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?”