Do we rely too much on clicks to measure success?

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I bet we would agree on this: if we asked people, the vast majority would say they didn’t want to hear about your product. If they could opt not to see branded communications, not to hear about your new product, in most cases they would say “No thanks.” Ask yourself; if you had a button which could switch off all advertisements, would you press it?

In conversation the other day, I was told that 88% of people, when asked, would prefer not to see advertisements. That information got me thinking; what a pointless thing to ask. My malevolence towards the statement did not stem from the percentage figure, which I can only assume to be true, my gripe was with the scenario and the question, which in our society cannot and will not ever exist.

A more relevant question to ask in this research would have been, “Would you rather pay to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and ITV, or use them for free but see intermittent ads?” This is the reality of the situation and a question I believe, as marketers and retailers, we do not ask ourselves enough – if at all. If people are just tolerating advertising to avoid paying for services, what, as marketers, are we doing? Just throwing rocks at people’s heads? Surely the least we can do, out of common courtesy, is throw them an interesting and relevant rock?

The rise of connected living and indeed the injection of the internet into the marketing mix brings another twist over the traditional marketing communications strategies. We can now measure our content and value very easily. But with all forms of measurement, the output is only as good as the input and interpretation.

In our quest to deliver content that people find valuable, and with the abundance of data and the hundreds of different metrics and readings available today to online advertisers, it is very easy to dupe ourselves into thinking that people enjoyed our forced intrusion into their consciousness. Knowing which figures are relevant is paramount to truly understand performance. A unique hit does not necessarily mean it’s unique, in fact it does not even mean it’s a physical person at all. From 15 million unique visitors to the UK’s top 25 brands digital ads containing Slingshots from August – December 2013, 76% of them left before 10 seconds, which means only 24% of incoming visitors to campaigns actually stayed long enough to read more than 30 words.

Obviously this is inefficient spend of marketing and trade budget but the person who really loses out in this scenario is the consumer. David Ogilvy once said, “Some people use research like a drunkard uses a lamppost; for support, not illumination.” When businesses start to accidentally believe that their communications are what people want to hear it’s to the detriment of good, useful and valuable communications. There is only one metric in our industry which is infallible and that is “purchase.” The product either went through a register because of your actions or it did not. Knowing if a person went on to buy your product is the only true measure of persuasive success and knowing if they have bought your product previously before you communicate to them, is one of the first steps towards more efficient targeting.

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