“Can you measure the effect of brand media?” is one of life’s big ones, at least if you’re an econometrician or other would-be measurer of marketing. Before we go further, we should allay any dark fears you might be harbouring that the rest of this article is going to be another brand-wang, in which we toss around ethereal notions of what brand is as we dance in ever-decreasing circles on the head of our very small pin: It’s not.
But there ARE some important questions we need to face and, I daresay, answer, if we are to get anywhere in our attempts to measure brand media.
What do you expect?
What’s your “brand world view”? Because you’ve almost certainly got one. Our point here is not to debate the merits and otherwise of the particular school of brand to which you subscribe (see above), but your brand world view does determine a key question: when you do brand media, what are you expecting to see? If you are of a traditional school, maybe brand for you equates to brand metrics. So, are you expecting a rise in awareness? And is it prompted or spontaneous? Or maybe everyone already knows who you are and so consideration or even preference is your aim.
Believe it or not econometrics is of some help here. By testing different brand metrics in a sales model, you can identify which one or two have the most effect on sales and are, therefore, the ones you should be monitoring most closely.
Perhaps you’re of the modern, no-such-thing-as-brands school and, for you, there are no weak or strong brands, only small and big brands. So, your measure of brand is sales, right? If your brand ad shifts sales, then it’s growing your brand. That’s home turf for econometric models which work very well on short-term sales. But what about promotions? They, too, shift sales, but the effects are typically very short-lived, so maybe what we’re trying to move with brand media is some measure of underlying, or “base”, sales. That’s rather less easy and even econometric models will struggle to associate a change in base sales with a particular brand campaign. (Besides that, what if your brand ad made me try your product which was then so good that I kept on buying it, in effect adding to your base? Is that base growth a result of the brand ad or my product experience? Discuss.)
There are Brand Ads and then there are Brand Ads
This may come as something of a surprise, but brand ads are not what you think. Think brand ad and chances are you’re thinking of happy people photographing themselves enjoying fun times with friends, or black horses running through misty meadows of time, or maybe, in this econological age, verdant Amazonian rainforests being tended by improbably fulfilled farmers.
For most brands, brand ads have more than a whiff of product about them. Some – whisper it – feature such vulgarities as a call-to-action. More often than you might think, brand ads turn out to be exactly the same as product ads – but are just used in different TV spots, in primetime ITV rather than in the sodden coffee grounds of daytime TV, or the world bazaar of some of the higher-number channels. Get that. Exactly. The. Same. Ad.
This being so, then what exactly are we expecting of our brand ads that we’re not expecting of our tactical ads, aside, of course, from a higher cost per thousand? The reality for many brands is that brand advertising – in the narrow sense of airtime – is something they turn to when they have exhausted the supply of the cheaper, Direct Response spots. Here, econometrics can help you work out the point at which you should start to add some brand (prime) spots to your mix. (Look out for our accompanying article on LinkedIn this month for an example of this.)
Be clear on the role of every part of your Marketing Mix
Whatever the balance of brand vs tactical advertising you do, it’s important to be clear about what it’s supposed to be achieving. Econometrics is not the answer to everything, and it can’t always capture the specific outcomes of every activity. However, that doesn’t mean that you can just lump it into the “can’t be measured” box. If it’s supposed to be driving awareness or changing brand attitudes amongst a specific group of people, then make sure you have some mechanism (even something quite basic) that will allow you to track that. If you don’t, then the risk is that when it gets measured in Econometrics (as it will) and do poorly (as it will), you can say at the debrief “well it was never SUPPOSED to drive sales” until you are blue in the face, but if you have nothing else to offer, then that is the yardstick against which it will be measured and the Finance Director’s pen will be hovering like a peckish vulture over the marketing budget spreadsheet.
In summary then, be clear about what “Brand” ads are trying to do, rather than saying either “It’s just Brand” (shrug) or something like “It’s designed to entangle consumers into the fabric of our brand being”. And then think about measurement. Econometrics can play a strong role here in setting budget sizes, in optimising allocation (even if the ROI is terrible and sales was never the key objective, it WILL drive some sales and as a result, econometrics can tell you how to optimally deploy it), and in seeing how much it drives sales. What sales trade-off are you making between Brand and Tactical, is it 10:1, 5:1, 2:1? Knowing the answer to that will lead to more informed planning.