CMOs Want To Know: Which Naked Disney Princess Are You?

No worries, today’s column is not about anything naked, Disney or princesses. But it is true that marketers both directly and indirectly keep this kind of clickbait nonsense alive. How?

First of all, by continuing to chase cheap over quality by buying via non-transparent programmatic platforms whose only virtue is low cost (even if more than 50% of that low cost is wasted on bot views and paying a whole host of middlemen).

But secondly, by declaring customer engagement as the new gold standard to deliver. According to data from The Economist Intelligence Unit, over 60% of marketers state that “customer engagement” is best defined as “customer purchases, repeat purchases, retention.” In other words, the highest level of engagement a consumer can have with a brand is by actually buying the product. Didn’t we used to call that measurement yardstick “sales”?

In the olden days, media folk, research nerds and advertisers (not yet grown up to be marketers) debated, at length, whether TV GRPs translated to sales, typically translated by “purchase intent.”  Models were developed, theories on effective reach -- no, wait, effective frequency -- no, forget that, reach AND frequency, were developed, tested and refined. And just when the industry was getting comfortable with some kind of relationship between media weight and purchase intent, the whole media ecosystem blew up thanks to digital.

And now look at the mess we created.

As a result of customer engagement replacing purchase intent, the whole industry is looking for a measure that can be used as indicator for the new top of the marketing measurement pyramid. How do you measure “customer engagement” when that means “purchase” or “retention”?

Well, simple. Literally, consumer engagement means that consumers “do something” when they are exposed to the message, right? So what you want is likes, shares, and comments. And how do you get those? By spending outsized amounts of time and disproportionate amounts of money on brand activations on Periscope, Snapchat or sponsored Buzzfeed polls (hence the naked Disney Princess reference in the title today). My colleague Joseph Jaffe calls those tactics “fireworks”:  because, once the shiny display is over, the night is dark, as if nothing had happened.

Don’t get me wrong. Using a multifaceted mix of touch points is absolutely relevant. Understanding which touch points have the highest probability of reaching your core consumers is a must. Having smart creatives who can translate your brand’s goals and messages into relevant touch-point content is gold.

But please, start with the end in mind. If engagement = sales, then surely that needs to be what you measure. Don’t let your agency or digital media sales rep get away with the engagement = likes/shares/comments equation as an acceptable proxy.
To Buzzfeed’s credit, it shares a number of brand cases on its advertising section that actually speak about a higher level of measurement. It even uses the words “purchase intent” a few times.

So if Buzzfeed can, so should you. That means working with those digital platforms in your plan that are included to deliver customer engagement, and drilling down in the data to understand if they can prove (or even measure) “engagement = sales.” No data available? Negotiate to have it included as part of your plan. No insights? No investment!

And please don’t fall for the fireworks trap of trying to create something “buzzy,” because you will always lose to stupid content like “Which foods should you marry?”

4 comments about "CMOs Want To Know: Which Naked Disney Princess Are You?".
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  1. Ravi Shankar from Lion Digital, February 23, 2016 at 9:34 a.m.

    This is really an interesting article, I guess it’s fair to say that engagement is not sales, what about engagement rate. We always talk about engagement on ad that is clicks, likes, comments and shares but we never think/talk/measure the engagements on the website. Just think about all the micro actions that people are doing before actually making the sale. If we can just create our websites where there is chance for the customers to engage and tag our website precisely to segment the engagements, we can make a fare statement that engagements = Sales. If you are not doing the above you are actually not tapping into the passion of consumers whose nature is to engage more than buying (proven by social networks)

  2. Mark Eberra from ONE BILLION LIVE Inc., February 23, 2016 at 1:39 p.m.

    Yes Ravi, but businesses ( the ones that buy advertising ) are not social networks. These companies need to make sales to consumers. Therefore any network offering advertising should offer guaranteed sales increases to the advertiser. Because at the end of the day, a customer making a purchase is the only metric that counts!

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 23, 2016 at 2:58 p.m.

    Mark, why should an ad seller take the responsibility of guarantiing sales for an advertiser when the ad seller has no control lover the quality of the product, its pricing, it's value to the consumer or whether its ad campaign is making an effective sales pitch? All that the ad seller should be responsible for is giving the advertiser 100% viewability for its ads and exposure in the content adjacencies or positions negotiated for when said exposure desired. That's all.

  4. John Grono from GAP Research, February 23, 2016 at 6:22 p.m.

    Ed, you beat me to it.   But I'd add that the seller is responsible for all of what you say ... but at or better than the negotiated price.

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