Why Marketing Maligns Measurement

Kim Johnston, vice president of global sales and marketing operations at Symantec Corporation, gave a killer presentation at the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit last week in Washington D.C. This computer science major turned math economics graduate is running her marketing department by the numbers. But she still gets excited about branding and loves the creative side's ability to connect the product value to the hearts and minds of her customers.

The ah-ha moment for me and many in the audience (the response was audible) was a diagram she showed of all the marketing campaigns running for just one of their products. It included online ads, email marketing, Incredible Hulk co-branded arcade games, in-store advertising, TiVo-tizing, an eighteen-wheeler demo truck, private movie screenings and a whole lot more. It was one of those unreadable slides that left you with the impression that it was all a little too complex to be managed by mere mortals.

Kim said she looked at all the promotions that were not delivering measurable results and cut them. She then cut all the projects that were not being measured. The new diagram showed almost half of the programs had vanished. The result? More than 20% lift in response for the same dollar. The reasoning is unassailable. The numbers speak for themselves. The political ability to pull it off? Priceless.

But what really got me was a bit of insight she shared after her presentation, when I got her alone for a spirited conversation. I asked her my favorite question: "What's the hard part?"

Turns out it's the same at Symantec as it is almost every other company I work with -- getting people to undertake the whole measurement process. But here, it was for a different reason. We talked about the human aversion to being measured: that queasy feeling of people scoring how much they like you on a scale of one to ten. But Kim's problem is even bigger, more ingrained and probably more prevalent than I had imagined. "My people are OK with the idea and are actually hungry for the numbers -- but it's just one more damned thing," she told me. "They're slammed trying to get their best work out the door as it is."

Besides doing more with less, we're asking people to add a page tag here and a reporting mechanism there -- and it's just one more straw on the camel's back. Everything we can do to make the counting and reporting a little easier will boost productivity, increase results and allow the marketing department a little more time to do that which drew them into the business in the first place: Be creative. It doesn't take a degree in math economics to figure that out -- but it helps.

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