Measuring The Outcome Of Marketing Activity

Helen Beirne
Alison Drummond
Carat Insight
Matthew Dodd
News International

Marketing and communications work in one or both of the following ways:

  • they influence customer attitudes
  • they affect behaviour.

Econometric modelling helps us investigate impacts on behaviour but other approaches are necessary to understand effects on attitudes.

To date, the traditional approach has been to identify the client's advertising communications, draw a sample from the population, ask them whether they recall seeing any advertising, and then ask them to agree or disagree with a set of brand image statements. This approach has a number of limitations.

Weaknesses of traditional tracking

  1. Generally, only 'managed' communications are assessed. There are, however, other forms of activity ('managed', for example coupons and on-pack promotions, and 'unmanaged', for example competitor activity), plus experience of the brand, that are likely to have a major influence on a consumer's perception and attitude towards a brand. Without taking these into account, a realistic picture of the consumerbrand relationship cannot be fully understood (1).
  2. Frequently, the sample is too broad (i.e. adults or a demographic segment), and does not take into account interest in the product field or attitudinal differences. Different people respond differently to the same experiences and communication (2). Hence, one segment of the population may have a positive response and another a negative one. The net result is no apparent effect overall.
  3. There is evidence that advertising recall is a poor measure of exposure when evaluating holistic communications (see for example (3) and (4)). Generally, recall tends to overestimate the contribution of TV and underestimates that of other media. It also works in favour of market leaders.
  4. Often, consumers do not talk or think about brands in the way that we do. Unless we speak to them in 'their' language, this can lead to them giving senseless answers to apparently pointless questions. Where questions are unclear, they often give non-committal responses.

New thinking