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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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Marketing

UK programmatic ad spend to surpass £3bn in 2017

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How UK programmatic ad spend will rise over the next two years in £bn

By the end of 2017, UK advertisers will have spent £3.39bn on programmatic advertising, up 23.5% compared to last year, according to a new report from eMarketer.

Programmatic spend now represents 79% of all UK digital display ad spend, with this proportion expected to reach 84.5% by 2019. Predictably, mobile continues to be a major growth driver, accounting for 78% of total programmatic digital display ad spend in 2017 – this figure is forecast to climb to 86.5% by 2019.

By comparison, the programmatic numbers for desktop are on the decline. Just 22% of programmatic ad spend, or £743.8m, will be spent on desktop this year, and this figure is expected to fall 13.5% to £609.5m in two years’ time.

By 2019, the total UK spend on programmatic advertising is expected to more than doubled from £1.99bn in 2015 to a much larger £4.52bn. But despite programmatic’s meteoric rise, not everybody remains convinced.

Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson has linked the rise in programmatic with brand safety issues at the likes of YouTube. And speaking at this year’s Festival of Marketing, Lidl’s head of media Sam Gaunt said the marketing industry is “guilty of overselling programmatic”.

“For all the debate around fraud and viewability, the reality is programmatic is very expensive,” he said. “It’s a premium media. When you stack up the cost of it with traditional media and then weigh up the impacts, it can be hard to justify. You also have no idea where your advertising will end up.”

However, eMarketer’s senior analyst Fisher insists the marketing industry is making positive strides to win back trust from advertisers. He concludes: “The programmatic ecosystem is growing because it’s maturing.

“This maturation is leading to better practices, better behaviour and better transparency. Making everybody in the chain accountable is the next step in cleaning up programmatic’s image further and helping spend rise further.”

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Pro skier Julian Carr crowdfunding Super Bowl ad to raise global warming awareness

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Pro skier and entrepreneur Julian Carr has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in hopes of raising the $5.5m needed to buy 30 seconds of air time during Super Bowl LII.

Carr, who is an ambassador for nonprofits Protect Our Winters and the Climate Reality Project, plans to air an ad about global warming if he raises the necessary funds. He’s tapped San Francisco’s Goodby Silverstein & Partners to help him produce the spot, which has agreed to create it pro bono.

According to GS&P, Carr was inspired to create the ad after President Trump announced his plans to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement, which aims to prevent global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“America is the biggest polluter in history. Yet only one in eight Americans know there’s a consensus among the scientific community that global warming is caused by humans,” said Carr in a statement. “Together, we can raise awareness in front of 110 million Americans about global warming and let our people know what’s at stake. Because only when we acknowledge the problem can we truly fight it.”

His Kickstarter page says that those who contribute are paying not just for a "large audience," but for "silent focus."

"We are paying for silent focus: Tens of millions of people quietly watching Super Bowl commercials and actually talking about their favorite moments of corporate branding," the page states. "We are paying for exposure: Super Bowl ads are watched and re-watched – on Twitter, on Facebook, on YouTube, and on next-day rankings and analyses across the internet."

The page also states that the project will only be funded if Carr raises the $5.5m by Dec. 22. He plans to spend $5.2m on the production of the commercial, leaving the remaining $300,000 for Kickstarter fees.

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Google’s new custom intent audiences and you

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In mid-November, pre-empting the hellish holiday shopping season, Google unveiled a slew of new features designed to help advertisers maximize their AdWords budgets. While promotion extensions and ad variations are neat and all, the thing I’m most stoked about is the new custom intent audiences feature on Google Display Network (GDN).

If you haven’t checked out Ginny Marvin’s quick summary of what they are (linked above), here’s the gist: Custom intent audiences offer advertisers the opportunity to use the GDN to find “people who want to buy the specific products you offer — based on data from your campaigns, website and YouTube channel.” They come in two distinct flavors:

  • Create-your-own. Like a trip to your favorite pizza chain (but for the GDN), you can mash topics and URLs together like mushrooms and pepperoni in order to target net-new prospects who are probably into your product or service.

[Read the full article on Search Engine Land.]

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