Tag Archives: market research

Mad over metrics, or looking for stuff where the light is better

English: John Wanamaker
Smarter than Don Draper?

Consider this statement from a renowned retailer:

“…Another experience that goes largely in ordinary advertising is the waste of money.  There have been many calculations concerning the vast sums of money expended upon advertising in this country.  I do not recall what their magnitude is, but the figures compiled by observers are really astounding.   I think if we could manage to analyze that expenditure…we would find that a vast percentage of it, probably one-half, is entirely wasted…”
 

Was this WalMart’s lament at the last shareholder meeting?  Or,  perhaps JCP’s excuse for its continuing doldrums?  Neither, dear reader.  It was part of an industry speech by none other than John Wanamaker (pictured left), founder of the late, great Wanamaker’s department store, in…1898.

100+ years later, the issue still hounds marketers, albeit pared to the more sound-bitey:  “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” 

When Wanamaker wailed about advertising, the term “marketing metrics” was unheard of.   There was no TV, of course, and “social networking” meant getting together for tea with your neighbor.

Even more than half a century later, in the 1960s (the Mad Men days) there were only three TV networks and three national news magazines to consider.  With limited venues and a high captive audience, advertising was, as a “Don Draper” type quipped: “like shooting fish in a barrel.”

Those halcyon days are now clearly over, as expanded communication venues and, especially, social media, provide an audience of mega-millions.  Expectations are high:  there are so many more fish to shoot!

However, this has created a climate where marketers wish to quantify everything.  How many Followers, Pokes, or Likes did we get today?  How many unique viewers visited the site?  For how long were they engaged?  What was the conversion rate of the ad?  There is barely a company today not pondering their metrics, or, how to measure the effectiveness of their PR, advertising, social media, and myriad other marketing activities.

There is even a new crop of “consultants to consultants” looking to advise agencies how to win big by “generating metric reports that dazzle!”, or by offering “100 Ways to Keep Clients Happy and Budgets Intact” (without having to bribe them with booze, drugs, or game tickets, we assume…)

One such group recently advised to be careful how we use nouns vs. verbs in our metrics reports, as they can dramatically “affect the effect.”  No wonder self-professed “AdHo” George Parker, a veteran of the already-waning Mad Men era in the 70s, says we’ve all gone mad over metrics.

He claims we often measure things without considering what it is, exactly, we are looking for.   And if we were to find it, what does it all mean?  He clarifies:  “It’s like a guy losing his car keys in the garage but going into the living room to look for them because the light is better there.”

This “looking for stuff where the light is better” trend rings true.  Truth is, marketing programs should be measured, but not all marketers should or know how to do the math. (Actually, the only old math they need to memorize is:  REACH + FREQUENCY = IMPACT.  It still holds true today.)

Never having made it to Statistics 101 in college, they certainly don’t have time to deal with it now.  They just want a good story to sell.  “Put up a realistic number that makes us look good”  they beg, preparing the slides for the upcoming stockholders meeting.

On the other side, we have recently slogged through an extensive (and expensive) report by a respected university. It contained complex, multi-page regression analyses to help justify the client’s advertising campaign. (People, it’s just advertising!)

Of course, there’s no harm in searching for brightness where the light is dim.  If, say, your post-campaign survey reveals 40% of consumers “seldom” buy your product and 20% “sometimes” do, then you can probably safely say 60% are “frequent purchasers.”  We used to call this a minor statistical enhancement.  Now, it’s metrics.

In summary, good advertising is part science, part art, and lots faith.  There are things that we can’t put an immediate number to, but we just know are right.

They sound and feel right, and we get the right reaction to it.  That’s the emotion “metric” the best ad-makers have always gone for.

John Wanamaker knew that, and that’s why, grumbling, he kept up his ad spending to build one of the most successful retail chains in the world.

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Stuff shoppers may not tell us

Soldiers and Family members participated in th...
Even the Armed Forces uses focus groups

At the same time marketing pundits are proclaiming that focus groups are dead, they’re trying to unearth what makes consumers tick. 

Used to be if you were a manufacturer and wanted to get some real qualitative (as opposed to quantitative) info on your new product, you’d put a focus group together. 

Get a small group of women together in a room all day, feed them well and pay them something, and they’ll tell you anything…Fact is, focus groups, when done well and includes multi markets and profiles, can give you information you can’t get anywhere else. 

Qualitative info(the hard numbers) you can get from scanner data.  Intimate stuff, such as what truly turns a shopper on:  things she would never tell anyone outside that room, that’s what makes focus groups useful.

But it seems this practice has gone the way of the Dodo bird, as “mystery shopper” clubs, chat rooms, on-line surveys and mobile apps appear to provide marketers with enough fodder from consumers.  Although these arguably much lower-cost tactics have their proponents (on-site focus groups can be very pricey), they still can’t be compared with being able to gauge the immediate reaction on the face of a group participant.

Now it seems this psychographic profiling and what it reveals is making a comeback.  It’s interesting that marketers claim they now want to get inside the consumer’s head when what they’ve been doing is mainly blitzing coupons at her…

In any case, Kraft just announced they’re developing a sophisticated new science of  “emotional profiling to provide actionable answers”  both for them and their retailer partners, according to trade pub CPG Matters.  Apparently, they are splitting hairs about whether shoppers “like” or simply “prefer” something, and how that spells the difference at check-out.

We’ ve always tried to look at the “need to have” vs. “nice to have” component of any marketing outreach.  Especially in today’s economy, folks are going to look carefully at what they buy, and probably prefer the former.  Do we really need the “green” detergent that costs so much more?

Yet food is a different animal.  There exists strong triggers — look, aroma, taste, and emotional ties — that make the food decision for us, regardless of logic.  How else can you explain the Australian expats’ continuing love of  Marmite

One of the key challenges facing manufacturers like Kraft is that this emotional reaction to food means, as they put it:  “that two identical-looking products could achieve the same score in acceptability tests, but perform wildly differently in the marketplace.”

That we shop with emotion is nothing new, and psychographics have been part of the marketer toolbox way before we knew what to call it.  Importantly, though, the increasingly ethno and income segmentation of the population adds complex levels to marketing plans.

We used to rely on reports from AC Nielsen and others that provided snappy, “canned” profiles we loved, such as “Bluehairs in Sun Country”, which neatly encapsulated all residents of, say, Vero Beach, FL.  Sure was easy to do specific-store marketing then…

 Today, with ethnic groups making up almost half of some metro markets, things are different.  Importantly, the cultural diversity means traditional tools like focus groups don’t work as well. 

For example, Latinos will typically say things that may not be true just to please the researcher.  Also, the acculturated/assimilated Hispanic may shop more like an Anglo…except when she’s with her mother.  You get the changing picture.

Trying to make this emotional connection to the consumer is nothing new.  It’s just so much harder today.  That’s why if the Big Guns are seeing the need to reinvent segmenting strategies to hold onto their brand dominance, we smaller guns should also.