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Velocity Messaging - Part 1

Most every campaign, whether corporate, political, philanthropic etc., uses quantitative messaging research to get an advantage over their competition.

Usually, these surveys are designed to figure out how to get the most amount of people to either buy what you are selling, or not buy whatever your competition is selling. The problem is, I don’t usually see messaging surveys go in-depth enough to actually figure out how to move people.

There’s a couple steps to actually doing that, so this will be a two-part post. This first post will briefly discuss the ‘who’ in a messaging strategy. The next post will speak to figuring out messaging components that actually persuade these people to ‘move’.

To begin with the who to target, let's say you’re trying to sell chocolate ice cream, and you want to out-sell your competition who is selling vanilla ice cream (you can change this out for pieces of policy, candidates, or folks at your Thanksgiving table; I just like ice cream). So you set out to determine which message best motivates people to buy chocolate ice cream.

At first glance, it could look like we are trying to get ‘people’ to buy ‘more’ chocolate ice cream. Seems simple enough… but that is where the problems begin.

How do we define ‘more’ and ‘who’ are these people?

  • Are we trying to get people who already like chocolate ice cream to buy more?

  • Are we trying to convert people who buy vanilla ice cream to instead buy chocolate, thus selling more chocolate ice cream?

  • Are we trying to get people who don’t buy ice-cream at all, to start buying (more) chocolate ice cream?

With this in mind, we can see that just one message isn’t likely going to be the strongest for each group of people. The message that works best for people who already buy chocolate ice cream likely will not be the most effective message in converting those who buy vanilla ice cream. So, we need to have multiple ‘best messages’ for different groups of people…but a lot of folks miss this crucial first step.

So, I always think of ‘people’ in these scenarios as being in one of three categories:

  1. With us (supporters)

  2. Against us (opposers)

  3. Indifferent (undecided)

Once we have figured out ‘who’ we’re targeting in our campaign efforts, it’s important to note what percent of our population exists in each category of people, and how persuadable is each category of people?

If 25% of people are supporters (they already buy chocolate ice cream), 25% opposers (they purchase vanilla over chocolate), and 50% undecided (they buy neither chocolate nor vanilla ice cream), that will tell me where I should maybe be focusing my efforts, i.e. the undecided’s because I have the largest subset of people to bring to my side.

BUT, what if every person who is ‘indifferent’ or undecided is lactose intolerant in this example? Now it doesn’t matter that they’re the largest subset of people if none of them are ever going to buy ice cream anyway. So, I also need to know how persuadable each category of people is.

I believe these questions are where a good messaging survey starts: identify characteristics of your key audiences, and how you want to move (or not) each group of people.

That messaging survey will be better crafted, thus giving you stronger messages in the end that will actually move people. In our case, we’ll sell more chocolate ice cream - which is nice!

Next week I'll post Part 2 of Velocity Messaging where I'll discuss developing messages that move people. Stay tuned!

Photo by Nas Mato on Unsplash


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