Refining Brand Measurement

The perception goes like this: The Internet is good at direct response advertising and CRM (define). It’s not a viable solution for brand marketers looking to drive awareness, favorability, and purchase intent. Brand marketers represent the lion’s share of the overall advertising market and have typically put most of their financial resources into traditional mass-marketing vehicles, such as network TV and consumer print.

Here’s the reality: Those traditional mass-marketing vehicles are now under significant threat from technology (read: digital video recorders and video on demand) and the sheer proliferation of media options (read: media fragmentation). Meanwhile, the Internet continues to mature into a powerful mass-marketing player, with increased penetration, usage, and creative delivery opportunities. Though interactive advertising will become close to a $10 billion industry this year, the real growth engine for the next 12-24 months will come from brand marketers looking to diversify their media plans.

We must, therefore, refine our online brand measurement tools so when this new money flows in, we can measure its effectiveness accurately and feel collectively comfortable with the results.

There are just a handful of companies in online brand measurement. Some attempt cross-media studies that compare online’s efficacy with that of other media. Some research experts see a significant bias in these studies’ methodology, to the point of declaring them fatally flawed (more on this another time). Today, let’s look at the leading online brand measurement companies.

Dynamic Logic

Dynamic Logic basically created this category and has become synonymous with online brand measurement. Just five years old, the company has retained a singular focus on making online measurement accurate, easy, and relatively efficient. Some people fault Dynamic Logic for being too “cookie cutter” and doing a poor job of truly customizing studies based on a brand’s business needs. I disagree, although I’ve been disappointed with the level of analysis at the study’s conclusion. Dynamic Logic should spend more time on the insights derived from the study (the why) and less time on the facts (the what).

Some clients look at Dynamic Logic as a fairly biased research company that has a vested interest in proving online advertising works. (Truth be told, after conducting about two dozen studies over the past few years, I’ve never really seen a study with poor results.) In the research business, credibility is everything. Dynamic Logic has a little work to do in this area in the coming months.

Fair to say, Dynamic Logic currently owns the market (an estimate 75 percent of all brand studies conducted online). After Dynamic Logic there are four other companies to my knowledge that provide similar services: Millward Brown, Ipsos-ASI, Insight Express, and Factor TG.

Millward Brown and Ipsos-ASI

Both Millward Brown and Ipsos-ASI are established traditional research companies that are well respected by many leading brand marketers. Unfortunately, neither company has made a concerted effort to get into the interactive measurement arena. We have worked with both companies in the past and are currently working with Millward Brown. Though Millward Brown provides the study stewardship and analysis, it uses Dynamic Logic to field respondents and maintain clean test and control cells. I would encourage both companies to shift their attention to the digital world as we approach 2005. Clearly, this is a huge growth area and likely represents the future of their businesses.

Insight Express

Insight Express offers marketers and agencies a fairly low-cost solution to measure online brand effectiveness. My understanding is it provides relatively little support. Instead, it gives users the tools needed to control and conduct most of the study on their own. I haven’t worked with Insight Express, so I’m curious to hear your experiences with it.

Factor TG

From early indications, Factor TG (formerly SuiteSmart), a relatively new player, has some promise. It’s looking to fill in the gaps Dynamic Logic has in its offering. Factor TG is relatively low cost (unlike Dynamic Logic) and provides very detailed reporting at the conclusion of a study. It spends time discussing your objectives and customizes the study and survey based on your (or your marketers’) specific needs. Though we haven’t yet conducted any studies with Factor TG, I’m confident we will soon. I’ll be sure to report on the experience in a future column.

The time to perfect online brand measurement is now. As new monies enter the marketplace, we must be prepared to answer the questions around their efficiency and effectiveness. We must do this quickly and easily, without the perception of a cookie-cutter solution. There are a number of players in the marketplace. 2005 will be the year where either the leader gets stronger or the challengers rise to the occasion.

I’d opt for the latter.

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