising. The familiar face of a celebrity certainly is certainly attention-grabbing, but how deeply does familiarity and popularity resonate with you?
And while pets and animals may be great at getting attention—who can resist a cute cat video—only 18% of those polled said those messages that included a furry friend most resonated with them.
Perhaps the reason content marketing and content advertising have become so popular is because they strive to maximize the potential for having a resonant experience. Using content in ads attempts to provide something deeper and more satisfying that traditional ad.
However, keep in mind that this data is consumer opinions about themselves and how they feel about the advertiser’s messages. It’s about self-perception, and may or may not actually correlate to real opinions or a willingness to take action. We humans are notoriously bad at understanding ourselves.
For instance, in his 2004 Ted Talk Choice, Happiness, and Spaghetti Sauce, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of Howard Moskowitz’s pursuit of the perfect spaghetti sauce. The short version of the story is that no one in the 1980's had ever said they wanted extra chunky spaghetti sauce. They didn't realize they wanted it. But Howard Moskowitz conducted a study and determined that a third of Americans actually preferred chunky over regular. Using that information, he enabled Ragu to become the dominant pasta sauce brand of that time. It's the difference between what we think we desire, and what we really desire—or in Gladwell's words: "People cannot always explain what they want deep down."
This is why data-driven decision-making is so important in advertising. Data allows marketers to validate hypotheses independent of their own bias. Data even enables us to uncover new insights that we never may have expected.
So if the types of advertising you engage in aren't in the top of Nielsen's research, but the data shows people still like it, you're probably just the chunky pasta sauce of advertising. Yes, derive insights from the Nielsen data, but no, don't let it stop you from doing what's right.
If we translate some of the things Moskowitz learned about making spaghetti sauce to making advertising, perhaps some of it still holds true:
There is no good type of advertising. No bad type of advertising. What’s important is only, “is this advertising that people like?”