Preparing for the Cliff: What brands need to know to survive and thrive in the e-commerce economy

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The winning impact of cross-cultural and Hispanic themes in advertising


How does advertising work?  The dominant model for ad success today is based on “salesmanship,” where ads capture conscious attention, communicate benefits, and drive recall. The salesmanship model views the human mind as a calculator, making decisions based on the rational evaluation of costs and benefits. Marketing legend Philip Kotler sums up this perspective well, arguing that ads should “inform, persuade, or remind.”

Of course, marketers have always known that an appeal to reason and logic only gets you so far.  Indeed, advertisers have relied heavily on emotion and psychology since the end of the 19th century.  But until recently, the assumption remained that the point of advertising, whether rational or emotional, was to motivate a conscious process enabling evaluation and recall.

But over the past decade, our understanding of human decision-making has radically changed.  In popular consciousness, the decision-making that precipitated the Great Recession, as well as the rise of social and political bubbles powered by “alternative facts,” are clear indicators that the human mind is by no means a purely rational calculator. And in academia, theories depending on rational choice models and conscious processes have been buried under new evidence for the power of precognitive emotions.

According to the dual system model made famous by Daniel Kahneman, human beings make choices in two ways.  The first stage is the precognitive “System 1” process, formed via innate characteristics, gut feelings, and early experience, as well as sustained or repeated behavior. The second stage uses the intentional “System 2” process, requiring conscious application, logic and evidence.  In some interpretations of dual process theory, System 1 makes all the decisions, with System 2 merely providing ex post facto rationalization. But even if System 2 does some of the work, we now know that the brain can make a decision seven seconds before you know it.

As a marketer, shouldn’t your job be easier armed with these powerful scientific insights? If only: the problem is that if you want to target System 1, marketers must appeal to audiences with multiple, and often opposed, ways of seeing the world that are hard wired into their decision-making processes.

In other words, we are shifting from an advertising paradigm dominated by universal appeals to conscious thought, evidence and logic, towards one where messages resonating with one segment’s precognitive emotions may backfire for another. To make matters worse, conventional metrics and norms focused on awareness and recall appeal to the System 2 processes and thereby provide an incomplete picture.

To help members better market to diverse America, we decided to weigh in with our own proprietary approach which we call CultureRate:Ad.  In our inaugural CultureRate:Ad initiative, we incorporated facial tracking technology and machine learning techniques into a survey of almost 4000 consumers.  Using this approach, we can model what works and what does not for different demographics.  We also developed dashboards incorporating innovative “Groundswell,” “Backlash” and “Net Groundswell” metrics that directly measure how consumers’ minds are changed.

For this analysis, we identified what works and what doesn’t across 30 recent ads in two studies. In the first study, we compared the effects of socially inclusive messages, diverse casting, and appeals to traditional American themes, as well as the applications of other content and structural factors.  We found found distinctly different responses for African American and bicultural Hispanics as reported here.

In the second study, we evaluated different strategies for reaching Hispanic audiences, including Spanish functional ads, Spanish-language ads with Hispanic cues, English ads with Hispanic cues and English total market ads.

Findings are in the attached, and our Spanish language findings will be separately detailed in a forthcoming study.

Topline findings from the study are below:

Win with “peak sentimentality”

This emotion represents a mix of sadness and surprise associated with a sudden pang of longing, nostalgia and wistfulness.  We found that across all segments, peak sentimentality is the emotion most predictive of the desire to share an ad with others, the perception that the message is important, and an improvement in the opinion of the brand. Marketers succeed in capturing viewers’ hearts and minds (and wallets) when the ad tells a story that elicits this emotion and ties it to the brand effectively.

Fuse brand and message in the close

We found that ads win with consumer when successfully interweave branding moments and the narrative, especially in the close.  We performed a paired comparison of ads from Honeymade and Tylenol that particularly exemplify the power of the close to make or break an ad.

Take some risks with messages of inclusion and diverse casting

We found that overall, cross-cultural messages, specifically inclusion messaging and diverse casting, drive the highest groundswell for the Total Market, versus functional ads and ads with American themes. Backlash does increase for some audiences, but not enough to offset the benefit for the majority of the total market.

Cultural cues deeply resonate for all Hispanics

In our Hispanic-focused test, we found that Hispanic cues drive positive response across all levels of acculturation.  And as long as ads in Spanish are simple and convey universal themes like love of family, they will likely do well with English-dominant Hispanics as well.

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Contact us now to explore an innovative approach to ad testing, measure groundswell and backlash and to discover what works and what doesn’t


Unwrapped: the biggest secret behind the food and beverage industry right now

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What every industry can learn from Pantene’s “Exceptional” Gold Series Campaign


Marketers Need to Rethink How to Mix Multicultural Themes and American Cues in Advertising

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As advertising approaches a tipping point in the need to appeal across multiple demographics, marketers are asking “what really works across the wide spectrum of identity that is America today?” Our analysis of ads unpacks the conundrum and reveals some startling insights.

“Family Values” allows marketers to better target multicultural consumers

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It’s a common assumption in messaging research that multicultural consumers are liberal, but when brands and advertisements try to put this idea into practice, their efforts often fall flat. It is therefore important to investigate the appeal of specific messages on individual cultural segments.

