A headline recently stopped me in my tracks: “Marketers don’t practice ROI they preach.”
The Ad Age story revealed the “emperor has no clothes” truth about much marketing spending: it is often tough to quantify marketing impact, even tougher to forecast ROI.
It cited a Columbia University/American Marketing Association survey of senior marketers that found 57% don’t use anticipated ROI as a criterion when setting budgets. Twenty-eight percent admitted they based budget decisions on gut instinct.
Having spent the last decade studying, and often defending, cause marketing, this news about the state of overall marketing made me laugh. It outed the hypocrisy of some critics of cause marketing -- the strategy of achieving business goals by linking companies and brands to social causes – who argue that it is too difficult to measure the impact of campaigns designed to do well by doing good.
There is nothing unique about the challenges of measuring or anticipating cause marketing impact. Cause marketers face the same bevy of challenges that confronts other types of marketers:
My point is not that cause marketers shouldn’t be analytically rigorous and data based. They absolutely should be. It’s dumb not to do your best to use data to plan effectively and build measurement into campaign designs. And if a cause marketing campaign can’t deliver business and social dividends, it should be fixed or dropped.
On the other hand, cause marketers should stop beating themselves up about the difficulty of measuring the business impacts of their programs. It’s a major challenge for most marketers.
I’m happy to report that research for an upcoming book uncovered an expanding body of data-rich case cause marketing studies shared by businesses like Procter & Gamble, Marks & Spencer, Subaru of America and General Mills. For example:
These and others provide hard evidence that well conceived and executed marketing and corporate social initiatives can build a better world and the bottom line.