Social Cause marketing is something that all nonprofits are trying to do.Companies with strong CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programs similarly advertise for causes as do Governments. Generally, the marketing and advertising community takes a cue from commercial sales methods of “asking for a sale.” Thus you will see TV commercials and internet ads that exhort you to “Donate Now.”
About the visual in this post: This research used Google AdWords to test assertive vs. non-assertive messaging for pollution prevention in the Mediterranean sea. As we try to shake off COVID and try to go back to summer holidays the image depicts the Mediterranean sea. Don’t assume that your entire audience cares deeply and are ready for an assertive ask!STRATOSERVE
A fascinating, paper “Go Green! Should Environmental Messages be So Assertive?” in the Journal of Marketing explains. The authors Ann Kronrod, Amir Grinstein, Luc Wathieu do a series of lab experiments followed by using Google Ads to test their hypothesis that it is probably better to be less assertive when promoting environmental causes.
Here are some examples of the experimental treatments reported in the paper (Pages 97-99) for the lab experiments to give our dear readers a sense of what was tested:
- Assertive: “Reducing air pollution: everyone must use more public transportation!”
- Nonassertive: “Reducing air pollution: everyone could use more public transportation”
- Assertive: “While washing dishes, you must economize water/soap!”
- Nonassertive: “While washing dishes, it’s worth economizing water/soap.”
- Assertive: “You must recycle plastic containers.”
- Nonassertive “It’s worth recycling plastic containers.”
With student subjects they found that the response was better with nonassertive messages.
Finally the authors conduct a Google Ad campaign (2010) a topic of keen interest to our dear readers. Here are the details (pages 99-100):
- Assertive Google Ad Text: “You must save the Mediterranean. You must sign a petition to reduce water pollution in the Sea. To sign the petition click”
- Nonassertive Google Ad Text: “You could save the Mediterranean. You may sign a petition to reduce water pollution in the Sea. To sign the petition click”
The researchers found that back in 2010 when search keywords in the AdGroup were “Mediterranean Sea,” “Mediterranean Sea pollution,”“sea condition” the assertive ad text generated more clicks. At the time of search the searcher was thinking about the sea and the assertive ad text seemed relevant. On the other hand the assertive text ad did not do well in the AdGroup that had more general keywords like “knitting machines,”
“news,” “television channel”. Interestingly, the less “sea” relevant keywords found favor with the nonassertive messaging.
The authors conclude that the when audience interest is mild it might be better to use nonassertive messaging.
The paper is highly cited (download and read the full paper by Kronrod,Grinstein, Wathieu , 2012) It raises a fundamental question in marketing – what should you tell each of your audiences? If your audience is really “into” your brand then a call to action (CTA) like “Buy Now”, “Donate Now” is a good strategy. The point is :
It is for this reason digital advertising platforms have a three stage advertising campaign set up process. These are awareness,consideration and purchase as discussed in a prior post.
The Kronrod,Grinstein and Wathieu (2012) paper is trying to explain that if the consumer is not currently thinking about your brand – then don’t keep asking her to buy! We believe that both clients and advertisers/marketers need to slow down and accept this reality. Doing so will give time for the customer to journey through the sales funnel.