Market Testing with a grain of salt

Flaman Man

Flaman Man good or bad?

Recently I contracted Points West Consulting out of Regina to conduct market testing for our Flaman Man commercials.  This fiscal year the Flaman Man commercials have been a polarizing conversation within our organization, and it seems outside of it as well.  Many within the organization love the Flaman Man and embrace it with devotion; hawking Flaman Man T-shirts with joy and having their children participate in the current Flaman Man coloring contest.  To them the character has become a fitness hero; others in the organization are embarrassed by the campy style of the campaign that pays homage to the golden era of TV super heroes (think Adam West’s Batman).  When asked about the ads  they quickly mumble that they have nothing to do with them. Equally the same can be said of Flaman customers/non customers. If we look at the participation in the Flaman man programs and hard metrics of sales numbers clearly many people have embraced the campaign.  That said as the campaign marches on (now in its third year) the outside detractors have been getting louder. Through our general company contact email death threats to the Flaman Man have occurred and in general negative comments describing the commercials as annoying and insulting have increased (most notably during the busy months of December and January when the ad frequencies were the highest).

All discourse aside are the ads effective? If we were merely trying to obtain market recognition that goal was accomplished.  The TV campaign has stretched on for three years and was backed by integrated marketing throughout the company. First and foremost for recognition there are long-time, previously existing “Flaman Men” hoisted in the air via sign poles running on top of fake treadmills at our major locations. Addtionally in store life sized cutouts of the Flaman Man greet you as you walk in.  Add the social media buzz, vocal detractors and lovers of the character, print ads, radio and web – if you live in Western Canada it is hard to find someone that is unaware of the Flaman Man.

All publicity is good publicity right?  – If you are a marketing professional you clearly know this is not true.  But sometimes with traditional brands the dogma of old thinking is hard to uproot (if people are talking about it good or bad it is good!) and there is strong resistance to depart from the past (we have invested so much we cannot abandon the Flaman man now). So I needed empirical evidence besides a  few emails that the polarizing effect of the campaign is negative and that we need to act, to completely change our Fitness Marketing.   Enter marketing testing and Garry Aldridge from Points West Consulting.

After extensive consultation a cross section of our demographic was assembled to give us general insights about what customers are looking for from fitness equipment providers and the impact of our commercials on their decision making versus two other leading brands. The testing was objective and well executed. I was excited to receive the insights I expected that would put the nail in the coffin for the Flaman Man campaign.  Instead I was presented with a lot of information to the contrary that trumpeted the merits of the campaign but also warned of the negative impressions I was already aware of. Market testing confirmed what we already knew about our commercials, they are both good and bad.  Not exactly what I wanted. However the testing confirmed theory we had about the industry, and most importantly provided general findings about our competitor’s campaigns that we did not know. These findings told us what the Flaman Man campaign got right in relation to what the competitors got wrong.

 So what went right? The Flaman man campaign is consistent (it stays cheesy), and you really have to admit creative in the concept.  Perhaps most importantly, the ads are ads.  They tell the customers what we want them to do. So for overall effectiveness our campaigns outscored the comparison campaigns (one of which I honestly thought would trounce the Flaman Man) because we really nailed these three items.

Ironically I went seeking proof of what we had done wrong, instead I learned more about what our competitors had done wrong.  Yes, yes the Flaman Man campaign is still cheesy but it is effective. That said, there was still negative feedback from which to conclude it is time for a change.  Armed with these unexpected insights it was enough to convince the Fitness Division managers to move forward in a new direction. (Look what we did right and they did wrong and now what we can do better!) Additionally as a result of the testing there has been new frame work added to our thinking (some good, some bad).

So what’s new?

1)      The tendency of readers of the report to revert back to the report as gospel (Bad closed thinking; full disclosure, initially I fell into this trap)

2)      Openness in the organization for further testing so we can improve upon our campaigns prior to launch, and tweak during. (Good)

3)      Understanding that we need to be constantly testing (Great!)

Last mouthful to chew on...

The testing was conducted in Regina which skewed the participants to view our commercials as a local company and look on them with more favor. While equally skewing the comparison “non-local” ads unfavorably. This of course raises the question what would customers in other markets say?  Would the general findings be the same? Would the effectiveness of the ad be different, due to the company being considered non-local and just another national brand?  Would the negative comments be stronger?  All good questions that more comprehensive testing will help answer.

So, while I did not get what I was expecting when I ordered up the market testing, I did get what I needed. Finally, the market testing I got has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Click here to watch the Flaman Man Video


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