Marketing for the sake of great data and reaching key performance indicators is one of the most bogus focal points in the current state of marketing. Of course, measurement is one of the internal cornerstones of business, but some powers that be deem it the only true way of testing your company’s progress. I say no, it certainly is not.
We often get so caught up in the hard numbers surrounding initiatives that we lose sight of those underlying, inherent and immeasurable factors that equally determine outcomes. This leads to boring campaigns and ideas that push numbers, not build the soul of a brand.
Businesses, like people, have an essence that’s not quantifiable. While there isn’t an algorithm to measure those qualities, there is a weighty presence and impact on the company that can be felt when one or more of them are absent. Here are five of those KPIs whose true impact usually cannot be measured until they go away.
I’ve been a loyal Nike customer since elementary school. I haven’t been swayed to the store by ads or catchy social media campaigns; I’ve been loyal to the brand because of its essence – the messages they’ve used over time (“Just Do It”), how they’ve expanded their vision, and the mission they stand for. The smart decisions Nike makes to sign the right athletes, maintain superior quality and stay relevant to consumers resonate with me. While I guarantee there’s no one in Nike’s marketing department who could measure “Nicole’s 30+ years of brand loyalty,” they would be able to measure the loss of my loyal, consistent business over time. So while there’s no definitive way to measure it, loyalty is perhaps the most reliable indicator of customer behavior.
How much do you love a brand? If I’ve only purchased one necklace from Tiffany & Co., I doubt their internal team would measure me as a “brand lover.” But what they can’t see through hard purchase numbers is how much I adore the elegance and timelessness of Tiffany’s, the films it’s inspired, the gifts I’ve received or themed events thrown in its image. While you may not be able to measure the love of your brand, you can nurture that love by building your “image.” The fact that I love a brand means I’ll willingly talk about it to my peers and on social media. Brand ambassadors can be “bought” so their posts become measurable KPIs of business, but genuine lovers of your company are true, free champions of the brand – if they love you.
This immeasurable KPI is most visible in crisis comms situations. Unfortunately, many brands don’t think to plan ahead for negative situations. Take athletes: You have the Michael Jordans of the world – tremendous, game-changing athletes who take it upon themselves to give back. They could easily just show up on the court, exercise their athletic prowess and retreat back to private life. But when they step out to donate, volunteer or put their influence behind causes, they’re doing positive PR for themselves, proactively and preemptively. That positivity enhances their opportunities for endorsements, expands their audience and earns new fans.
However, in Tiger Woods-like cases, you’ll feel the blow to your brand when the positivity surrounding it suddenly vanishes. Unfortunately, his publicity team (if there was one) didn’t step up soon enough to help him with a simple “I’m sorry” message and next steps to “make things better” before his personal brand diminished. This goes for companies and executives, too. Keep a strategic comms team in place at all times if you don’t want to feel the blow of a blown image.
There’s no measurable “trust” KPI that’s developed overnight. Why? Because just like any relationship, trust is built over time through proven products, market validation, public support and media coverage. A great example of how trust is built can be found in an experimental new drug. At its inception, it can be a huge gift to mankind meant for immediate market use. But without clinical trials, high success percentages, FDA approval, doctor endorsements, patient testimonials and convincing campaigns, the treatment has no clout and thus, no trustworthiness. While those aspects of earning trust are measurable KPIs, the trust in the brand itself is a hard-earned and ever-changing indicator of success. When a brand is new, it cannot expect anybody to ‘trust’ it just yet. This is why proactive PR needs to be part of every company’s long-game. While you might not have the budget to spend on massive marketing campaigns, you have to start somewhere and look at it more as a snowball effect, with trust building over time.
While those aspects of earning trust are measurable KPIs, the trust in the brand itself is a hard-earned and ever-changing indicator of success. When a brand is new, it cannot expect anybody to ‘trust’ it just yet. This is why proactive PR needs to be part of every company’s long-game. While you might not have the budget to spend on massive marketing campaigns, you have to start somewhere and look at it more as a snowball effect, with trust building over time.
This is a hefty KPI, as the lifespan of a company is often a reflection of a healthy brand image, public relations and smart marketing. Google and Microsoft are excellent examples; they not only utilize strategic PR but have created massive internal PR machines. The PR teams are there every time there’s a win, loss, or need to skate around something gracefully. Without successful PR, the company dies. Some say, “PR is not the ER,” but when done correctly, PR is capable of resuscitating a brand and increasing its lifespan. While longevity isn’t something that fits into a typical report, a brand’s staying power is one of its most impactful, ignored KPIs.
As brand essence-focused marketers, like Quest Nutrition CCO Bruce Cardenas has said to me, marketers need to stop getting lost in the numbers and remember that brand-building requires looking at things that make brands relatable, likable and trustworthy. While there aren’t always data points to immediately gauge these factors, we usually see the true value they bring to any brand over time or when they’re gone. When we expand our standard of what qualifies as a key performance indicator, our audience will feel that essence behind the business grow and ultimately lead to continued success.
Note: this article originally appeared in Forbes Magazine.
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