Message testing tool identified creative that increased sales, not seen in years

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  • TRC


The Importance of Creative for Cover Selection

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. Retailers, educational institutions, or any organizations that use catalogs to market their offerings know that, while the content inside matters, the most critical step to getting a sale is to put an appealing cover in consumers’ hands – a cover that entices them to turn its pages and place orders for their products.

It’s important then to know which of among many potential covers is most appealing. One TRC client, a well-known mail-order retailer that distributes catalogs countrywide several times a year, made it an organizational priority to collect data and insights to improve their cover-finalization process, with hope that this would lead to better sales.

The Goal - Ensure the Best Cover Isn't Left Behind on the Table

This retailer was not data-averse. Quite the contrary, they used traditional in—market testing for each publication cycle to determine which cover image was most preferred by members of the target shopping audience. Getting to that final set from among a dozen or more candidate covers stretched beyond the practical limits of what they could test out in the marketplace. More often than not, they relied on hunches and gut reactions to reduce their options. Within each cycle, there was always room to doubt whether the truly “best” cover image even made it into the final three to be tested.


The Strategy - Use Message Test ExpressTM to Choose from the Options

Step 1            The retailer wanted a better way to pick a cover from among many options. After first executing their traditional "gut feel" process to select two "best" options from a set of 16 candidate covers, they turned to TRC's Message Test Express™ to provide a data-driven prioritization. This pointed to one clear winner from among the many - one that had not been favored by the more hunch-driven approach.


Step 2            These three covers (2 hunch-driven, 1 MTE™- identified) were then tested in market. The one identified by MTE™ proved to be the most favored of these three, and was selected as that cycle's cover image.


Step 3            The MTE™-selected image went on to produce better sales results than the company had seen in years.


Validating MTETM

Were the results just a fluke? Impressed but not yet convinced they had a proven system at hand, our client went back to examine cover options and choices from previous cycles. They used MTE™ to prioritize the order of candidate covers from each of their five past catalog-development periods. In doing so the client discovered:

  • They had at times chosen the wrong set of covers to be trialed. For two of the five months the cover option chosen as best by MTE™ never made it past the initial, gut-feel selection.
  • MTE™results matched in-market sales even among sub-optimal choices.

Fast, Rigorous, Affordable, and Accurate Testing for Each Publication Cycle

The evidence was strong and consistent. It demonstrated to our client the power of MTE™ at selecting winners, and avoiding hunches and gut-feel decisions in the early stages of cover assessment. Today it has established the technique as a permanent and market–tested part of its catalog-development cycle.

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