When reviewing a direct response campaign, marketing groups often turn to A/B testing to identify a winner. They do so for one reason. It works.

First used in 1893 by the very colorful Albert Lasker, the A/B test is both simple and effective. Most often applied to the muscle that powers sales and leads, it is a cross-training exercise you should consider working out with in the branding arena as well. Testing and using results from an A/B exercise, the messaging pillars that support branding are poised to compete and win based on evidence as opposed to opinion.

We recently did a boot camp style exercise in our own marketing gym, selecting an A/B test at Adobe to tone and tighten messaging pillars supporting the brand. Using an identical call to action in a simple marquee layout, we compared three messaging pillars against a control message: integrated, single view, and industry leader. Here’s a quick look at the results:

  * Control = 2.97

Test Group* Click-Through Rate (%)
Difference (%) Rank 
Marquee Click-Through
Integrated  3.17  6.95 1
Single View 2.86  –3.53 2
Industry Leader 2.77  –6.71 3
Page Views Per Visit
Integrated 2.69  8.85 1
Single View 2.49  0.88 2
Industry Leader 2.39  –3.38 3

While the results are not extreme, and there is more to this story, this exercise pointed toward an integrated messaging pillar as a way to improve click-through rates. It helped us to strengthen our narrative and value proposition within messaging pillars. Applied to the brand level, as opposed to the purchase level, the numbers show which message resonated with an edge and which had less impact.

The next time you are going through the process with your creative team, reviewing different ways to apply clever ad work to objectives, don’t just rely on PowerPoints, comps, and storyboards. Intuition is important. Gut reaction, as well. But instead of taking an intuitive gamble, make an evidence-based investment in your marketing strategy by running an A/B test on branding.

As for Albert Lasker, the informative and entertaining The Man Who Sold America: The Amazing Story of Albert Lasker and The Creation of the Advertising Century by Jeffrey L. Cruikshank runs through the early development of advertising metrics, pre “Mad Men.” Lasker, by the way, is the real-life version of Don Draper, so prepare for a raucous, inspiring read. The small screen version pales in comparison.