Thursday, August 30, 2007

Marketing Performance Involves More than Ad Placement

I received a thoughtful e-mail the other day suggesting that my discussion of marketing performance measurement had been limited to advertising effectiveness, thereby ignoring the other important marketing functions of pricing, distribution and product development. For once, I’m not guilty as charged. At a minimum, a balanced scorecard would include measures related to those areas when they were highlighted as strategic. I’d further suggest that many standard marketing measures, such as margin analysis, cross-sell ratios, and retail coverage, address those areas directly.

Perhaps the problem is that so many marketing projects are embedded in advertising campaigns. For example, the way you test pricing strategies is to offer different prices in the marketplace and see how customers react. Same for product testing and cross-sales promotions. Even efforts to improve distribution are likely to boil down to campaigns to sign up new dealers, training existing ones, distribute point of sale materials, and so on. The results will nearly always be measured in terms of sales results, exactly as you measure advertising effectiveness.

In fact, since everything is measured through advertising it and recording the results, the real problem may be how to distinguish “advertising” from the other components of the marketing mix. In classic marketing mix statistical models, the advertising component is representing by ad spend, or some proxy such as gross rating points or market coverage. At a more tactical level, the question is the most cost-effective way to reach the target audience, independent of the message content (which includes price, product and perhaps distribution elements, in addition to classic positioning). So it does make sense to measure advertising effectiveness (or, more precisely, advertising placement effectiveness) as a distinct topic.

Of course, marketing does participate in activities that are not embodied directly in advertising or cannot be tested directly in the market. Early-stage product development is driven by market research, for example. Marketing performance measurement systems do need to indicate performance in these sorts of tasks. The challenge here isn’t finding measures—things like percentage of sales from new products and number of research studies completed (lagging and leading indicators, respectively) are easily available. Rather, the difficulty is isolating the contribution of “marketing” from the contribution of other departments that also participate in these projects. I’m not sure this has a solution or even needs one: maybe you just recognize that these are interdisciplinary teams and evaluate them as such. Ultimately we all work for the same company, eh? Now let’s sing Kumbaya.

In any event, I don’t see a problem using standard MPM techniques to measure more than advertising effectiveness. But it’s still worth considering the non-advertising elements explicitly to ensure they are not overlooked.

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