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The problem with vanity metrics – how marketers can stay focused

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Earlier this year Yogendra Vasupal, the founder of Stayzilla, announced in a blog post he would shut down all operations of his company – despite having recently raised $33.5 million.

Yogendra wrote an honest and transparent post highlighting the reasons for his decision and admitting that he made mistakes. In the post, he openly admits the company focused on irrelevant data which ultimately led to their demise:

The initial seven years were all about having negative working capital, positive cash flow and a sustained ability to fund our own growth. Those were the only metrics we tracked. In the last three to four, though, I can honestly state that somewhere I lost my path. I started treasuring GMV [Gross Merchandise Value], room-nights and other ‘vanity’ metrics instead of the fundamentals of cash flow and working capital.”

We read news stories every day explaining how companies focused on ‘X’ to overachieve their targets, or how the latest trend must be implemented in your organisation to make it successful. However, the danger with focusing on all this new information is that it is easy to lose sight of what is really important.

So, what are the equivalent vanity metrics in marketing and comms?

As professionals working in an ever changing, digital industry, our client programmes and campaigns are filled with copious amounts of data and metrics that we simply cannot make use of.

Just because a metric exists does not mean that you have to use it, even if it worked for someone else. Think about whether it is worth the investment of your time and whether you have the resources to measure it. Decide which is more important.

Drowning in vanity metrics

Impressions, followers, share of voice, likes etc. – we have an abundance of metrics to choose from but the challenge marketers face is to distinguish which metrics will have an impact on business objectives.

Before you make the decision to use a metric, stop and say to yourself “does this metric help me make a decision?” and “When I view this metric, does it help me understand how to get closer to my business goals?” If you answer “no” to both of those questions, you are looking at a vanity metric.

Initially, vanity metrics appear important, but they tend to be superficial and often have a negative impact on your business goals.

initially, vanity metrics appear important

Yes, figures in vanity metrics may show that your business is successful but they will often not provide any insight that will help grow your business.

Re-tweets, likes and AVEs are good to use as a benchmark but they are not always useful for measuring the success of your campaign. Don’t let metrics hold you back; ensure that they give you some insight in order to make an impact on your business.

Share of voice: the complications

As an example, share of voice is a metric that measures the frequency that your organisation is mentioned in comparison to your competitors. For most marketing professionals this metric indicates audience preference and brand trustworthiness.

However, there are a few issues when using share of voice as a metric. Often, you will need to use services that operate sophisticated AI algorithms and language processing technology to accurately track your organisation’s share of voice.

which metrics would help make an impact on your business

These services are often quite expensive and are still not 100% accurate. Without this accuracy, you will be left with no real insight. Worryingly, it’s also very easy for organisations to manipulate share of voice figures. For instance, Twitter bots can be used to increase how often a brand or public figure is being talked about.

This tactic will boost how often your brand is mentioned in comparison to your competitors but it will not increase customer preference or your brand’s trustworthiness.

Quality over quantity is an expression that we hear every day, but in this case, it’s applicable. Carefully consider what would be better to measure and which metrics would help make an impact on your business?

So, what can you do?

It’s important that your marketing and communications strategy doesn’t focus on the wrong metrics. You need to make sure that everything you measure will give you real insight and positively impact your business.

In light of this, here are three things all marketing professionals should consider when thinking about metrics:

– Marketing objectives need to align with business objectives, whether this means acquiring new customers or increasing profit

– Do not get side-lined by irrelevant metrics that will not help you achieve your goals

– Experiment with different ways to measure campaign success. Change your activities to see what works and what doesn’t. Technology is constantly evolving and how you measure the success of your campaign today may be less impactful tomorrow. Question everything you do and try new approaches.

Don’t just focus on the latest trend for the sake of it. Ensure you have a clear understanding of how it will benefit your organisation. As we have seen in Stayzilla’s case, it’s important not to get swept up in the latest fad or you can face serious consequences.

Data, analytics and measurement are important for all marketing campaigns but it’s equally as important to focus on the right approaches. Develop your understanding and find out what works for your organisation to ensure overall business success.

