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Message Strength: Tips for Beautiful and Effective Product Messaging

By: Sourabh Sharma and Paul Janssen
Posted: November 26, 2012, from the December 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

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For the study, attendees ranked a collection of hypothetical claims after being exposed to a fictional 2-in-1 sunscreen and self-tanning product. The goal was to put marketers on the receiving end of various claims so they could experience the most and least effectively crafted messages. Just like consumers and survey-takers, attendees were asked to evaluate claims that emphasized various benefits articulated in different ways through maximum differential scaling, thus making trade-offs between what claims motivated them most and least. Given the opportunity to provide written, open-ended feedback, the experience brought to life the principles derived from SKIM’s meta-analysis.

When presented with the claim “12 hours of nonstop waterproof protection,” respondents offered comments such as “I like going in the water and hate having to reapply sunscreen,” and “Conveys a specific benefit that is important to me.” On the other hand, the lowest-ranking claim, “Your best beach buddy!” elicited such responses as “I need a protective product, not a beach buddy,” and “It sounds silly and says nothing.” These are completely in sync with aforementioned findings of the meta-analysis, and were uncovered by InnoCos attendees themselves, making the live case study an enriching experience.

The meta-analysis and supporting case study reinforce the continuing need to refine, articulate and deliver marketing claims in keeping with proven tenets of effective messaging.

Sourabh Sharma comes to SKIM with a keen eye for understanding consumer behavior. He adds perspective to marketing research from his years in brand management and product development at L’Oréal, where he launched hair color and makeup products for brands in Asia and North America. His work there allowed him to file for multiple patents and present a new technology at symposiums focusing on beauty. He built on this with his work in strategy consulting in the consumer sector, which allowed him to broaden his understanding of the beauty industry. With a multifaceted background, having earned degrees in engineering and marketing and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the Rotterdam School of Management, Sharma enables the firms he works with to acquire a stronger understanding of their end users. Furthermore, he strives to extract value from the evolving brand-to-consumer interface through his work in social media research.

Paul Janssen is the director of SKIM’s consumer division in North America. He holds a master’s degree in international business studies and worked in brand management at Kraft Foods prior to joining SKIM. Janssen is considered an expert in the field of claims and communication, and regularly advises clients such as Unilever, PepsiCo and Philips on how to optimize their claim and communication strategies for specific marketing initiatives. In addition, he has hosted multiple claims workshops and training sessions for the consumer insights and marketing teams of various clients.