How Brand Marketing Measurement Benefits from Life Lessons in Fitness

runnerEighteen months ago, we launched GroupM Next. At the same time, I decided that after years of playing the part of a road warrior, I should focus a bit more on the warrior part and less on the rubber tire look the road can bring about. Since then, I’ve realized there’s a lot brands can learn from a person’s fitness journey.

I set an unofficial weight goal and began a six-day-a-week weight program with a co-worker. Over time, I became almost maniacal about my morning workouts, religiously there at six a.m. on weekdays when in town and whenever and wherever I could find a gym on the road.

My personal preference is heavy weight routines, so hotel gyms are simply not an option; I’ve become an expert at finding gyms with daily guest privileges in just about every city. Last week, I set a new personal best by squatting a little more than twice my new body weight.

But lifting wasn’t enough. Last April, I gave up soda, a personal favorite. After consuming 32oz of “diet” drinks daily, I quit. Cold turkey. I haven’t had a drop since.

But even that wasn’t enough, so I started running. Some people are natural runners. Others (like myself) run out of a sense of necessity. I do not enjoy running, but I do it anyway. Of all the parts of my journey, this has been the most painful. When I started running, I measured success by completing a 5K run. Sometime last fall, I started to run sprint miles before working out, then running three to four miles on lift days, to increase my metabolism and prevent the common post-lift soreness on leg workout days.

In December, I ran a sub-seven minute mile.

Even still, that wasn’t enough for me. So last fall, I got a Nike FuelBand. Once a week, I am asked what it is and what I think about it. My answer is always the same. As a proxy for achievement, it does the job. I sit in meetings, on conference calls and airplanes frequently, so having a visual reminder of my progress (or lack thereof) attached to my wrist is valuable. At one point, I went on an 88-day stretch of achieving my 3,000 point/day goal.

And then something happened: I hit the silent weight goal I’d set for myself. Ten percent of me was gone in terms of total pounds. The lifting program and supplements likely meant even more body fat had vanished, but I realized I was not sophisticated enough in what I was measuring.

I knew my top line goal had been met, but I then plateaued. At some point, despite all the lifting, better eating and running, I simply leveled off on the weight loss. That was fine, but with it came a loss of focus.

If I could sustain this, I would be both happy and surprisingly, less motivated.

I changed the game, so to speak, by shifting my focus from daily weigh-ins at the gym to quarterly body fat analyses. By understanding my percentage of body fat and composition, I could start to refine my approach. The first test was shocking; I had a mental idea of where I was and the reality was not nearly as positive. Yes, it was much better than if I had started testing at this level last year, but it showed just how much more potential for improvement existed.

As marketers, I think there’s a lesson in here. We all have goals. In the beginning, we set arbitrary measures to work against, then as we get more data, we refine the goals. But at some stage, the way we measure has to be revisited. At some point, the bar you set can only change if you change what you measure at a more granular level.

I recently returned home from two weeks on the road to find a new and noticeable weight drop. As gratifying as it is, it’s an effect caused by the shift in measurement. I firmly believe that without changing what I am now measuring as success, this would not have been possible.

Is your brand measuring the same things they did two, three or five years ago? Are you looking for deeper, more precise metrics, or are you satisfied with good enough at a top level?

Brand fitness, like personal fitness, is a choice, but it’s one that is easy to make and hard to keep. Are you making the right choices for you and the health of your brand?

Related reading

Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.