Advertising Research

Advertising Research

Good advertising doesn’t just circulate information. It penetrates the public mind with desires and belief.
— William Bernbach

Our approach

Our research will help you make a good ad, and will tell you whether your ads can be made better.


Gearing & Steering

How do we know when an ad is good?

Once, two friends asked Lincoln: "Lincoln, we want you to settle an argument for us. Exactly how long should a man's legs be?"

"Well," Lincoln said, "I would say they should be exactly long enough to reach from his body to the ground."

An ad is good if it gets other people to:

  1. Get up and do something they otherwise wouldn't do at that moment: shop, visit, vote, book, call, download, donate, buy. 
  2. When there are several alternatives, choose the advertised option over all others.

We call these two functions "to gear" and "to steer". 


Memories of Things to Happen

When you are trying to decide on a purchase, your brain projects you into the future and paints itself a picture of you using the product.

Often, these pictures are blurry and pass by so quickly you don't consciously notice them. But we know they are there, because sometimes these pictures are clear, lasting, and detailed, such as when you are imagining yourself on a trip to Paris.  

The product you end up picking is the product with the more attractive picture.

Artist: Skki

Artist: Skki

These pictures are collages made from scraps of your memories. Not all of these memories are precise, and some of them even are memories of things that have never happened — phantom memories. The memories could be memories of you using the product in the past, or a memory of something your mom once said about it.  Or it could be a scene from a movie that you remember because the picture on the packaging reminds you of it. Or it could be a fragment of an ad you suddenly remember when you see the logo.


Tending to the Garden

Brand management is a process of cultivating people's memories about the product. Think of brand management as gardening. You reinforce some memories; you shape them around a trellis; you replant old memories and you create entirely new ones; you remove weeds that compete for sunlight. Like a garden, a brand takes regular maintenance if you wish it to bear fruit.


Examine the nature of people's memories. Examine how they imagine the future in which they are using different products. 

Lots of ads which are designed to get people to remember the ad itself. This is wrong, and probably stems from misguided directions from major testing companies. The purpose of advertising is not to make an ad that's remembered, but to make an ad that gets the brand remembered.  Otherwise, it's like having school children to remember the textbook cover instead of the material.


In our practice, research that leads towards an effective advertising consists of these steps.

The goal of generative research is to come up with the right palette that will help creatives design an effective ad.

The goal of evaluative research is establish how effectively the ad steers the consumer towards the brand.

In addition to the Consumer Research and Brand Research blocks, we will 

Establish what people associate / remember about different brands in the category

Look what made people to remember this and that. 

Create a map of associations that paint the most attractive picture.


How we work

Here's what happens when we work with you from start to finish on an ad strategy research assignment. 



Intake - our first meeting with you is a structured interview where we establish your business goals and other research parameters.

Data review - we go through the data you already might have.

Brand Compass - we build a Compass for your brand, if it doesn't have one already.



Culture review - we identity current and emerging cultural trends that compete for consumers' attention and that help form their expectations. 

Clutter mapping - we evaluate competitors' advertising and how it communicates positioning, claims, language, brand personalities, and other strategical and tactical elements.


Social portraits - we collect a diverse sample of category users on social media, and analyze their feeds to sketch their initial profiles.  

Consumer interviews - we observe and talk with people to understand what triggers their search, what obstacles they face, how they envision the ideal outcome, how they differentiate one brand in the category from another, how they make their choice, and who influences their decisions. 

Survey - we conduct a survey that usually includes the following modules: 

-   Segmentation module defines and prioritizes prospective customer segments, and informs the Master dimension of the Compass.

-  Consumer motives module identifies consumers’ key functional and emotional needs they seek to satisfy by shopping in the category. It informs the Purpose dimension.

-  Brand associations module maps the network of associations that exist between brands, benefits, wants, and culture.  Informs the Expression dimension. 

-  Concept testing module evaluates the strength of different positioning concepts, and also informs the Expression and the Promise dimensions.




Stated and implicit preference tests tell us whether consumers will choose your brand over competitors under a variety of circumstances. We evaluate the relative strength of brands in the competitive set using a set of standard questions as well as using an experimental set-up borrowed from psychology research.

Brand-price trade-off analysis - we evaluate brand preference at each in a series of increasing price points to understand the implied relative value of different brands.

Brand tracking - we monitor changes in key brand indicators by fielding periodic surveys and combining the results with social data. 



Brand association test - we map the networks of mental associations with your and competitors' brands using a mix of techniques such as metaphor elicitation and correspondence analysis. The test tells us whether people associate your brand with wrong or negative concepts.

Recognition / misattribution test - we run a test that involves showing respondents elements of brand identity that are incomplete or blurry and asking them what brand each each element belongs to. The test tells us whether any parts of brand identity are not widely recognized or are attributed to a wrong brand. 

Social reputation analysis - we mine social data to understand how your brand's reputation compares to competitors along different dimensions.   

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