Testing 1, 2, 3

Testing has remained an important learning tool and marketing tactic over the years, but today, according to Blue Plate Media Services, the need to test is exploding in popularity.  Big box retailers need to know that your product will sell and that a paid media schedule will drive store traffic and directly impact product sell through.  According to David Becker, president of Blue Plate Media, “very little is left to chance and old fashioned gut.  Marketers are invited, more frequently than ever before, to work with buyers to identify markets to test product prior to a larger buy in.”  Becker continues, “But how you select those markets and orchestrate your media schedule can make the difference between a failed test and a chain-wide buy in.”

Don’t fear a test.  Embrace it. 
Agreeing on a product test shows your willingness to partner with your retail buyer, understand and appreciate his or her challenge, share in the risk, and gain learning from your media mix.  A strong test will save money in the long run and ultimately strengthen your retailer relationship(s).

Sometimes market selection and test store locations are made for you.  Other times, it’s up to you.

Walmart, Target and Toys R Us are classic examples of testing opportunities.  A smart approach for market selection of test stores starts with analysis of store locations.  Blue Plate Media suggests converting store zip codes and/or Cities into Designated Market Areas (DMAs).  There are 212 recognized DMAs in the United States.  If you are only dealing with TRU, for instance, identify which DMAs represent the largest concentration of TRU stores.  Then, from your list of greatest store-populated DMAs, select the most efficient media markets.  For instance, you might find the New York and Los Angeles DMAs represent high concentrations of TRU stores.  But these DMAs are also the most expensive markets.  Depending on budget, and the objectives of your test, it might make sense to select a combination of smaller DMAs, with some medium to larger DMAs added to the mix.  Market selection should present a geographically dispersed representation of the United States.  Other variables may go into market selection, such as demographic and/or geographic profiling.   A smart market selection for one company will likely differ from another company, as testing parameters, campaign objectives and metrics for success will vary greatly.

Additionally, your market selections may vary if more than one retailer is involved in the test.  If TRU and Walmart, for example, are both included, you might choose to select markets that include concentrations of both retailers.  This will allow you to amortize media dollars across a larger store count.  Throw in Walgreens and your test markets may change.


While there are many other variables in building out a successful test campaign, such as when to test – and for how long, it all starts with market selection…and a smart media schedule to drive product sales.  When the time comes to develop a testing ground, refer back to the testing tactics in Testing 1, 2, 3.  Your retail partners will thank you for it.

David Becker, President, Blue Plate Media Services

Published03.04.10