Back in the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin optimistically noted, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” Even in simpler times that was advice well taken. But in today’s more complex marketplace, where marketers are discovering that the newest member of their teams is the CFO, having actual knowledge about your ROI have taken on greater import.

People are cynical about ROI, but after years of validated research we can confidently say that loyalty-based engagement metrics are always a leading-indicator, predictive measure of consumer behavior.

And this week we’re presenting just that – a 21st century view of predictive ROI – at the 75th Anniversary Annual Conference for the Advertising Research Foundation, the results of a 12-category, in-market validation study.

ABC TV and Brand Keys define “engagement” as the consequence of any marketing, media, or communication effort that results in increased levels of brand equity, where consumers end up “seeing” the brand as better meeting their conception of the category Ideal. This approach has been independently proven to be a leading-indicator of behavior and, axiomatically, since more positive consumer behavior should produce more returns on efforts, can provide marketers with a real proxy for ROI.

Happily, any brand, ad, media platform, or consumer consumption model can be measured for engagement in this manner. Engagement metrics can even identify a suitable medium and combinations of media platforms for brands, providing value above and beyond exposure, audience numbers and CPMs. By adopting a new engagement-powered ROI paradigm, marketers, media companies, and planners can not only guarantee that brands will better connect with consumers but can now predict returns on their investments.

Oh, and finally resolve that thorny definition of a cynic, the one about being a person who has knowledge of the price of everything and the value of nothing.

With real engagement metrics marketers can now know both.