Measure for Measure

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 Al Merschen

No pain, no gain. No risk, no return. No guts, no glory. You can’t win if you don’t play.

We've all heard them before – classic expressions that apply to work, sports and life in general.  

But in marketing, things have changed. When we look to develop new advertising and promotional campaigns today, it seems like measurement has taken over for meaning and impact. There was a time when creative campaigns had a longer life cycle. Agencies would pitch smart, original ideas to supportive clients ready to make a true impact. We waited to see if we had results (and when we talked about results, we meant sales). Yes, it took awhile to see the results, but the campaign needed time to run and have the opportunity to gain some momentum – and familiarity. Right or wrong, we had breathing room for things to develop. Admittedly, today’s robust measurement tools were not available to us back then. But there was real gutsy creativity.

Now, before I sound too much like the old man in the room, this is the same argument I hear about someone’s tattoo. Their creative confidence in their tattoo makes a strong statement. It’s not based on testing; it’s based on conviction for the (very) long term – something I sincerely admire. 

Yet, it seems that in the last few years we have forgotten this creativity-first principle, pulling back from investing in planning for the sake of other immediate-response innovations. Somehow, we have confused measurement with ROI. Strategy that involves CPM, CBC, CPA or some other benchmark has become the guiding light for marketing and advertising. 

In the midst of admiration for companies that took a big risk in developing a new app or a new social economy, we once again forgot how to do that in marketing and advertising. What happened to the Apple “1984” ad? 

Today, it would be tested by three focus groups with alternate endings. It would be evaluated by a social media index response after the ad ran. And it would be classified as a failure because not enough influencers blogged about it.

There was a time when marketing was considered the artistic side of business. It was the one area outside of economics, accounting and management that brought a truly creative tone to the industry. It was the place where you could do something that no one else had ever tried. Hopefully it was successful, but even when it was unsuccessful, you were applauded for trying. 

More importantly, campaigns were created. And when I say campaigns, I don't mean ads that lasted for three to four weeks. I mean concepts that would last for years. True positioning. True confidence in that positioning. And the conviction that carries the brand to success.  

Maybe it’s time to take a hard look at strategic campaign concepts. And stay with them. Look at New Zealand's “100% Pure,” Malaysia's "Truly Asia" and Las Vegas’ "What happens..."

It’s time to have confidence and conviction. 

Marketing used to be the guy at the party that everyone would want to date. Now, it has to go through Tinder just to find somebody interesting. 

We can do better.

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