A realistic view of the almighty metric

Hardly a day goes by when a headline doesn’t proclaim the death of branding at the hands of the almighty, all-measurable Internet. Yes, measurement is important and whenever possible we should drive toward direct metrics. But here’s our collective challenge: The vast majority of retail commerce still takes place offline — nearly 90% overall in 2008 and higher for key brand categories like automotive, according to Lehman Brothers Internet Data Book June 2008. ?

Thus, for most marketers evaluated on success in driving offline sales, online metrics such as clicks, interaction rates and Web site visits are likely to be less useful than proven brand marketing tools such as awareness/favorability, purchase intent, reach or frequency. These metrics certainly aren’t perfect, but they’re tested, understood and comparable to metrics from other media.?

What we brand marketers don’t talk about enough is how the Internet can be used to measure brand metrics. Today, we can easily, accurately and economically measure important attitudinal metrics online. Econometric measurement also has made real advancements, making it possible in certain categories to develop statistically significant ROI models matching offline purchase data to online ad exposure. ?

Econometrics is not the holy grail of online measurement. Statistically valid econometric measurement still requires large media budgets. Results are aggregated and delivered months after media stop running. However, econometrics does represent an extremely valuable bridge until online budgets show up routinely in marketing mix models. ?

While the online brand industry still a way to go, its foundation is strong, recent progress has been tremendous and measurement capabilities are improving. Marketers must balance using measurement technologies to stay on the cutting edge, but also remain realistic about what’s possible and practical given available tools. So, let us measure wherever we can, not fear to act where we cannot yet measure precisely and, while we evolve, remember that brand marketing fundamentals are as important as ever, even online.?

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