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How DoorDash Uses Creative Pre-Testing to Change Hearts & Minds

Maura McGill, Head of Policy Paid Media for DoorDash, and Swayable CEO James Slezak, posing for a photo together at Advertising Week 2023

Join Maura McGill, Head of Policy Paid Media for DoorDash, as she sits down with Swayable CEO James Slezak at Advertising Week in NYC to share insights on the future of the creative marketing industry. James & Maura share valuable takeaways on maximizing media budgets, the relationship between brand favorability and sales, and the new era of reputation marketing.

Optimize Your Production Budget & Timeline with Creative Testing

Why should brands invest valuable production dollars into creative testing? According to James, “The convincing happens itself when people realize that what they’re testing are their own assumptions -  that a certain character, value prop, or way of talking about the brand - are all decisions that go into the brief, then go into the creative, execution, and development, and mostly they’re not tested.” 

When brands invest in creative pre-testing, they see the stark differences in their assumptions about which creative they thought would be effective versus what audiences actually resonate with. This was demonstrated even further when James tested the differences between sales figures of optimized creative versus non-optimized creative. “If you run a bunch of media against creative that the pre-testing has said is not going to work as well”, remarks James, “you can see in the market that had the non-optimized creative that sales figures are significantly lower than in the marketing where you’ve optimized it.” Ultimately, sales figures show that the ability to prove impact through pre-testing more than justifies production budget investment.

Don’t Define Creative Success With Performance Marketing Metrics

For over 15 years, marketers have been bombarded with dashboards displaying campaign effectiveness - metrics showing visibility, reach, clicks, or even emoji responses. While these metrics are crucial in certain contexts, they fail to measure the fundamental questions of upper-funnel marketing: Did I persuade someone? Did I change their mind? Will they make a purchase later?

For years, the challenge was whether the impact of creative campaigns on people’s attitudes and opinions could actually be measured in a statistically significant way and represented on a dashboard as easily as traditional performance marketing metrics. When James, a Cornell Physicist by training, began to tackle this question, he looked to science for the answer. If Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) were the gold standard of scientific research, why couldn’t they be the standard for marketing research as well? This revelation was groundbreaking when applied, allowing James’s team to demonstrate a causal relationship between creative campaigns they tested and participant persuasion, brand lift, brand consideration, and product consideration.

DoorDash’s collaboration with Swayable demonstrated just that to Maura and her team. They learned that you can’t measure success only using old digital metrics because they often don’t tell you what you really need to know. Swayable enabled persuasion measurement as seamlessly as performance marketing metrics by embracing the power of science.

The New Age of Reputation Marketing

“Reputation marketing is a long game because changing hearts and minds and opinions takes time,” remarks Maura. We’re seeing brands invest more in long-term relationship building with consumers… and it matters for the long-term retention of those customers.” 

Despite recognizing the value of cultivating enduring relationships with consumers, DoorDash didn’t have access to a “perfect science” method of measuring impacts to reputation. Unlike the more tangible and immediate outcomes associated with growth marketing, reputation marketing relies on measures of success that can only be accessed by asking consumers what’s going on in their heads. 

In a macroeconomic climate like today’s, many companies are cutting budgets and focusing on growth marketing because it is traditionally more tangible than upper-funnel marketing. This is no longer an issue for Maura’s team - “with Swayable, we’re able to say confidently that we feel like we’re going to move the needle and look, we did move the needle, and here’s by how many points.”

DoorDash’s Game-Changing Insights from Creative Pre-Testing

Multiple years of stagnant digital KPIs meant that DoorDash's Policy team faced a significant challenge: They didn’t have a way to quantify their impact on consumers and needed a way to prove a positive impact on the DoorDash brand. While engagement metrics offered insights into performance, they failed to answer the crucial question: "Is this moving the needle?” 

Maura emphasized the importance of data-backed decision-making to her team, acknowledging the need to reassess assumptions regarding content effectiveness. Internal stakeholders often held strong opinions on content strategy, making it paramount to conduct rigorous testing and identify what truly resonates with viewers. Rather than relying on these assumptions, Maura knew it was important to explore creating “different types of content, testing it, and having the different proof points to say, we for a fact know this is what works the most”.

To tackle this challenge, DoorDash began collaborating with Swayable to pre-test their creative assets. This allowed DoorDash to set an ambitious benchmark of +5 lift points for their North Star metric, favorability. This partnership gives DoorDash formidable data to inform their content strategy, ad buys, and how much to invest in their content, reducing campaign spending exponentially.

Working with Swayable also demonstrated a valuable insight for DoorDash - their ads with the highest play-through rates and completion rates on social platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn don’t always result in the highest persuasion rates or brand lift. Swayable and DoorDash’s partnership has been a game changer for the Policy Team - according to Maura, “With Swayable, DoorDash is able to have a higher degree of confidence that when we put an ad in-market, we will shift opinions.”

To learn more about DoorDash and Swayable's ongoing partnership, check out James & Maura's AdWeek talk below: