How to take a smarter approach to metrics

How to take a smarter approach to metrics

More and more marketing is measurable, but are too many metrics – or the wrong ones – stopping brands from reaching their full potential, asks Morag Cuddeford-Jones

The day a marketer can stomp into the CEO or CFO’s office with a sheet of paper and say “The budget you give me for X will generate precisely Y sales” will be a happy one. It is also unlikely ever to arrive.

That’s because, despite more and more budget funnelling through eminently measurable digital channels, and sophisticated tech that tries to monitor and metric offline initiatives, you just can’t predict or measure marketing down to the last pound.

Nor, many experienced marketers would insist, should you.

In the days of BD (before digital), marketers would regularly find themselves trotting out Lord Leverhulme’s adage “I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half”. Now we are AD (after digital), and can track eyeballs, clicks, hovers, pixels and more, I honestly don’t believe we are a great deal wiser, numbers-wise.

I’d take issue with the word ‘wasted’ first of all. Leverhulme was assuming half of his ads would fall on fallow ground – the irrelevant, the disinterested, the unable to buy. Through targeting and analytics, that much we can avoid today. But what Leverhulme assumed was wasted was also valuable brand-building, awareness, employee engagement and any number of other actions that might not have been immediately obvious at the till the next day.

But I fear the realisation that we can measure more has led marketers to believe they can measure everything. And that which is not precisely measurable is therefore worthless or wasted.

In fact, the whole thorny issue of metrics and measurement is so much more than a question of simply adding up and taking away. For example, measurement is bound up in the sense that marketers still struggle to communicate their value to the organisation and the wider world – ironic, no?

It’s also tied up in the very definition of ‘marketing’, a remit that seems to expand by the day. For example, advertising – though vital – is not marketing. It’s communications, which falls under the purview of marketing, alongside so much more from employee engagement to sustainable supply chains. Maybe you can measure the reach of a banner ad, but there are so many more levers to consider.

That’s before we get onto the wonky metrics. The analytics and numbers that look good on paper but don’t actually mean anything, or worse, don’t really stack up as rigorous analytics in the first place.

Increasingly, marketers are looking for credible ways to measure their efforts without the very tools they’re employing being used to stifle them.

In the this issue of Catalyst, out now, this issue is tackled on two fronts. On the one hand, in our roundtable feature, we explored why so many marketers were struggling with the issue of creativity, how to source it, how to garner support for it internally and how to get it to meet increasingly exacting standards of ‘measurability’.

Dino Myers-Lamptey, founder of The Barber Shop agency and member of the Effie UK Council, said: “Marketing has been over-intellectualising what it is for the boardroom […] but what becomes higher value is data and multimedia. What is under-weighted is our creativity, difference and disruptive thinking.”

Cycling brand Rapha’s head of marketing, Tom McMullen added: “You’ve got to be brave and take risks, and sometimes those risks don’t always come off.”

In The Great Big Media Mystery on p.34, Tucci Ivowi, CEO of Ghana’s Commodity Exchange explains why standard media metrics aren’t fit for purpose in a rapidly evolving, mobile-first nation. TV and outdoor is proving to be a particularly thorny issue:

“Media measurement for these platforms suffers from a lack of credibility,” Ivowi writes, “making it hard to determine marketing plans and ad spend. Since the accuracy of media campaign measurement is constantly disputed, advertisers are pulling back on TV and outdoor spend in favour of digital media.”

So, marketers in Africa are cutting their advertising on TV and outdoor platforms – platforms they know work – just because they can’t say precisely by how much. There are some advances in finding alternative routes to measurement, Ivowi adds, but the lesson here must surely be that marketers – and those holding the purse strings – have to be able to take a holistic and long-term view of what defines success.

There are no easy solutions to aligning marketing strategy and measurement. Marketers must have confidence and hold their nerve, and organisations have to look to the skills of experienced marketers, as much as metrics, for the answers.


CIM members can read the latest issue of Catalyst online.

Create a structured and analytical framework for your marketing measurement with our Digital Marketing Metrics training course.

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Morag Cuddeford-Jones Editor, Catalyst magazine CIM
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