So much of the focus on measuring marketing effectiveness is placed on the creative, the messaging, and the media execution. While this remains hugely important, more often success is dependent on the marketing decisions made earlier than communications planning. Product and Pricing are crucial in achieving sustainable growth in competitive markets. As is building a strong, integrated marketing team.
Measuring marketing effectiveness should be an end-to-end process, inter-linking the 4Ps, with each of the component parts still tested to see if they can stand alone. Therefore, there are key areas to understand before and while analysing the effectiveness of marketing communications. Forming this understanding requires some myth busting along the way.
1. People do not think about brands as much as marketers think that they do. Many marketers are caught by this ‘Spotlight Effect’, overestimating the influence that marketing triggers and cues have on consumers’ behaviour. The vast majority of consumers’ decisions are quick and instinctive, based on context, past-experiences and mood. Whereas most marketing works of the premise that decisions are discerning and deliberated. This thinking needs to be re-engineered. “If you don’t understand the mechanics of the thing you’re trying to change, how can you hope to achieve the change you want?”, Mark Earls, Ambassador of The School of Life in “System1 – Unlocking Profitable Growth”.
2. Differentiation is a difficult strategy to pursue, and normally delivers weak outcomes. Generally, consumers do not see brands as different. And, rather consistently, this applies across categories. About 90% of consumers who are in the market at any one time do not believe that there is sufficient difference between the brands available. It is more effective to make brands distinctive, as being distinctive helps brands be noticed and be thought of more easily across different buying situations. Distinctivity is based on the quality and quantity of memory structures a brand holds across various buying situations. Logos, heuristics, unique identifiers, advertising, and packaging all help to create, reinforce, and refresh memory structures and the saliency of brands. This is best illustrated by Byron Sharp in “How Brands Grow”.
3. Brand saliency is not brand awareness or brand recall. Salience is cue dependent, different cues have different tendency to elicit the memories of a brand. Measurement of brand awareness usually assumes there to be one cue, the product category. The main failing here is misunderstanding that there are multiple cues that can bring a brand to mind.
4. Consumer decisions and marketing do not work together in a linear fashion. Think of paths to purchase, marketing funnels, doing X leads to Y. These are useful in a conceptual way to lay down relevant messages, but marketers give them too much licence, believing that this applies to real world purchase decisions. The reality is that consumer journeys are anything but linear. They are complicated and messy systems of ins-and-outs over very diverse timeframes and occasions. Perhaps the easiest way to win in such an environment is to think, ‘the more time I can get consumers to spend with my brand, the less time they will spend with competitors’ brands or choose to do something else with their money.
5. Measurement itself will not automatically improve the effectiveness of marketing. It improves your chances but is not a guarantee. Too little money is spent on marketing measurement, and too much of this is spent on backward facing measurement. The past isn’t always the best predictor of the future. Unfortunately, only about 6% of total marketing spend is on marketing measurement. Of this amount, only about 15% is spent forecasting the future impact of marketing activity. Or in its most scary sense, 1% of total marketing spend. Measurement is also guilty of prioritising immediately available channel metrics, rather than marketing metrics attributable to business outcomes. And, always open to the likelihood of sponsorship bias.
6. Lastly, it is wrong to believe that marketing on its own is attributable to business growth. Luck has a role to play in the effectiveness of marketing investment. Marketers and effectiveness studies are undermined by a problem known as the halo effect. This is where a company’s performance, good or bad, creates an overall impression (the halo), which shapes how we perceive strength or not of its strategy, its products, it’s culture, and it’s marketing. This misattribution can create a flawed view of whether marketing is effective or not. Particularly if measured inconsistently or over a short-term. Phil Rosenzweig’s book “The Halo Effect” neatly makes the point.
Marketers must go deep, working end-to-end, to truly understand if their plans have a lasting effectiveness. Critical thinking and intellectual bravery will win out over the long-term. And, as you are building this resilience and resources, get help.
Ian Mc Grath from EGtH Marketing & Media Consultants.
Ian is a multi-disciplined, end-to-end marketing leader who knows how to get strategy from idea to action, how best to plan and execute integrated communications, and how to measure marketing effectiveness.
EGtH is an outcomes-focused marketing & media consultancy. They are dedicated to finding simpler solutions for brands and improving the business payback from marketing.