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Brandstand: What exactly are we measuring?

Relationship measurability can be defined as the ‘reasonably long-term’ spontaneous willingness to become a customer of the brand, not influenced by tactical incentives. Everything that a brand does is designed to provoke this larger connection of patronage

From its very inception, the credibility of marketing communications has been defined by the ability to be accountable. The Media Planning industry developed smart metrics that conferred surrogate measurability to TV and print messaging, defensible interims to the ultimate tally of market performance. In this new age of integrated messaging, the challenge has grown manifold, demanding a fresh look at the thinking behind the numbers.

Much of the current confusion arises from the apparent measurability of the digital media, in terms of the transaction dimensions. Each time a person clicks on a button, it is intent for action, further refined by sharper analytical tools. This also proved to be a valuable conduit for offline interactions; when you evince interest in a holiday package, the follow-up call would help further the engagement. Essentially, each time there was an active-motor response to a digital stimulus, it furthered the cause of evangelists, unlike the black-box response of the traditional media, assessable only by post-facto complicated research. Over time, this led to the propagation of artificial intelligence, such behaviour patterns leading to demand soothsayers, further enhancing the blue-chip stature of this glorious new age.

Life would be a perfect place, courtesy such technology, if not for the fickleness of the human mind. Quite intuitively, we have been conniving to outsmart the over-smart technology, finding our own ways to remain the boss in the man-versus-machine tussle. We search for fares in farecompare.com but proceed to book the ticket via the cheapest provider. A fabulous digital film may generate a million likes but the customer applies an entirely different set of measures to transact, depending on rooted category insight. Interactive campaigns generate the dialogue but often act in isolation of purchase behaviour, Facebook initiatives often the biggest casualty because it ends up becoming a bigger brand than the advertiser. Linkedin is an employment exchange and thus works brilliantly as an interactive Yellow Pages for recruitment, the relationship sharply dependant on the outcomes. The distance between consumers and brands is greater than ever before, the apparent transparency masking a far more unfathomable relationship.

To get genuine clarity, it is thus important to push back, relax and decipher what we are truly trying to measure, or rather what is the achievable possibility. For starters, we must distinguish simplistically between relationship measurability and transactional measurability, the latter being deciphered first. Transactions can be of two kinds, leading to monetisation or veering towards engagement and the stimulus can be derived from any kind of media. So, an advertisement for a discounted offer on bigbasket.com can be measured by the number of people who availed of the published coupon code, just as the interactive response to an Asian Paints campaign can assess the quantity of interest. However, in the case of the second, it is impossible to connect this to the potential for transaction, rendering it quite useless. So, in my assessment, such interactive engagements make sense only if it adds up to a larger relationship measurability, which is where the real challenge lies.

Relationship measurability can be defined as the ‘reasonably long-term’ spontaneous-willingness to become a customer of the brand, not influenced by tactical incentives. Everything that a brand does, new-age or old-age, including schemes and discounts, are designed to provoke this larger connection of patronage. This includes the digital or TV film, the fancy integrated campaign or sophisticated accountable initiatives promoted by the new-media majors, in the guise of performance marketing. The solution lies clearly in sophisticated new-age consumer panels, inspired by the rigour of traditional marketers but armed with the precision tools possible in today’s world. This panel will operate all through the year, feeding the business with real-time inputs on the state of relationship that can actively influence live campaigns. Leading finally to a genuine brand measurement tool, not just the transaction analysis that exists successfully or the other measures that are quite useless.

So, what exactly will the relationship measurability cover? It will be devised on a transaction base, actual or potential and not emotional affiliation, thus conforming to contemporary sensibilities. Thus, the customers will be segmented on their fluency of transacting — non-existent, occasional, regular and frequent. The accurate assumption being that the relationship must be fundamentally judged by exposure, multiplicity adding desirable layers of long-term association. At every level of the panel, the levels of likeability, bonding and affiliation must be tested, calibrated on the basic nuance that customers must be analysed basis the money they have spent on the brand, to get the future sorted. What we are eventually trying to decipher is the gradation of the emotional relationship in the context of the business relationship, the outcome of continued exposure.

It is a considered submission that our approach to measurability of communication is fundamentally flawed, as we do not know what must be measured. For starters, we must distinguish between transaction and relationship, applicable across media old and new. Then, we must decide what we want to know and then get to know what we want.

(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: shivajidasgupta@inexgro.com)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of BestMediaInfo.com and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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