Qual-Box Blog

Truth or consequences: Assessing the clarity of marketing messages

Sass Beer is proud of its commitment to fair trade. It has invested substantial time and effort to ensure that sassafras producers in East Asia are offered trading conditions equivalent to their North American counterparts. It hopes that North American consumers will understand the company’s ethical stance and be willing to pay the premium prices it entails.

Sass Beer is poised to embark on an advertising campaign to inform consumers about its fair trade commitment.

How can it ensure that consumers will interpret the message as it is intended?

Obtaining consumers’ input prior to campaign launch makes sense. However, the questions they’re asked will have a direct impact on result validity.

So… how about: “Is it clear that Sass Beer is committed to fair trade?“.

Hmmm… Here’s the issue here: Including the answer in the question makes it difficult to determine whether consumers who claim they had understood the message are being truthful or if they’re just embarrassed to admit they hadn’t.

Clear 1

Okay, so let’s ask them: “Is this message clear?“.

Better, but not quite there yet.

A positive answer may signal success. However, how can Sass Beer know if consumers’ understanding is actually aligned with the intended message? Their interpretation might be quite different.

It is also still possible that some will not question message clarity, for fear of losing face. Imagine yourself among peers who find the message easy to understand. How comfortable would it feel to disagree?

Clear 2

Okay, we’ve got it: “What does this message mean to you?

Yes! Asking consumers for their interpretations provides the most reliable assessment of clarity.

One caveat, however: Sass Beer should be mindful of group think. In a group setting, as soon as one participant speaks out, others tend to concur. Some may truly have interpreted the message in the same manner. However, others might have been influenced by the first participant’s answer. They may also be reluctant to admit that they had a different interpretation.

Clear 3

There are simple ways to counteract inter-influence, Sass Beer could have each participant write down their own interpretation of the message. If clarity is the central objective of the study, then individual interviews may make more sense, as they allow for a more in-depth investigation.

Sass Beer’s message deserves not only to be heard, but also to be understood. A well though-out clarity assessment strategy will help ensure it receives the recognition it deserves.