The differences between effectiveness and efficiency

Charles Channon

If effectiveness is doing the right thing, and efficiency is doing it the right way, why should the two be in conflict? The trouble is that efficiency ('getting more bang for your buck') is easier to measure – and can be made to seem the only measure. It is rational, functional, and factual – but not necessarily benign, because simplistic efficiency measures can so easily be abused – and can distort. The yawning gap between the two were highly visible at the Boston Anglo-American research leaders' seminar Last year.

Two 'guru' definitions

The marketing intelligentsia have long since agreed that effectiveness is about 'doing the right thing' and efficiency is about 'doing something the right way'. These are excellent definitions at the level of generality at which they are offered, and at first sight it is not easy to see how they could ever come into conflict. But in the field of marketing and advertising they can come into conflict, and not just in the ways that generated the original insight. Preferred ways of doing things (in this case, in monitoring advertising performance) can influence what we do (in this case, to the advertising, the advertising strategy and the budget).

Effectiveness and efficiency