This year’s ANA “Masters of Marketing” conference in Phoenix was, as usual, the place to see and be seen. There were plenty of very interesting brand strategy stories from the likes of McDonald’s, Fidelity, Liberty Mutual, Anheuser-Busch, and AT&T. Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, set some bold predictions for the digital content consumption world of the future, and Al Gore introduced the fascinating new business model of Current TV (which, btw, stands to redefine the dialogue on “engagement” far beyond the current amorphous context).
To his great credit, Bob Liodice, ANA president, asked every presenter to comment on how they were measuring the impact of their work. Unfortunately, most of the speakers successfully ducked the question through a series of politically correct, almost Greenspanian deflections:
“Well, Bob, we’re making a major investment in improving customer satisfaction and continuing to drive brand preference relative to competitors to new heights while keeping our eye on price sensitivity and working to ensure that our associates understand the essence of the brand at every touchpoint.”
Leaving me (and a few of the other financially oriented attendees) to wonder why – as in why are the Masters so reluctant to share their true insights into measurement?
OK, so I get that measurement isn’t anywhere nearly as sexy to talk about as the great new commercials you just launched or your insightful brand positioning. I also get that many aspects of measurement are proprietary, and giving away financial details of publicly held companies in such a forum might give the IR folks the cold sweats.
But by avoiding the question, these “Masters of Marketing” – the very CMOs to whom the marketing community looks to for direction and inspiration – are sending a clear message to their staffs and the next generation that the ol’ “brand magic” is still much more important than the specific understanding of how it produces shareholder value.
The message seems to be that, when pressed for insight into ROI, it is acceptable to point to the simultaneous increase of “brand preference” scores and sales and imply, with a sly shrug of the shoulders, that there must be some correlation there. (If you find yourself asking, “So what’s wrong with that?” please read the entire archive of this blog before continuing to the next paragraph.)
Having met and spoken with many Masters of Marketing about this topic, I can tell you that each and every one of them are doing things with measurement that can advance the discipline for all of us. Wouldn’t sharing these experiences be just as important to the community as how you came to the insight for that latest campaign strategy?
Only the Masters can take up the challenge for pushing measurement to the same new heights as they’ve taken the art of integrated communication, the quality of production, and the efficiency of media. It seems to me that people so skilled in communication should be able to find a framework for sharing their learnings and best practices in measurement in ways that are interesting and informative while also protective of competitive disclosure.
Living up to the title of Masters of Marketing means going beyond message strategy, humor, and clever copy lines. We owe that to those we serve today and those who will follow in our footsteps, who will need a far better grounding in the explicit links between marketing investment and financial return to answer the increasingly sophisticated questions they’ll get from the CEO, CFO, and the Board.
So the next time Bob asks, “How do you measure the impact of that on your bottom line?” think about seizing the opportunity to send a really important message.
And Bob, thanks for asking. Keep the faith.