How to de-risk: the ‘test, measure, learn’ philosophy in creative campaigns

Imagine the scene. You’re about to go live with a brand new product, event or service but the team are still debating the creative campaign idea. Are we using the right messaging? Is this button the right colour? Will this resonate with our audience? Sound familiar?

More often than not the most senior person, or the budget holder, makes the decision, hits ‘GO’ and the team is left to look on and hope for the right results. However, if you apply the ‘test, measure, learn’ principle to your creative campaigns, there’s actually no need to debate. The only question you should be asking then is: how long will this take to test?

Test, measure, learn (or build, measure, learn) is a three-step approach conceived within the technology industry for software development, and adopted more recently in the startup world. The fundamental idea, as described by Eric Ries in The Lean Start Up, is:

“… to turn ideas into products, measure how customers respond, and then learn whether to pivot or persevere. All successful startup processes should be geared to accelerate that feedback loop.”

The key concept to focus on here is iteration. By using this process, short development cycles, and learnings from constant testing, are fed back into the project in real time, and it’s possible to apply a similar framework to all parts of a business – creative campaigns, brand messaging and more.

One company known for embracing the test, measure, learn, approach is Expedia, applying it to everything from search tools to their campaign imagery. In fact, according to CMO, Expedia are known to implement meticulous testing on everything they do:

“At any one point in time, brand Expedia is working on 50 different versions of the website and providing daily updates to its customers. Its engineering teams can detect small changes and figure out what version a consumer really likes using data insights, then adapt quickly to suit.”

Of course, for most businesses, it’s impossible to dedicate this much time and resources to iterating and testing, so it’s important to start small. Your ultimate goal is to find a viable solution that will deliver the highest level of engagement from your audience before dedicating a larger amount of resources and budget to a project. Once you know what works, go big!

Step 1 – Test:

Build your test campaigns (for example 3-4 versions of an ad, or an email subject line) and serve them to a sample of your audience.

Step 2 – Measure:

Analyse your data. Are there any winners?

Step 3 – Learn:

Optimise your campaign based on what you have learnt. Scale up your winners, and continue to test!

Some of the ideas you test won’t work, and that’s fine. When you’re embracing speed, iteration and innovation, with that naturally comes a degree of failure. However, the value comes not just in the learnings you gain from the process, allowing you to fully maximise your campaign, but also in the minimised risk, budget and resource.

Along with the obvious benefits of real-time testing, the test, measure, learn approach should be more than just a testing process. It can become a philosophy within your business and a way to embed innovation at the core of everything you do. After all, innovation doesn’t require a department or a lab – when you are testing and iterating, the best ideas can come from anywhere and from anyone.

So rather than doubting your creative campaigns, it’s time to TEST them. Ask yourself one question: If we’re not continually testing what we do, how do we really know what is working?

Are you ready for your next design sprint?