Brand Marketers Still Reliant on Click-Throughs to Measure

With all the talk about the need for better and more standardized online marketing metrics, it may come as a surprise that many marketers still don’t use many of the metrics already accepted. Especially when it comes to branding campaigns, many digital efforts are still measured primarily by the most basic of barometers: clicks.

In surveying 119 digital marketers from companies of various sizes, Forrester Research found that, even though the metric has fallen from favor over the years, click-throughs are relied on more so than any other measurement for branding campaigns. Indeed, for branding efforts, the click metric is used by 35 percent of those surveyed. That far outpaces the next closest metric, brand awareness, which is used by around 13 percent of respondents.

“Those that call themselves brand marketers online are not really the true type of brand marketer that you think of [from] a traditional agency,” explained Forrester Research Senior Analyst Emily Riley, an author of the firm’s new “Committing to Meaningful Metrics” report. While agencies tend to devote more experienced staff to digital campaigns, and rely on more sophisticated means of measuring them, many brand marketing teams place their junior execs on the digital job. And oftentimes, those people are not up to snuff when it comes to the most appropriate ways to measure branding campaigns.

“It’s very rare to have brand expertise online even for some of the best marketers out there,” Riley said. Money is a big reason. According to Riley, many companies devote only around 2 to 3 percent of their overall brand advertising budgets to the Web.

“With brand marketing, there just hasn’t been a lot of dollars attached to it…We forget that the Internet is still emerging,” she said, noting, “If you look at the history of the Web, it’s a direct response medium.”

Just 14 percent of study respondents measure brand awareness as a key performance indicator, said the research firm, which suggests brand marketers use qualitative measurements gleaned through focus groups or surveys.

Direct response marketers, on the other hand, rely far less on basic metrics like clicks and impressions, and more on tangible measurements such as leads. Over 20 percent of survey participants use the number of leads and sales generated as a gauge for marketing success, and over 30 percent use the number of qualified leads. Nearly 80 percent of survey respondents work for companies that spent less than $10 million on marketing worldwide in 2008.

Forrester found that marketers are naive about social media measurement, and the company recommends they start by using brand metrics for social media campaigns, as well. Recently, digital agency Razorfish unveiled a metric for social media measurement. The scoring system is intended to determine a brand’s share of voice and the overall sentiment of discussions surrounding it.

“A lot of [social] marketers have brand goals,” said Riley, who believes that as marketers begin to spend more on digital branding and social media campaigns, measurement of both “will kind of grow up together.”

Part of the problem leading to insufficient use of branding-specific metrics is that publishers usually don’t provide much beyond click rates and impressions in their reports to advertisers, and many advertisers are not willing to cough up the extra money for more robust analytics technologies.

Until online budgets increase, that may not change, said Riley.

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