Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Carried Away with Success

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Carried Away with Success

Article excerpt

Our obsession with measuring how well a brand is performing has led to us ignoring the cost of failure.

We just love measuring stuff. It gives us a sense of place, a fixed point in an uncertain world. It allows us to gauge progress, and, crucially, enables us to report success to the board, so we can tell others how clever we are. After all, for businesses, measuring what we do is how we make sure we get what we want.

The trouble is, we get what we measure. For example, care homes for the elderly used to be inspected regularly and had to meet strict criteria: the temperature of the hot tap (danger of scalding), size of rooms and availability of lifting equipment. This is important, but no one measured how happy the residents were. There were no metrics for quality of life - how 'nice' the staff were or how much fun the old folk had.

So you can be certain that no matter how miserable everyone was or how unpleasant the staff, no one ever got scalded, so the home scored well But if you were a resident, how would you rank water temperature against enjoyment in your assessment of the place?

We see this again and again in marketing, and particularly in media. In digital, the availability of metrics for just about everything has made us junkies for the yardstick.

The introduction of page impressions as a key metric for publishers' website performance 10 years ago led to canny editors splitting stories across two or more pages - double the impressions for no more work.

Numbers can tell a great deal about how effective our efforts are, but they don't tell the whole story. Sometimes, they divert the attention from what is really happening.

Forrester recently published some research showing how social media specialists ranked their ability to measure the relative effectiveness of their activity. The experts gave themselves a score of 4.5 out of 10 - which Forrester considered ambitious. But what were they measuring?

Every day in online forums and blogs, there are people saying nasty things about brands. Truths, lies, hoaxes, misconceptions and competitor propaganda. It's all there. If care isn't taken, sometimes it ranks more highly in Google than the brand's site, because search engines value the new, rather than the true.

I was speaking at a seminar recently on reputation management - the tools and frameworks we apply to guarding brands online. At the end of my talk, I was asked just two questions.

The first hinged on a complaint that managing reputation online represented a new customer-service front - adding to costs. …

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