Pizza Rolls or Hummus? (Why You Need a Pilot Campaign)

Diedrich RPM Marketing

So, what is a pilot campaign? Let’s talk about it in a way that’s easy to understand.

Why You Need a Pilot Campaign

Have you ever gone to a potluck without planning ahead to see what everyone else is bringing? You go to the store and hastily decide on a random snack to bring, only to find that three other people brought the same thing. It’s annoying, I know, because I’m usually one of those people.

What if instead of bringing one big dish, you bring several smaller, different dishes for your friends to try? You know you might have something similar to what someone else brought, but chances are you will also have items that nobody else brought and that everyone might enjoy. Some snacks may be liked more than others (pizza rolls*), but you won’t know that until the end. After the potluck is over, you can see which dish was enjoyed the most, and you will know what dish will be a favorite at your next get-together!

*The author admits that his tastes might not exactly be high-brow.

Pilot marketing is kind of like a potluck gathering, except it usually takes eight to twelve weeks and the results can be delicious!

When rolling out a new concept for a marketing campaign, we like to come up with several different versions of the same ad, with different calls to action (CTA) and different messaging styles. We like to A/B test up to three different messages, with two calls to action. Kind of like the idea of bringing different dishes to a pot luck!

For example, if we are marketing a new chip dip, we could make two versions of an ad, one with a message directed toward families and another with a message aimed at college kids. We come up with two CTA’s, one asking the shopper to use a paper coupon, the other asking the shopper to download a gift card. Now we have two different demographics to target with two different CTA’s we can test.

After the ads run for eight to twelve weeks, we look at which one performed better and which call to action had the most engagement. If the ads directed at the families performed the best and the downloadable gift card was the strongest CTA, we will roll out a full campaign with that message and CTA to drive the best results. On the other hand, if they both performed equally but one CTA stood out, then we would run both ads with the stronger CTA.

The main reason we conduct a pilot campaign is to measure the effectiveness of our advertisements. We then use that information to roll out the strongest and most cost-effective campaign we can. It’s a great way to validate an idea while generating leads at the same time. Too many ad campaigns are launched without any testing, which can lead to unimpressive results. (And just desserts…ok to many food puns).

You’ll be surprised how many times your team will think they’ve got a can’t-miss idea, only to run it through A/B tests to find that your tastes aren’t in sync with those of the general public. Anyone in advertising knows that brainstorming sessions can often get off track and lead to messaging that misses the mark.

With a pilot campaign, you can test your ideas and be more confident that your client is spending money on advertising that will perform. A good pilot campaign that is measurable is, in our opinion, the best and only way you should start a new messaging campaign.

A typical pilot campaign should run for eight to twelve weeks, depending on the industry. A test campaign should never be less than six weeks, and some niche industries need to be tested longer than twelve weeks.

Now please pass the pizza rolls!

Account Executive