Measurement is King
How to Manage Your Marketing
An idea is only as good as the results it generates. In marketing, ideas that don’t generate results are called “distractions”. In today’s hyper-competitive industries, marketing just HAS to produce measurable results.
An Example of Where a Lack of Measurement Can Lead
I’d like to provide a quick example of how a very large brand that I worked for, inefficiently lurched from year to year with little discipline, and how installing some basic marketing disciplines turned things around.
This was a major restaurant chain, thousands of units, spending north of $40 million per year on national TV and other media channels. We had a lot of money, but we had a weak unifying strategy. In fact, it was so weak that across a 12 month period, the only unifying element a consumer would see was the brand logo. In this year, the consumer would see movie tie-ins, cleverly named Limited Time Offerings (some only regional in availability), price point specials, and no absolute reinforcement of core brand strengths. And for good reason… we had no idea what they were!
How We Turned It Around
So, sales were soft and other metrics worse than weak. A $40 million annual ad spend delivering negative comp sales and brand awareness in the mid-single digits. Frankly, this was unacceptable. The poor results of a “campaign” made up of disparate creative ideas with many authors, missing a cohesive strategy, run amok.
Here’s what we did:
- Gained control of the brand messaging. We conducted basic research and installed basic measurements to identify our strengths and weaknesses. Then we built messaging and measurement systems to track our performance against the opportunities the research yielded.
- We announced the plan and installed disciplines around eliminating distracting messages that diluted core brand messages. So, no more movie tie-ins, LTO’s, regional price points. We also announced the brand attributes that our research and our new messaging must focus on.
- Launched measurement KPIs: system- sales, traffic, competitive monitoring, attribute tracking. And we began to report out against these KPIs.
- Finally, we executed through all channels: advertising, in-store marketing, PR, etc. We measured and continuously improved according to results- but we stayed disciplined.
Also important: Learning how to audit your in-store marketing programs!
First Year Results?
• Comp sales went from -5% to +6%
• Traffic and Average Ticket increased
• Brand Awareness increased 18%
• Ad Awareness increased 12%
And this strategy continued for several years until we reached a point where we could layer back in other elements like LTO items- but only AFTER consumers solidly knew what we stood for.
A simple, but effective example of how impactful marketing is more than pretty pictures. Strategy, discipline and measurement are all critical. Sometimes it feels obstructionist to halt the excitement and gather rationale before leaping after an idea, but take my word for it, it is worth doing it right.
Oh, and let me also mention that in the year where we delivered the performance above, our national TV budget was cut overnight from $40 million to $23 million! Sometimes it’s the quality of the message, not the quantity of spots you run.
Marketing Measurement & Management Tips
The creative process and ideation, done effectively, should operate within the soft guardrails of strategy. That’s why objectives and strategies need to be defined before creative ideation. This is also a delicate place where art meets science, in the sense that tangible things like research and data should be folded into the ideation team’s marching orders.
Too often, excitement or the lack of strategic discipline, cause ideas to leap to creative execution without a sound strategy. Ready, Shoot, Aim- and the result is like that which I describe in my example.
I heard a phrase a long time ago, that I quote often:
In fact, it is on my office door right now. A sound strategy requires discipline. The discipline to not chase after every shiny, new thing that you see. Discipline to properly vet the rationale and brief those involved in the creative ideation phase. Discipline to not try and be all things to all people. It’s also knowing your “Why”, which is a clear vision of what your brand believes in and stands for. That makes adhering to your strategy easier – it’s almost natural.
OK- now you’ve cleared all these hurdles. What comes next? Measurement. Measurement takes place in many, many different ways. There are KPIs like traffic and sales and average order size and conversion rate and click through rate and bounce rate and attribute measures and net promoter score.
All wonderful metrics, and important, but the key is to spend the time planning out your measurement specifics well in advance of execution, and make them part of your success criteria.
At its core, we seek to isolate what change a new variable (our marketing program) creates across a specific period of time with all other elements unchanged.
A good partner works with brands all the way through the process. From ideas to measurement. They have some ownership of the results. They are not “paid for their services” and simply “deliver work”. A true partner wants to know that “the delivered work”, well, works! So, measurement is something they participate in authoring and have a vested interest in.
Finding that kind of partner takes a little work, but they are worth their weight in gold. In my own career, I have a handful of these partners that I bring with me from position to position, brand to brand. Trusted partners, invested in my brands’ successes… all the way to the end. They have earned my loyalty as true partners.
About the Author
Steve Thomas – WMG’s Chief Marketing Officer
Steve Thomas is a 30-year consumer marketing veteran, who specializes at building differentiated brand stories that grow business. Thomas was previously Chief Marketing Officer for franchise companies Green Home Solutions and Edible Arrangements International, having helped grow the latter to its current position as a major gift category retailer, with almost 1300 locations worldwide. Thomas brings a unique perspective to WMG, ensuring that we continue to push to “walk the walk” in terms of client effectiveness and innovation in merchandising. Under Thomas’ marketing leadership, the WMG story of placing clients’ success above all else, is being spread across the nation. Follow Steve on Linkedin here.