Thematics Done Right: Find the ‘One Right Theme’ for each Customer.

An earlier article explored how thematics works, and the importance of communicating to consumers clearly, to avoid confusion, or incoherence in psychology-speak.

Let’s explore the concept of themes in a little more detail. We all place a different emphasis on their order of importance. For example, one personality type may rank a theme such as “fun treat” higher than another personality who thinks “indulgence” is the most important theme when choosing a bar of chocolate.

If you make shampoo rather than chocolate, then these themes will be different; some consumers primarily consider how attractive your product might make them, whereas others think about the enjoying the smell or feel of the product in their shower.

Your thematic analysis tells you uniquely for your brand, product, and critical decision point, what these themes are and the proportions of the audience that hold each theme as primarily important.

Thematics and Personalisation

So now you have to come up with 4-7 very distinct message for your 4-7 different customer groups. Each ad only talks on one theme, it tells the story of how shiny it makes your hair, or how good it smells… but never both at the same time.

Given each type of ad is only effective on one group, the question might arise ‘is this strategy less efficient?’, especially compared with the one-size-fits-all generically “attractive” ads that key into all these themes.

The answer is categorically no, as you need to look at this from the customer perspective.

Avoiding Confusion

If you had designed one message based on all the themes (for example, your shampoo smells nice, makes your hair shiny and uses organic ingredients) you have a much higher probability of causing confusion and creating a negative association with your brand.

The ‘multi-theme’ advert is actually more likely to backfire at point of sale. Sure, advertising activity increases top of mind and emotional association, but those positive effects are being undermined by the actual ad itself. Gains, if any, will be unpredictable and short term, while long term impact is likely to be negative.

Contrast this with the alternate clean communication strategy. If a consumer sees an ad not on their primary theme, it builds top of mind and positive emotional association. It doesn’t directly affect the window in any other way so its short-term impact is good and its long-term impact is neutral.

Those consumers that see an ad on their primary theme are influenced to choose your brand with higher probability, and that means the short-term effects of top of mind and emotional association are now being supplemented by a long-term alignment within the 15-20 second window with your brand and product.

You have gone from much of your advertising actually undermining itself, to a situation where most of it is at least mildly positive and some of it is creating large positive impact.

The important thing to note is that using one theme always causes a neutral or positive effect for your customer. It never causes confusion for your customers.

Your brand has cut through the confusion.

How does thematic analysis work?

For thematic analysis to work, you must be able to accurately measure what people think about in the 20 second window – you can’t ask them because, literally put, they can’t tell you.

Introspection, i.e. self-analysis, is well known in psychology and neuroscience to be highly inaccurate.

This means it has been necessary behind the scenes to develop complex, sophisticated processes to get verifiable results. In the same way as the development of good old psychometrics tests, psychology has developed techniques to verify and produce accurate, statistically proven models for this data.

In 2017 this has evolved to where it involves a number of proven sophisticated techniques, iterative processes, and statistical algorithms. It is an effective tool for marketers.

When you have these capabilities you can accurately define each theme and measure the proportion of audience in each thematic group.

Now, you can further extract and study the personality factors that cause people to pick a primary theme. You then use those factors to communicate with them more effectively. For example, they may respond better to specific imagery or copy styles.

With this type of insight, you can build messaging that engages each thematic group with precision and power.

Exactly the right ad, to exactly the right person

To build on this, you can develop analytics and processes capable of segmenting your audience effectively and delivering targeted messaging to each thematic group. Even in real time with anonymous consumers.

This is important news for marketers. Done right, each increase in the ability to target and personalise becomes directly linked to an increase in a brands marketing effectiveness, and consequently ROI. So expect to see more and more thematics around the world of marketing now that you know what to look for.