Do big companies assume that their consumers – who buy their products, who pay their wages – are stupid and incapable for reading the small print?
And does social media hold a solution to the small sample size problem?
An alternative title for this post could be: How some TV advertising assumes we’re all dumb.
Last night, a TV spot really got my goat.
It was for a hair-care product (which shall remain nameless). The spot claimed that the people who used said product would find that their hair looked thicker and more silky. As is common with this type of ad, there was a little * just after the statement.
And there, in the bottom right corner, was the small print. It read thus:
“*Than thinner hair.”
So, let me get this straight. Use this product and your hair will look thicker than thinner hair. Not ‘thin’ hair. ‘Thinner’ hair…
Another line suggested that the use of the product will make your hair appear more sleek and shiny. Again, look for the *:
“*versus unwashed hair”.
Quite frankly, a dose of Fairy Liquid will probably make your hair look more healthy than someone who hasn’t washed for a week. But you don’t see that on their adverts.
None of these little *s lead to a recommendation for a premium product, do they?
The point I’m making here is that it feels as though the advertiser in question has decided that their customers – the people who pay their wages – are a pretty dim bunch. What’s the point of these glamorous statements if all you’re comparing your product with is either a balding pate or someone who wouldn’t know shampoo if it hit them in the eye?
Don’t get me wrong, this ad isn’t the only one of its type to treat the audience like complete fools; there are plenty of them out there.
Which makes me wonder about respect. Respect for the audience, and respect for the product. It would be nice if the companies and agencies concerned respected the audience enough not to make claims bordering on the fallacious, but protected by a little * just in case anyone disagrees. And respected the product enough to give it some kind of meaningful comparisons.
In a similar fashion, when 92% of women agree, you know that the sample size is going to be tiny. My favourites are the sample sizes under 100 – and especially the ones where 42 women were surveyed. Yes, the advertiser isn’t lying, but at the same time they’re trying to hide their minuscule sample size behind a little *. And people accuse politicians of spin?
What’s even more interesting is that a lot of these adverts are for high volume sellers. And yet they haven’t managed to get a decent sample size together. So you’ve got a product which sells tens or hundreds of thousands of units a day, and only 100 people can be found to take part in a survey as to whether they like it?
Again, not exactly a good recommendation, is it?
I’m not saying that every product should have a cast of thousands surveyed about it, but a few more in the trials would be nice. Just to give that extra little bit of product confidence.
However, this is assuming that people will bother to read the small print. Which I’m guessing most people don’t.
Is there a solution, then, in the clever use of social media? Should the advertisers in question be looking to use the power of social media to get in reviews, have surveys answered and engage the consumer with the brand?
Imagine if that hair care product had 90% of its Facebook fans prepared to recommend it to their best friend. And 93% of its Twitter followers had been told about it by one of their friends. It wouldn’t take long to check out the size of the fan base or tweeting classes. The surveys could easily be marketed through appropriate channels to drive people into an incentivised survey to get large-scale data*.
And, of course, the individuals would have to become a fan or a follower of the product to take part, thus converting them into warm-leads who can be conversed with into the future. This would mean that their posting/Tweet, stating that they would “recommend [product name] to my best friend” would be seen by all followers of their profile. And that could be a lot of people (the average user has 120 – 130 ‘friends’ apparently). You’d have to take the risk that some would post/Tweet that they wouldn’t recommend the product to their best friend, but if “92% of women agree” anyway, then the 8% can be worked on later – or even better, used as a control group for further R&D.
Of course, it could all go spectacularly wrong. 92% of women might agree – but not agree what you’d like them to agree. However, if there’s no such thing as bad publicity**, then there’s a large number of ready-made, on a platter, PR opportunities to make a bad situation into a great situation.
Either way, you’ve driven people to your channel – whether to take part in said survey or to see how many people did.
All it requires is for a few brands and/or agencies to be brave. To respect their product. To respect their consumer. The rest would follow, sounding the death-knell for the statements that washed hair looks better than unwashed hair and that thicker hair looks thicker than thinner hair…
*There’s a whole debate about incentivised surveys giving skewed data. But seeing as many of these products don’t state the impartiality of their respondents anyway, we’re none the wiser as to the incentivised/non-incentivised nature of the survey in the first place.
** Unless you’re caught chopping down the rain-forest, poisoning babies or murdering someone of course. There aren’t many ways out of those…