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Level up your message testing market research.

How behavioral science can unlock the full potential of message testing.
ImageNewristics Image18 July 2022

The rapidly evolving landscape of marketing

The landscape of marketing has evolved significantly over the past decade and leading brands have been shifting to digital-first, omnichannel marketing campaigns in almost every industry.

Digital marketing channels include website, search, digital display ads, social media ads, mobile apps, text marketing, email, etc. Even conventional media channels like TV, radio, print, outdoor, etc. are also internet-based now and are being transformed by digital marketing technologies.

As marketing campaigns become more digital, campaign testing and optimization have gradually shifted from market research to in-market A/B testing. While A/B testing is theoretically more real-world, practically it doesn’t help many brands get the best messaging campaigns to market because 80% of A/B tests never reach a conclusion due to insufficient separation in data and are abandoned by the marketing teams. 

Marketers are realizing that the promise of A/B testing is difficult to realize for the brand that is not heavily trafficked in digital channels and are turning to message testing in market research to optimize their messaging campaigns before they are launched in the market.

Message testing in market research for competitive advantage


Message testing allows marketers to determine optimal content, offers, and brand messaging before marketing campaigns are launched in the market. Message testing is typically used to identify messages with the greatest customer appeal, prioritize messages from best to worst, get insights about why a message has high/medium/low appeal, get ideas on how to improve messages, identify the optimal bundles and story flow of messages, etc.

A message testing survey allows you to test messages with your existing customers before they are launched in marketing campaigns so that you can anticipate how well the campaign will likely perform. Campaign message testing also helps brand teams optimize their campaigns and make improvements continuously while the campaign is live.

Message testing can make or break marketing campaigns, which is precisely why companies spend 10s of thousands of dollars on it. Using qualitative and quantitative primary market research techniques, messages are usually tested with real customers and real experiences to find winning messaging campaigns that customers will connect with.

If you want to create powerful, compelling messaging campaigns for your company’s product or services, message testing in market research can be an invaluable tool.

Limitations of current message testing methodologies

But how does one go about message testing? Market researchers and marketers can pick from a variety of message testing methodologies to test messages before launch. Qualitative message testing surveys include personal conversations with customers in the form of focus groups, diads/triads, or even one-on-one interviews. These conversations can take place in person, on the phone, or in web chat rooms and are typically facilitated by an interviewer or moderator.

Quantitative message testing surveys involve the use of online surveys in which customers are asked to review messages and rank/rate them based on preference. More advanced quantitative message testing surveys include choice-based methodologies, which expose respondents to a series of messaging choices and ask them to share their preferences.

All the message testing methodologies have their pros/cons. Qualitative message testing surveys are excellent at diving deep into individual messages to understand the psychology behind each one. However, a qualitative message testing survey has significant limitations on how many messages can be tested and how long it takes.

Quantitative message testing in market research can test a lot more messages than qualitative message testing surveys, but they do not allow for deep exploration of each message and don’t provide detailed drivers/barriers of appeal for each message. Quantitative message testing software is also not well suited to getting ideas from respondents on how to improve messages.

The future of message testing in market research

In the future, message testing is likely to be transformed by new science, technology, and algorithms, allowing marketing teams to become more sophisticated in optimizing their messaging campaigns before going to market:


Messaging Science

Historically, the field of messaging and communications has been considered an art form and dominated by a creative process. Today, messaging is becoming more scientific in nature as brand marketers are demanding more predictable success and higher ROI from their messaging campaigns. As more science is used to develop messaging, message testing in market research will also become more science-driven in the future.

Behavioral science is a 3-times Nobel Prize-winning field of research that is rapidly shaping how messages will be written and tested in the future. Behavioral science is the study of how humans make decisions using mental shortcuts like heuristics and biases, and its application to messaging leads to a careful optimization of language in each message.

This allows marketers to use exact words/ phrases in the messages that will talk to dominant decision-making heuristics. A perfectly worded message can be a game-changer for any business!

In market research, using behavioral science to test messages allows the researcher to identify the drivers of message appeal without having to directly ask customers about it.

Messaging Algorithms

Machine learning algorithms and AI have made significant progress in understanding language, and dozens of Large Language Models (LLMs) trained on 100+ billion parameters are now available for any marketer to use.

For now, these algorithms are being used by marketers to generate messaging and marketing content, but in the future, algorithms will be able to predictively score messages as well, thereby creating an entirely new type of message testing methodology. No more primary market research or A/B testing of messages, just let algorithms score all your messages and decide which campaigns to run!

Messaging Technology

Technological innovation has significantly changed how marketers are executing messaging campaigns in the market. Messaging automation software is being used to plan and implement personalized omnichannel digital messaging campaigns.

Technological innovation will eventually improve message testing in market research as well. While 100s of A/B testing software already exist, they test live campaigns in the market, not in market research. Message testing in market research is long due to new technology that can test lots of messages, and do it quickly and cost-efficiently, which is what marketing teams urgently need.

Optimize your messaging campaigns with the best message testing techniques

Any messaging campaign that fails to change customer behavior can and should be considered a wasted marketing opportunity. In today’s hypercompetitive marketing world, even large brands have a limited marketing budget, which means there is a definitive cap on how many marketing campaigns a brand team can run and for how long.

Every campaign has to be optimized, there is little room to waste time and budget when running messaging campaigns. Message testing market research is an essential tool in the marketing toolkit that every brand team needs.