While the research raises the hugely important issue of what any of this means and what it does for the business as a whole, I think marketers can be easy prey sometimes. Let's start out by confessing that awareness and engagement do not actually sell a single item in themselves. The fact that someone know a company sells stationery and has liked a post means they are both aware and engaged, but until they start ordering pens and pencils, it has not meant a whole lot to the board.
However, to be devil's advocate for a moment, without any form of awareness or engagement there can be no sale, surely? So, marketers aren't wholly wrong to look at ways in which they have improved awareness of a brand's products and services and engaged a potential customer in a conversation, even if it is as short an interaction as hitting 'like.'
Stopping here, however, is where the problems lie. For marketers to think that this is enough is self-delusionary. There has to be some correlation between marketing spend and the customer spend it directly translates to online or the potential accounts it opens up for sales to seal the deal on. Sales and leads, that's the language of the board and marketing most definitely needs to get talking in those terms if it is to move beyond a "fluffy" business units that fudges metrics around "shares" and "favourites" building a body who know about the brand and seem to like it.
So I would take issue with an unqualified accusation that marketers are living in "la la land" because they consider awareness and engagement as important. Sure, they shouldn't be the final be all and end all that a campaign is ultimately measured by. However, they're pretty good indications of future intent, aren't they?
It's also unfair to say marketers have their heads in the sand if it's not made clear what the final metric is they should be looking at. If engagement and awareness are not sufficient, what is? I doubt very much if there are marketing departments out there who have no regard for sales levels and are not investigating how to attribute marketing activity to sales dips and rises. The trouble is, people expect digital marketing to be instant and its effect to be obvious from the word go. However, that's just not fair. Just as billboards and press ads aren't always price-led promotions designed to get an instant response, digital marketing is also playing its part in helping people move from awareness to consideration to purchase. This is not always an overnight process. Just think about the expensive stuff in your house. Most televisions, smartphones, couches, cookers, cars and washing machines are usually only replaced after a span or a couple to ten or more years has elapsed or if an item breaks down out of warranty. They are not instant purchases and people are not thinking about them too much until a decision has to be made and, right there, it's useful to have some kind of awareness and engagement to get your brand on that consideration list.
So, yes, Fournaise probably has a point that some marketers in some instances need to get more of a business brain and measure success in the same way the wider organisation does. But saying marketers live in "la la land" is more about getting a headline than reflecting the true state of the industry. Sure sales are the ultimate metric but leads don't happen out of thin air, they're not instantly created, most will have gone through a level of awareness and engagement at some point.