In internet time, Pepsi’s #JennerGate scandal is now so 2000’s. Trumped by United’s friendly skies and Sean Spicer’s Holocaust Centers, Pepsi receded into the background. [BTW I’m no fan of Sean Spicer but the word “centers” does show up in Holocaust language—specifically “Killing Centers” (link to US Holocaust Memorial Museum). I know from personal experience it’s quite possible for brain wires to cross under pressure. Perhaps his did. But then he went on to say “his own people…” so sympathy reduced!]
Anyway, I love this pithy tweet from Brew PR’s Brooke Hammerling:
Pepsi thank United. United thank Spicer.
— Brooke Hammerling (@brooke) April 11, 2017
All three PR disasters could have been prevented. Doing so for United and the White House would have been tough as they appear to be the result of deep cultural and systemic problems that played out in an instant (in Spicer’s case) and a few minutes (in United’s).
Not true for Pepsi. Despite Pepsi being in the fast moving consumer goods business, their disaster was a slow-moving one. And could have been easily prevented.
Pepsi spent gazillions on producing an ad. If they tested it at all before releasing it they either ignored the results or they tested it with the wrong people.
Testing can involve teams of quaint PhDs and supercomputers. And sometimes that’s warranted. But it should never take the place of really, really simple testing.
At BKW we don’t operate at Pepsi budget levels (yet!). But no matter what our clients are investing, we test our work. We test ads. We test websites. We test videos. We test PowerPoints. We test tweets—OK we usually test those by putting them out there and seeing what happens. But we stick around to see what happens.
The key rule: test early and often. The fastest, cheapest most imperfect test is 100,000 percent better than no testing or testing that takes too long to yield useful results. Test at the moment the idea can be communicated in a sentence, maybe with an image or two to go along with it. Test when you have a storyboard. Test when you have a rough version. Test when you have a final version.
And all along the way, listen. Listen, listen, listen to what you hear back. And be ready to bug out or change direction if you get data that doesn’t feel right. A question. A raised eyebrow. A smirk. A not-as-hearty a laugh as you were expecting. The audience is always right. The earlier you test the less expensive (monetarily and ego-arily) it is to bail on the idea.
BTW Pepsi sister company Frito-Lay are manic testers. They optically scan zillions of chips as they zoom by at 60 MPH on the assembly line—and successfully reject the bad ones. This is possible with ads too.
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