‘Accept that you’ve never sussed it’: Marketers on the challenge and opportunity of measuring effectiveness

The second event in the Festival of Marketing’s Currency of Effectiveness series discussed how marketers can get buy-in from their brands to effectively measure impact, and why a fear of being held accountable could be putting marketers off pursuing meaningful measures.

Is a fear of being caught out holding marketers back when it comes to measuring effectiveness? It could be, according to effectiveness experts, who explained the intricacies of what’s happening internally at brands when making decisions about monitoring and measuring effectiveness in a session for Marketing Week’s Currency of Effectiveness series this week.

According to Dr Grace Kite, Marketing Week columnist and founder and CEO of analytics firm Magic Numbers, it could be the fear of being “held accountable” that is holding some marketers’ effectiveness efforts back. She adds marketers might be thinking, “What if, even though I did the best I possibly could with my remit and all the available information, maybe I got something wrong and these numbers are going to uncover it.”

“So individuals in an organisation might be a bit wary of this kind of process,” she said. Especially if they control an area that “just isn’t as effective,” she added.

There are also marketers who got into the industry because “they like creativity, understand people, and now there’s all these numbers flying around”, she said .“I think all of these things come together in individuals to build up a bit of resistance to effectiveness analysis and return on investment,” Kite added.

Is the ‘golden trinity’ the optimum way to measure marketing effectiveness?The session, “Made to Measure”, explored meaningful measures of success and was chaired by Mark Evans, former managing director for marketing and digital at Direct Line Group. It also featured Andrew Geoghegan, chief marketing transformation officer at PZ Cussons and also a Marketing Week columnist. Geoghegan explained how he hears “lots of excuses” for not measuring effectiveness: “There’s not enough data, there’s not enough investment of time.”

He added: “But I do think it comes down to fear and some capability gaps. And I think the biggest way to address that is to create that no fault culture,” , where instead of only rewarding materials in the present, it’s about rewarding improvements in the future, as well as results.

He thinks there’s also a problem at play in that marketers are often “insufficiently clear” on why they’re doing the work they’re doing, as well as bringing it back to how it links to growth.

“So there’s sometimes work to do on making it clear what the connection is between the consumer facing work we do and business results,” he said.

Three marketing experts on how to achieve ‘effective share of voice’“Measurement is about dopamine,” said Geoghegan. It’s a lesson he learnt 20 years ago, while working on the Walkers brand: “There’s nothing cooler than feeling that you’ve made something enormously better, either because you simplified it, removed cost or you made the boat go faster.”


A learning process

Evans reflected on a key learning moment earlier in his career while working at Mars. Tasked with being responsible for a simulated test market to help grow Whiskers’ cat food pouch business, he questioned how to take the growth further. He recalled insight that many cats live in “multi-cat households, which led to a 200g pouch that could feed multiple cats at once. It was an “absolute disaster”, he explains, because of a particular oversight: like humans, cats have different tastes.

Nailing the ‘alligator pitch’: Marketers on sharing the effectiveness message“I remember feeling like I literally wanted the ground to swallow me up, because we’d wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds,” he explained.

But his boss at the time told him “That’s great, we’ve learned.”

“The key [to effectiveness] as a marketing leader is to accept that you’ve never sussed it, there’s always better and to take whatever learnings, good or bad or ugly, as learnings and have a growth mindset because otherwise people will never embrace this or get the richness that follows,” he said.

“You thought you’d spent £100,000, you probably saved the business several millions,” added Geoghegan.

Part of the learning process is also for brands and stakeholders to see the value of measuring effectiveness, explained the panel. It’s an investment for businesses – econometrics, for example, doesn’t come cheaply – and budgets are already under pressure.

As Kite explained, “it can be done with businesses of any size” dependent on how well designed the project is, and using the right KPI to measure and capture.

“We tend to find that marketing budgets of less than a million pounds can be less likely to have econometrics in a bespoke way,” she added.

Marketers face ‘tension’ in push to prioritise effectiveness“If you’ve got a small budget, are you doing what a lot of people do which is spread it very thinly across a lot of different activities versus really concentrating it on one or two things with intensity?” asked Geoghegan.

“If you can’t afford econometrics, there’s so much information out there that helps you understand the principles that you should be using by different categories,” he added, highlighting the IPA’s database as one option.

This conversation comes in the context of brands not seeing the value in long-term growth. “This is where measurement has its power, to help persuade people to do the right thing,” explained Kite. She suggested a repositioning of the use case where instead of saying “this is the benefit”, say: “This is the money that we’re leaving on the table”.

Investing in brand “feels risky and scary” to a lot of businesses because they want to do the “tangible things”, explained Geoghegan. “So I definitely think it’s about being patient and making the case it’s an emotional decision, not a rational decision. I think sometimes we think it’s about the persuasive data.

It always starts with real understanding,” he said, “like a marketing problem”: “Understanding where your audience is today and what it will take to move them.”

To watch the session in full click here.

The Currency of Effectiveness is brought to you in partnership with System 1, Ebiquity, Salesforce, Digitas, Ozone, Little Dot Studios. 

For more information and to register for the other free events taking place as part of the Currency of Effectiveness series, part of Marketing Week’s Festival of Marketing, click here