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July 31, 2005

Beware the Recent Converts to ROI

In a recent Stuart Elliott New York Times advertising column, a senior executive of one of the top advertising holding groups bragged about the virtues of his company's brand new unit, whose mission purpotedly is to help clients measure marketing ROI.

Of course, the nagging question hanging over the entire article was, "what took you so long!"

The advertising industry has recently got that old time ROI religion in a big way. And with a zeal that is typical of recent converts, many of these former Cannes Gold Lion addicts now seem a tad too enthusiastic about their new found devotion to measuring the effectiveness of marketing. Perhaps what rankles us just a bit is the disingenuousness of advertising types who now preach ROI and aggressively promote their new units that are dedicated to measurement. These same executives have traditionally relied (and most still rely) on expensive TV, print and other brand-oriented tactics and media to meet their clients' marketing needs. They, and the advertising industry overall, paid scant attention to whether or not their marketing products were actually performing -- in other words, generating true results for clients. It was enough to focus on "the work," which became the end game. Not measurable results.

At the same time, the culture of "creativity," which has really become a code-word for "entertainment," put a strangle-hold on the ad industry, further diluting the importance of marketing performance and ROI. Sadly, this was an industry that once produced marketing giants like David Ogilvy, who preached the simple virtue that advertising should actually sell. How revolutionary!

Perhaps we are being too cynical here. We should welcome the industry's seeming shift toward ROI. If we felt that this was a real and lasting conversion, we would welcome it...with open arms. But, the news of the new ROI unit at the global ad holding group demonstrates that these marketing behemoths still don't get it. The emphasis on measurement and marketing ROI should not just be the province of a separate unit, which will charge separate fees to evaluate the work of their sister agencies (or competitors). In fact, however, that is exactly what this top-three ad holding group is doing with its new ROI measurement unit.

If the ad industry really wants to walk the ROI walk, then they must change their thinking and methodology entirely, and incorporate a measurement and performance approach in everything they do. That will take a fundamental cultural change which we suspect will be a long time coming, particulalry for the big agencies and their mega holding groups.

Meantime, there is a growing cadre of revolutionary marketers and their marketing firms who really do get the importance of performance, measurement and ROI in marketing. These marketing trailblazers realize that "media neutral" isn't just the latest industry buzzword. They are going back to the future, and enthusiastically embracing David Ogilvy's tenet about the importance of selling in advertising and marketing.

The main difference today is that, with the Internet, and the innovative new measurement technologies and techniques, marketers really can achieve ROI Nirvana like even Mr. Ogilvy never dreamed of.

Posted by Patrick at 07:14 PM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2005

Measurement is Key to Performance

As my colleague Tony Harkey likes to say, "If it can be measured, it can be improved." Measurement really is central to getting the optimal performance out of your marketing and communications activities. But, here's the hard part -- or at least what many people perceive to be the hard part. How exactly do you measure the results and impact of many forms of marketing that seem to defy measurement?

For example, how do you measure brand advertising? Or public relations? Or branded special events and buzz marketing? In fact, it is possible to measure the results and performance of all of these types of marketing. And it all starts with a clear definition of -- and agreement to -- your marketing objectives. These marketing objectives must be well defined and, yes, measurable (instead of being squishy and vague). Most importantly, these objectives must be accepted by all key stakeholders. Having clear, measurable objectives at the start of a marketing communications campaign seems so obvious. It's surprising, however, how often this basic step is either barely taken by marketers, or ignored altogether.

Once you've defined what you are shooting for, and what success ultimately looks like, then you can starting thinking about the ways you can measure the campaign. For example, we recently developed a fully integrated marketing program to help a client get the most out of a major trade show. We established clear and measurable objectives for the event, and then built a program designed to meet and exceed them. One of the ways that we measured the impact of our marketing efforts was to survey attendees prior to the start of the trade show. We then surveyed them again, following the show. This not only gave us a read on how well we did in building awareness about our client's messages, but it allowed us to connect with their prospective customers and gather more information that would be helpful in future marketing activities. Based on this research, we realized that a certain message needed to be clarified. We also learned that we should provide more tangible examples of the benefits of our client's products and solutions. Net-net, by spending a little extra time upfront, and making a small investment in research, we were able to help our client better undertand what they were actually getting from their trade show investment. In the process, we laid the groundwork for improving our client's marketing results in the future.

Posted by Patrick at 04:53 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2005

The Power of Performance in Marketing

Welcome to our THUNDER FACTORY blog. On this site, we hope to have a spirited and productive conversation on marketing, and all that it entails, in the 21st Century. Our goal is to make this blog a thought-provoking destination for marketing and communications professionals and practioners, professors and students, journalists and analysts, and all those who are interested in the wonderful world of marketing. Of all the topics that we will tackle on this blog, the one that we kick off with today, is one that we plan to return to frequently: Performance in marketing. Or, better stated, the lack thereof.

The fact is, performance has always been the dirty little secret of marketing. You've no doubt heard that tired old saw about advertising: "I know that at least half of my advertsiing is wasted, I just don't know which half." You might be surprised to learn (but perhaps not) that a large number of marketers still don't really know which half of their marketing investment is truly performing for them...or not. It's no wonder that so many C-level executives (other than Chief Marketing Officers, of course)are suspicious and cynical about the value of marketing. When those of us who are responsibile and accountable for marketing don't have a firm handle on how, when, or if it's actually performing, then it's easy to understand the CFO's cynicism. And why she won't increase the marketing budget.

The following will be a mantra of sorts for this site: The only reason to invest in marketing in the first place is to achieve results. And, if the marketing is not performing as it should, then you won't achieve those desired results. Consequently, you need to make sure that your marketing is designed from the ground up to perform. Then you need to measure it, refine it, and measure it again, to ensure that it does indeed perform.

I know, if only it were that simple. But, getting your marketing to achieve the results you want is not as difficult as you might think. Stay tuned. We're going to explore that subject in detail, and share a lot of strategies and ideas to help you finally figure out which half of your advertising is wasted.

Posted by Patrick at 02:02 PM | Comments (0)