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Performance Testing and Inclusive Creative: How to Make Room for Both

Published: August 26, 2020

Author: Lauren Dawson

Creative testing is, and has been, a significant lever to use to improve your performance marketing, and the dynamics of creative testing are now facing challenges around an ever-more-widely recognized need for more inclusivity. In this post, we’ll talk about why the tenets of performance and inclusivity should not be considered in opposition to each other and how you can make room for each.
First, let’s examine a commonly held belief that there’s a “correct” one-size-fits-all way to conduct a creative test. If a brand has a historical top-performing piece of creative, chances are they are going to iterate upon that one piece of creative, deduce insights from those top performers, and apply those insights to all future creative. We’re supposed to focus where the numbers are good, right? But, as we’re becoming increasingly technical within this framework, we’re running into a conflict between performance-based testing and inclusive practices.
The fact of the matter is that brands stick to what works for them creatively. The problem with this is that historically, brands aren’t very diverse when it comes to the models they feature in their ads. This brings me to a very important point on diversity within performance creative – if you rely on data without going out of your way to be more diverse in areas you know are lacking, you’re not going to see anything different than what you’re used to seeing.
But, is there an inherent conflict between performance-based testing and inclusive creative practices within creative? Let’s dig a little deeper and discuss three ways I’d suggest incorporating inclusivity into your creative strategy without simply following the numbers.

Don’t Hypothesize Creative Tests Based on Skin Color

Brands target potential customers based on interests and aim to develop creative that increases performance by resonating with their audience. As a Creative Strategist, when it comes to making a conscious effort to be more inclusive within creative, I immediately think, let’s test diversity in the market and see what happens. But, when it comes to testing different creative based on skin color, you begin to enter a slippery slope.
Developing a hypothesis based on skin color is problematic because the hypothesis will likely be based on implicit biases. And if an all-white image outperforms diverse creative in a specific A/B test, wouldn’t you, as a performance marketer, recommend reverting to the standard of focusing on white people in your future imagery? That just puts you back at square one and it means your creative strategy will lack a futuristic creative approach to growing your brand. You also run the risk of alienating a base of consumers who might benefit from your product, but won’t see themselves as possibly benefiting from the solutions your product or service might provide to them.

Develop a Holistically Inclusive Creative Plan

Developing a diverse creative plan means you’re bringing different ideas to the table. Everyone has a unique perspective on life, shaped by their background, personality, life experiences, and world view. By shaping a holistically inclusive creative plan, you will be able to better identify the motivators and barriers that people from all different backgrounds might face when it comes to the decision of whether to purchase your product.
Don’t just think about the imagery that diverse sets of people will relate to; make sure to take time to think about the messaging and specific personas that might resonate with people from diverse backgrounds. Ensure that you’re developing a holistically inclusive creative plan by making the subject of diversity part of your typical creative process, and continuously discuss with your team how you’re addressing diversity within your creative plan. An important note: part of this process includes diversifying your creative team and ensuring that different voices have a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation.

Use the 80/20 Rule to Test New Inclusive Ideas

Audiences across the globe are diverse. In order to resonate with these audiences, you must develop a diverse output. As a performance marketer, I am still going to want to iterate upon whichever creative concept and imagery is performing the best. But that leaves room for additional creativity that might not be the best performer, but still drives good performance with new audiences you haven’t historically reached. You can’t develop what you don’t build for and that very much applies to diversity. If you’re following the 80/20 rule of creative optimization where 80% of your time, effort, and budget goes towards optimizing your top-performing assets, and 20% of your time, effort, and budget goes towards developing net-new concepts, you can ensure that at least 20% always includes a diverse range of lifestyle imagery so you know you’re never leaving anything on the table.
One of 3Q’s newest Core Values is to Be Inclusive. We value diverse perspectives because we know that they will continue to push our clients to find new ways to lead that fit the future and give everyone a voice. Take a moment and reflect on what your brand’s current lifestyle imagery looks like, how you might adapt your culture to enable more authentic inclusivity, and take into account some of the advice we’ve laid out regarding being inclusive with your creative practices without simply following the numbers.

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