The Pros and Cons of Message Testing
28 Jun 2020

Brand messaging is the brand’s voice. Accurate messaging allows consumers to understand the brand’s value (why it is useful/worthwhile) and what it stands for. Successful messaging will portray the brand promise and encourage purchase intent. Message testing research among the target audience is important. There are many advantages to this methodology and one disadvantage that you should be aware of. 


Quick Feedback

Using an online survey to test methodology is a quick process. The questionnaire is often standard and the research company updates it to incorporate the brand messaging that your brand is looking to test. Other methodologies in market research can take up to two months to complete. If brand messaging goes through the express route, a brand can have a preliminary report about the findings within 2 weeks of kickoff.

Nuanced Understanding

There are a few key survey techniques that allow for an in-depth understanding of your messaging.

Highlighter Tool

The highlighter tool will allow for participants to highlight the exact parts of the messaging that they like and dislike. Additionally, they can also include open-ended feedback to give further understanding for why they like or dislike a certain aspect of the messaging. 


Using a MaxDiff methodology will also allow the brand to understand exactly how much a message will lead to sales.  The MaxDiff is a trade-off analysis technique that can help determine which messaging or attributes directly influence the decision process. The MaxDiff is an alternative to a standard rating scale that often leads you to believe every attribute is essential. This questioning forces respondents to make choices between attributes, which results in a more robust data set.

Use this technique to prioritize which benefits/value propositions to incorporate and determine what messaging to include. A brand can test up to twenty succinct messages using this technique. 

  • Randomly present ~5 attributes (at a time) to respondents. This is where the Max Diff is utilized – this analysis predicts the response for each possible combination (there are 3.2 million possible combinations).
  • For example, the study could tell that a message is 2.9 times more likely to lead to a sale than another message.

Normative Data

In a message testing survey, respondents can assess the concept against a series of attributes such as learn more, innovative, etc. Compare these attributes against overall norms.

In market research, norms (also called normative data or benchmarks) are baselines established to compare your data against. It allows you to determine if the results are above or below par. They are particularly popular in advertising and brand testing and allow a better understanding of how brands and advertisements compare against the rest of the market.

Establish norms by creating an average aggregate of all the surveys commissioned by clients that ask the same questions.


Removes Polarizing Options

When you’re trying to please everyone, you can end up pleasing no one. Therefore, it is important to remember that polarizing messaging can be a good thing. It allows a brand to stand out from the crowd. In order to avoid this happening after testing, make sure that the messaging is unique and differentiating. For example, the winner of a message test is often low-cost or discounts – pick the next most popular message. Low cost is not differentiating. 

If your company is interested in content marketing research, please reach out to [email protected], and we will be happy to schedule a call to discuss the research objectives with you.

In addition, check out Provoke Insights research services here.

Read some of the latest blogs in the Pros and Cons Series:

  1. The Pros and Cons of Survey Research
  2. The Pros and Cons of Online Focus Groups

and finally, follow our social media accounts:




The Pros and Cons of Online Focus Groups
17 Jun 2020

An Online Focus Group is a type of qualitative research. The methodology is especially beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it provides a contactless way to conduct exploratory research. However, this methodology has its advantages and disadvantages. 


Closest Online Equivalent 

Online focus groups are the closest online equivalent to in-person focus groups. While the fundamentals of in-person focus groups are getting a group of people in a room with a moderator leading a discussion. The fundamentals of online focus groups are the same – a group of people and a moderator leading a discussion. 

Lower Cost

Online focus groups are a lower-cost alternative to in-person focus groups. One of the significant expenses of focus groups is facility rental and travel. Without needing to be in-person, there is no need for a facility and no need for travel. Travel for the moderator and the observers can add up as you need to pay for a hotel, airfare, car service, and meal cost. 

Increase Efficiency

In-person focus groups take longer because of the travel involved. For in-person focus groups, the researchers, moderators, and stakeholders all travel to the focus groups’ location. The participants will be locally recruited and have to go to the facility (by car or public transport). Online focus groups are much more efficient – researchers, moderators, stakeholders, and participants can all partake from their home or an office. 

Geographical Independency

When choosing to conduct in-person focus groups, the researchers and stakeholders have to select a few cities that they can feasibly travel to and will have a population of their target audience to recruit. This (somewhat arbitrary) selection means that the insights are gathered from these specific cities’ residents, leaving out any randomness of the sample. Online focus groups allow for research to be conducted nationwide or globally – depending on the brand’s target. 

Deeper Insights

This pro is not guaranteed, but there is an argument that participants are more comfortable when they are at home and will give more honest and open responses. Any factors like being in a focus group facility or being in-person with other participants may be intimidating and lead to some participants remaining silent out of the picture. 