Collage Group has sought to explain these differential outcomes, making them a core focus of our Ad Rating Survey. As part of the survey, we asked respondents to take an unambiguous stance on 13 selected social trends, in four categories:

  • Non-Traditional Family
  • Race
  • Youth
  • Activism

After analyzing the results we found several interesting takeaways:

Rather than featuring a strict divide between liberals and conservatives on all issues, multicultural values breakdown into three categories.

The largest group is Social Liberal (44% of the population), which tends to approve of trends across all four categories, followed by Social Conservative, with 29% of the population tending to disapprove of all the mentioned trends. A third group, however, responded positively to trends regarding race, youth, and activism, but negatively on non-traditional family trends.

Multicultural consumers are substantially more likely to feature Family Values than Social Conservatism.

For White panelists, Social Conservatives outnumbered Family Values consumers, but for all other categories the opposite was true.

This was especially the case for African-American panelists, whose proportion of Family Values consumers was very close to its proportion of Social Liberal consumer. Over a third of Hispanic and Asian respondents were also in the Family Values segment.

Hispanic acculturation corresponds with a shift from Family Values to Social Conservatism

Comparing unacculturated against acculturated Hispanics reveals a shift away from the Family Values segment and towards Social Conservatism, while Social Liberalism remains relatively unchanged. This trend suggests that acculturated Hispanics divide themselves on social issues in ways that are similar to Non-Hispanic Whites.

Understanding how Family Values shapes multicultural social views is essential for marketers eager to appeal to these fast growing and influential consumer segments. To learn more about how you can leverage these preferences to produce valuable brand outcomes, please complete the form below.

Culturally-Optimized Consumer Journey Mapping

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According to a recent industry survey, nearly 9 out 10 companies currently engage in some form of consumer journey mapping. However, only a handful are truly optimizing their models by activating on the behaviors (steps and triggers) of their multicultural consumers.

Furthermore, many fall short when it comes to identifying the points in the  journey where culture exerts the most influence, and where divergent steps emerge among multicultual and youth consumers.

The ‘holy grail’ of holistic Total Market consumer journey mapping lies in revealing points of divergence along the consumer journey, and activating more effectively and efficiently against them to unlock profitable growth.

We’ve seen (and conducted research for) hundreds of consumer journeys at Collage Group. A ‘best in class’ culturally-optimized journey is:

  1. Rooted on a strong foundational ‘cultural dimension’ framework to explain the why behind how we shop. Your consumer journey needs to identify and correlate the influence of shared cultural values in shopper behavior.
  2. Designed with innovative data collection and journey mapping techniques that are dynamic and omnichannel (on-line and offline). The approach can’t be static or linear. It can’t look at each touch point, source of influence, and behavior in isolation. It must look at each step of the journey by setting it in the context of cultural values, norms, and traditions. Only then will the journey story-telling be truly cohesive and human-centered.
  3. Delivered against an actionable strategic framework for activation A best-in-class consumer journey must surface emerging pathways/channels, quick-win ideas, and develop roadmaps for immediate action. Ideally, they are designed such that they can be continuously monitoredto evaluate customer experiences over time.

Why do you need a culturally-optimized consumer journey?

Understanding where you should invest your multicultural marketing efforts along the consumer journey is critical to ensuring that your dedicated and integrated approaches reach your consumers in the most impactful way.

Consider this – we know tons through our syndicated research about where multicultural consumers generally differ along the path-to-purchase from general market consumers. You may know:

  1. One-in-four coupons redeemed by Hispanics were handed to them by a friend (much higher than GM).
  2. Asian consumers tend to research products online before the shopping trip, while Hispanics research at the store closer to the point of purchase.
  3. Hispanic consumers are much more tactile in-aisle, and in some categories they are much more likely to rip open packaging to touch and feel the product.

These are great insights, but they beg big questions:

  • Which insights are most impactful for me, for my brands and my categories?
  • What is at the root of this behavior, and how should I activate against the core cause?
  • With a limited budget, what do I do to capitalize on these divergent behaviors to get the biggest bang for my buck?

Allow us to simplify your Total Market go-to-market strategy without losing impact or relevance.

Our Consumer Journey mapping will help you manage complexity, create alignment cross-functionally across departments (brand, sales, media, innovation, etc) and deliver a unified strategy that works.

If you think there’s an opportunity for quick wins with multicultural consumers by better understanding where they differ along the consumer journey:

  1. Browse through this outline to understand more of how we can help, and
  2. Fill out this form, to be contacted by an expert for more information.

At Collage Group, we’ve developed a  unique approach to understanding the customer journey that will help you get the real, actionable insights you need to influence consumer behavior. 

Fill out this form to learn more, and someone will be in touch to schedule a call with an expert. Otherwise, Collage members, LOGIN to review the latest from your membership.

The Changing Digital Habits of Multicultural Consumers


With multicultural consumers comprising an increasing share of younger generations, grasping the intersection between multicultural and digital becomes fundamentally important to marketers.

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Health Care Marketing: The Diagnosis Gaps of Multicultural Consumers

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The health care industry is fraught with change. Between insurance legislation changes and the visible rise of health tech, the industry is in constant flux. However, there’s another incredibly important shift occurring inside the doctor’s office, that receives less attention. The increase in multicultural patients.

Read more