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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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Digital

JWT partners with University of Sydney to explore tech-driven creativity

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J. Walter Thompson has formed a partnership with the University of Sydney to explore how technology can be applied to the creative process and develop creative solutions for digital transformation in China.

The partnership will kick off in December 2018 with an Industry and Community Project Unit (ICPU), that will see 16 University of Sydney students from interdisciplinary areas form small teams to develop creative, ethical and context-sensitive solutions over four-week intensive courses. The University introduced ICPUs earlier this year, to provide units of study based on authentic problems and issues set out by industry, community and government organizations.

Students will be based in Sydney for the first week, where they work through the project brief, background research, and information, as well as country information. They then undertake intensive targeted research with their project groups. During weeks two and three, students will work in Shanghai with JWT China.

The final week will be spent back in Sydney, where they write up their assessment task and undertake interactive workshops to encourage critical reflection on their experience and transferability to career development.

“Ultimately the partnership will work towards what actions creative agencies can take now to deliver efficiencies across their business, and to ensure creativity is able to effectively adapt to the implementation of artificial intelligence and new technologies,” said Carter Chow, the chief executive officer of JWT China.

“We're particularly interested in exploring the connection between human and machine learning and how this will change roles in the future. We hope this is the start of many innovative and future-facing topics that both JWT China and the University of Sydney can work together on solving for the creative industry.”

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Circles.Life unveils Discover, its new AI-powered lifestyle feature

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Digital telco Circles.Life has launched an AI-powered feature called Discover in its app to allow customers to explore interesting events happening around the city.

According to the Singapore-based telco, the more Discover is used, the smarter it gets in recommending events that users are most likely to go to. This new feature, which is personalised based on the interests of individuals is available for everyone, including users who are not Circles.Life’s mobile customers.

It is optimised for local events in Singapore, enabling users to explore trending events in the country, customises the event suggestions based on the users’ interests and allows users to share the events on social media, and invite their friends.

“Circles.Life is setting up the world’s most personalized digital platform leveraging its innovative telco stack and proprietary data platform,” said Rameez Ansar, the co-founder of Circles.Life.

“Two years after the launch of what is now the leading no-contract mobile service in Singapore, we are taking a step further. Discover is the first AI-powered product outside our core mobile service. It is available for ALL users inside the Circles.Life app!”

Last month, in an attempt to get consumers to re-evaluate the value of a mobile contract and challenge the assumption that it always saves them money, Circles.Life explained to The Drum why it used the country’s favourite food, chicken rice, to prove its point.

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10 questions with… Carter Murray, chief executive of FCB

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The Drum speaks to people across the global media and marketing sector who are bringing something a little different to the industry and talks to them about what little insights they can offer the rest of us. This week's 10 Questions are answered by FCB chief executive, Carter Murray.

What was your first ever job?

My first ever job was cleaning boats. My first proper, steady job, however, was as an assistant account executive at Leo Burnett Chicago.

Which industry buzzword annoys you most?

“Guru” (as in “marketing guru”). Most people called gurus actually are not. And this misnomer often causes havoc within client organizations and the creative process more generally.

Who would you most love to share a coffee with?

My mother and father. I lost them both two years ago, within six months of each other, and still miss them terribly.

Highlight of your career (so far?)

The first was getting to work with Harry MacAuslan, THE gentleman of advertising (now retired) and the second was persuading Susan Credle to come to FCB and be my creative partner.

What piece of tech can you not live without?

Sadly (and my wife will very much attest to this) – it's my bloody telephone.

What is (in your opinion) the greatest film/album/book of your life?

Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay. I read it when I was thirteen and it absolutely got to me. I loved the boxing, wildlife, Africa and personal narratives, but most of all, the constant reminder to “think first with your head and then with your heart.”

What one question do you never want anyone to ask you?

Why are you so obsessed with dim sum?

Best advice you ever heard or received?

Shut up and listen.

What do you still want to achieve in your career?

Balance.

What industry event is most important to you to attend and why?

Cannes. It saves me multiple trips around the world, as everyone is centralized there, and I get to talk about our industry with some of the most groundbreaking work all around us, to inspire and push us to always do better. It’s always long and busy work hours, but it all happens in a ridiculously civilized setting.

Check out other interviews as part of the 10 Questions With… series.

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