Technical Difficulties

Participants are often using new technology when joining online focus groups. This learning curve can lead to trouble downloading the software, signing in, or getting set up. As a result, it is vital to have technical support for all participants when entering the session. It is also often advised to incentivize early log on times – this means that participants will be more willing to join the group early, and iron out any kinks with the technology. 

Internet Instability

While we do live in 2020 and internet speed is rapid, there can always be instability. This fluctuation can lead to participants or the moderator cutting out mid-sentence. It is another reason that tech support needs to be present for the entirety of the session. If this happens, tech support can try to help get the person re-connected. 

The other issue that slow or unstable internet can cause is long lag times. Sometimes the video will be moving, but there is no sound or vice versa. This is not as severe of an issue; however, it can make transitions difficult and often leads to people speaking over one another. The moderator can think that someone has stopped talking when in reality, the video or audio just lagged. 


In contrast to participants being more comfortable at home, there are often many more distractions for participants when they are online. They are signing in from their house. While we ask them to remove any distraction, there can still be a family member or a pet that can interrupt their train of thought or make them have to step away from their computer for a moment. 


While these are the pros and cons of online focus groups, at Provoke Insights, we believe in looking at each business need/objective individually and deciding on a case-by-case basis the best methodology for the specific research requirement. 

Another excellent alternative to in-person focus groups is AI focus groups. It is a live chat session between a moderator and participants, but it allows for up to 100 participants and includes a voting system that will enable participants to agree or disagree with each other quantitatively. Make sure to assess all of the options before deciding to invest in research.

If your company is interested in content marketing research, please reach out to [email protected], and we will be happy to schedule a call to discuss the research objectives with you.

In addition, check out Provoke Insights research services here.

Read some of our recent case studies and blogs here:

  1. NPS: An Explanation & Its Importance
  2. COVID-19 and Conducting Market Research
  3. Sunpower: An NPS and Competitive Assessment Study


and finally, Follow our social media accounts:




Content Marketing Research for Tech Companies: A Case Study
03 Jun 2020

Marketing Problem

It is difficult for a brand to stand out from the competition in today’s saturated media environment. As a result, it is hard for brands to show that they are thought leaders; this is especially true in the tech industry where competition is fierce, and there is intense pressure for high growth. Thereby, original research is an essential way for brands to generate awareness and engagement. As a rule, it establishes the brand as a leader in its field.

Provoke Insights works with a variety of technology companies to conduct research for content marketing purposes, including Apttus, SkilledUp (acquired by Apollo Education), eToro, and A10 Networks. Beyond, these technology companies want to conduct effective and breakthrough thought leadership research to help build a strong reputation in the tech sector. As the leader in research for content marketing research, these companies reach out to Provoke Insights.

Research for content marketing is one of Provoke Insights’ three specialties. The company speaks about the topic at conferences, trains other researchers, and is featured in multiple industry journals on the subject.

Market Research Solution

For our technology clients, Provoke Insights uses our unique methodology to produce research that leads to the most engagement; this includes:

Secondary research. Firstly, by utilizing available information, news, and social listening, Provoke Insights digs in and finds the trending subjects that are engaging consumers. In the same vein, Provoke Insights also considers topics that are getting a little too much media, maybe overreported, and that should be avoided in research.

Develop potential headlines. Secondly, we create ideal or optimal headlines. Importantly, these headlines should excite and interest readers and focus on topics that popped up as engaging in the secondary process. Most importantly, SEO is a driver of these headlines, as we want to make sure that content developed performs well on the internet.

Design Questionnaire. After developing the headlines, Provoke Insights works with the client to design a questionnaire that gives answers to the questions posed by the headlines. Therefore, the headlines are used for directional purposes and do not assure the outcome of survey results. The questionnaire is then programmed online by Provoke Insights, and the research study is conducted.

Mini-Reports. After finishing the survey and collecting responses, Provoke Insights develops a series of mini-reports for each topic/headline. These mini-reports are written in a way that intrigues readers so that they want to click on and read the full research findings.

Pitch An Exclusive. Moreover, with more than one story angle, these tech companies can often pitch research exclusives with multiple journals or news sources.

Multiple Uses. Concluding in using the research for various sources. These sources include blogs, social media, newsletters, email outreach, and websites to keep the buzz going. Many times the research is also used for sales collateral.

Results of the Research

The result of the research has helped tech brands gain notoriety and position them as thought leaders. ROI and metrics are proven for this method.

  • Tech thought leadership is six times likelier to be shared than most articles on clients’ websites.
  • Facebook posts of thought leadership research gain approximately 30 times more engagement than other posts.
  • The tech companies often used the full report to gather contact information and received hundreds of leads from users looking to read the results.

Some Ways These Brands Used The Research




A10 Networks

Read some of our recent case studies and blogs here:

  1. NPS: An Explanation and its Importance
  2. COVID-19 and Conducting Market Research
  3. Sunpower: An NPS and Competitive Assessment Study


and finally, follow our social media accounts: