Counter-productive messaging

In this month’s issue of the Harvard Business Review, the regular feature called Defend Your Research presents a study by Stefano Puntoni that showed a majority of women reacted negatively (and would contribute less) to campaign ads containing stereotypical female colors, symbols, and voices.  Counter-intuitive, no?  The strong examples cited were the pink-wrapped campaigns against breast and ovarian cancer and the conclusion reached was that women feel threatened by gender-specific messages when it is associated with harm they may eventually suffer. To be clear, they found that pink is fine; it’s just a color. But when that color was associated with a specific message about something perceived as a mortal threat, then the turning away occurred. The researchers know this not just because that finding was repeated over and over but also because the reaction of women to gender-neutral messaging resulted in no defensiveness.  Further research showed that men do not react negatively or defensively to gender-specific campaigns that fight prostate cancer.  The researchers theorize that prostate cancer is seen by men as an older man’s disease (and therefore too distant for worry for younger men) while breast and ovarian cancers are seen by women as killers even of the young.

Apparently marketers are taking notice, and have been for the last 10 years, of this type of deeper research around targeted messaging and the need to understand, what I term, primal drivers.  That is, how things like color, symbols, and sound connect a message to impulses inside us.

About Peter Armaly
I get jazzed by automation, big data, and blockchain tech. Business, technology, and fitness are things I understand. Scotch, wine, food, and fiction are things I appreciate.

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