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Kantar Media names Louise Ainsworth as EMEA CEO

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Kantar Media has announced that Louise Ainsworth has been appointed chief executive of EMEA, effective June 25.

Joining directly from her present role as chief executive of Kantar Millward Brown, Ainsworth brings a wealth of experience in digital media, audience measurement, brand management and communications in tow.

Andy Brown, global chief executive and chairman of Kantar Media said: "I am thrilled to welcome Louise to Kantar Media.

"Her rich experience in digital and the changing media ecosystem is widely recognised across the industry and will be a considerable asset for Kantar Media and our clients alike.”

Ainsworth added: "Our clients are facing more change and disruption than ever before – Kantar Media’s unique scale and breadth of high quality data sets are well-placed to help our EMEA clients convert the challenges they face into valuable opportunities.”

Upon arrival Ainsworth will sit on the Kantar Media executive committee, reporting directly to chief executive and chairman Andy Brown.

Ainsworth previously served as chief executive of WARC.

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Unilever taps WPP agencies to educate its startups as part of in-house collaboration

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Unilever has announced a partnership with WPP that will see the network's agencies work with the startups under the FMCG’s giant's Foundry programme in Singapore.

Unilever hopes the collaboration will lay the foundations for the marketing services ecosystem of the future and bring key external marketing expertise, in-house.

David Porter, Unilever’s vice-president of media for Asia, Africa and Russia said the partnership was an "in-sourcing" model, adding that the group was "looking at a number of was to bring external marketing services closer" to Unilever staff.

​The move from Unilever to work with WPP comes amid ongoing agency cuts in the FMCG space. Last year alone, Unilever was able to invest an additional €250m into media buying and in-store advertising after slashing the number of agencies it worked with and bringing certain elements of its marketing mix in-house.

The fresh collaboration will now see the likes of Ogilvy, Mindshare and Wunderman, work alongside startups, such like Celtra, Unruly and Viddsee at Unilever’s Level3 co-working space in Singapore.

It will be led by Sudipto Roy, managing director for media and data, and Team Unilever for Asia, Africa, Russia.

“We have taken a fresh approach to the ‘Team WPP’ design. Instead of designing around the brand or the category, we have designed around capabilities and intelligence in order to solve business problem,” explained Roy.

“We have access to cutting edge technology and new products across every pillar of the Unilever marketing framework through the startup community in Unilever Foundry. We look forward to collaborating with them to deliver breakthrough models, communications and consumer connections products.”

Unilever Foundry also unveiled a new advisory board for Level3 in April, naming the likes of Rajan Anandan, vice-president of Southeast Asia and India at Google, Daryl Arnold, chairman of Newton Circus, Maximillian Bittner, founder and advisor of Lazada as new board members.

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After #MeToo, C4’s £1m Diversity in Advertising award to focus on ‘portrayal of women’

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Channel 4’s ‘Diversity in Advertising’ competition has returned for the third year, this time asking advertisers to focus on how women are portrayed.

The initiative offers £1m of free airtime to any advertiser who best responds to a brief set by the broadcaster. In 2016 it was the representation of disability, won by Mars, and then non-visible disabilities which was won by Lloyds Bank in 2017.

In light of the #MeToo movement, the centenary of the right to vote and the focus on gender pay gaps, Channel 4 said it wanted ad creatives to create campaigns which would “challenge engrained stereotypes, objectification and sexualisation of women”.

A recent study found that there are twice as many male characters in adverts than female characters and that when women do appear, they are most likely to be younger (in their 20s, compared to men who are in their 20s, 30s and 40s).

“There are campaigns already on our screens which represent women in a positive and appropriate manner – but sadly there just aren’t enough of them,” said Channel 4’s head of agency and client sales and commercial marketing Matt Salmon.

“This year we’re looking for an ad that really stands out even from the positive ads we’ve seen before. We want a campaign that’s a beacon for the issue, an idea that calls out the challenges and makes a really positive statement to our audiences.

“The winning ad shouldn’t be representative of what the future ‘norm’ should be, it should act as a catalyst for the change in mindset we’d like to see within the industry.”

The deadline for this year’s entries is 9 July 2018. A shortlist will be announced on 17 July before the winner is announced in September and the campaign will be on air in early 2019.

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