Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why Does Marketing Have to be so Damn Hard?

Fact: Failure rates in marketing are astronomically high. Only a small fraction of new marketing initiatives succeed in achieving their intended objectives. If marketing were a baseball player, it would NEVER have made the major leagues. If marketing were a horse, you’d need 10:1 odds at least (and even then you’d be best served to box your bet across win, place, and show). If marketing were a bridge, you’d certainly not want to drive across it on a windy day.

Why? Why is it so damn hard to make marketing work consistently and reliably?

You might argue that the challenge lies in the very dynamic markets we operate in. Shifting sands are the rule, not the exception. No sooner do you get your feet under you than your knowledge is antiquated by the latest disruptive force.

Could be that marketers are in a constant state of experimentation, always in search of the magic combination of message and tactics that “move the needle”.

Or perhaps it’s the absence of good “raw materials”. Maybe we’re just reflecting the frequency with which we are given uninspired products with no news value and no clear differentiation.

But lately I’ve been thinking that it’s because of two key factors:

  1. Marketing involves integrating the left and right brains – something that very few people are capable of. It requires an ability to think conceptually and unencumbered by the present realities, yet to evaluate critically in a rigorous way. Without the former, we fail to innovate; without the latter, we fail to focus. Moreover, it takes more than one person in an executive committee who can actually do this two-brain thing to notice and approve a good idea when one hits the table. Odds of there being a quorum of such people in any one boardroom are long indeed, given that executive committees normally include strong left-brainers from finance, IT, and manufacturing/operations. No judgment here, just an observation.
  2. Marketers tend to be more right brain than left. They enjoy concepts and creativity and innovation and inspiration, but not the repetitive types of analysis that tend to extract true insights from the cacophony of marketplace response. Many don’t have the patience for disciplined experimentation and continuous improvement, preferring to “try new things” and make a name for themselves within their industry.
Fortunately, there are tools to help us overcome our fundamental limitations (personal or organizational) and learn from the collective experience of others. For example, in 2009 the Marketing Science Institute published a book edited by Professor Mike Hanssens of UCLA’s Anderson School called Empirical Generalizations about Marketing Impact which clearly lists 16 categories of collective learnings from hundreds of academic studies of marketing impact over the last few decades. For example, did you know that:

  • Gains in market share do not often lead to gains in profitability in either short- or long-run.
  • Changes in pricing have approximately 26 TIMES the impact on sales as changes in advertising spend levels.
  • Changes in sales budgets have more than 3 TIMES the impact on sales compared to changes in ad spending.
  • If advertising doesn’t work in the short term, it will NOT work in the long term with more exposure.
These are but a few of the gems you find in this book, which you can order at Or, if you prefer, check out Mike Hanssens’ recent webcast on this topic to be really astounded by all the things that you SHOULD have known about marketing but likely didn’t (or didn’t have the proof).

When we get marketing “right”, we make it really HARD for OTHERS to immitate. That’s why the big marketing victories are so transformative for companies (and careers). If we got just a little better at standing on the knowledge shoulders of our marketing forefathers (and mothers), we might actually get it “right” more often, and make it harder for THEM to catch up with us.
Pat LaPointe is Managing Partner at MarketingNPV – specialists in measuring the payback on marketing investments, and publishers of MarketingNPV Journal.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Predictions for Social Media Metrics: 2011

Never hesitant to jump on the New Year prognostication bandwagon, here are a few predictions for some significant new elements and important evolutions in social media metrics in 2011:

  1. Rapid maturation. Social media measurement will mature rapidly now that there is real money being spent by marketers in the social realm. Professional measurement tools and techniques have gained critical mass in the space to help keep the focus on measuring the business value of social media in terms of either individual behavior shifts or community support. For a terrific overview, see Jim Sterne’s latest book entitled “Social Media Metrics” (or better yet, this webcast overview).
  2. Government Drives Better Tracking. Social media tracking (e.g. seeing how and where messages spread) will improve significantly, mostly due to government regulation. Many of us work in industries that are regulated. These regulations require that our marketing messages come with appropriate disclosures about financial interests, side effects, performance guarantees, etc. The necessity of properly making and tracking disclosures has, till recently, held back many of our character-limited social media efforts. New companies like CMP.LY (www.CMP.LY) are taking the headache out of disclosure management and providing powerful tracking capabilities at the same time.
  3. Online and offline will merge. By year-end, social media will no longer be equated with just online marketing tactics. TV, print, and outdoor campaigns will increasingly be measured in terms of their ability to get people engaged in behavioral interaction (e.g. talking to others about a brand), and more fully integrated with the online elements. Online behavior tracking will more fully merge with offline survey research techniques to better identify and measure the value of specific types of engagement. Offline budgets will continue to be much larger in most cases, but the “Old Spice” success story has penetrated the consciousness of marketers to the tipping point where the business and financial benefits of full integration are too big to be ignored.
  4. Predictive value is emerging. The holy grail of social media is the “so what” – what will all the “buzz” do for sales and profits? Several big leaps have been made recently in terms of quantitatively tying social media engagement (giving AND receiving) to actual purchase behaviors and “norms” are beginning to emerge in key industries. In fact, the number and quality of such “norms” are increasing so rapidly that predictive validity is building. We can tell, in some industries, how early social media activity can predict overall campaign effectiveness, which in turn can predict customer/prospect buying behaviors. So if A=B and B=C, then we will increasingly learn to use A=C as a trusted metric for measuring the “so what”, and the pace of that learning will accelerate dramatically.
Generationally, it’s been difficult for many of the “over 40” set to wrap their brains around the implications of social media (possibly more from stress-induced eye strain than from lack of interest). But watching the college and teenage consumers of tomorrow NOT watch television (except sports and streaming movies) or read any printed periodicals, it’s clear that the media world HAS evolved. Only now is it becoming clear that the metrics are finally beginning to catch up.
Pat LaPointe is Managing Partner at MarketingNPV – specialists in measuring the payback on marketing investments, and publishers of MarketingNPV Journal.