Tuesday, September 29, 2009

eMarketer Report Details Next Steps for Online Brand Measurement

eMarketer recently released a deeply researched report on Online Brand Measurement. Since it touched on several topics I’ve been pondering recently (see Web Analytics Is Dead… on my Customer Experience Matrix blog) , I read it with particular care.

This is a long report (58 pages), so I won’t review it in detail. But here are what struck me as the critical points:

- Web measurement has largely focused on counting views and clicks, not measuring long-term brand impact. Counting is much easier but it doesn’t capture the full value of any Web advertisement. One result has been that marketers overspend on search ads, which are great at generating immediate response, and underspend on Web display ads which influence long term behavior even if they don’t generate as many click-throughs.

- Media buyers want Web publishers to provide the equivalent of Gross Rating Points (GRPs), so they can effectively compare Web ad buys with purchases in other media. That’s okay as far as it goes, but it’s still just about counting, not about measuring the quality or impact of the impressions. As the paper points out, even engagement measures such as time on site or mentions in social media, don’t necessarily equate to positive brand impact.

- Just about everyone agrees that the right way to measure brand impact is to tailor measurements to the goal of a particular marketing program. This may sound like a conflict with the desire for a standard GRP-like measure, but it really reflects the distinction between counting the audience and measuring impact. GRPs work fine for buying media but not for assessing results. Traditional media face precisely the same dichotomy, which is why marketing measurement is still a puzzle for them as well. And just as most offline brand measures are ultimately based on surveys and panels, I'd expect most online brand measures will be too.

- Meaningful impact measurement will integrate several data types, including online behaviors, visitor demographics, offline marketing activities and actual purchase behavior. These will come from a combination of direct online sources (i.e., traditional Web analytics), panel-based research and surveys (for audience and attitudinal information), and offline databases (for demographics and purchases). Ideally these would be meshed within marketing mix models and response attribution models that would estimate the incremental impact of each marketing program and allow optimization. But such sophisticated models won’t appear tomorrow.

To me, this final point is the most important because it points to a “grand unification theory” of marketing measurement that combines the existing distinct disciplines and sources. The paper cites numerous current efforts, including:

- multimedia databases being created (separately) by panel-based measurement firms including comScore, Nielsen, Quantcast and TNS Media Compete;

- Datatran Media’s Aperture, which combines email and postal addresses with Acxiom household data, IXI financial data, MindSet Marketing healthcare data and NextAction retail data;

- a joint effort between Omniture and WPP’s Kantar Group that combines data from email, search, display ads and traditional media;

- another Nielsen project combining TV ad effectiveness information from Nielsen IAG with panel purchase data from Nielsen Homescan.

These all reinforce the claim I made in last week’s blog post that individual data will increasingly be combined with panel- and survey-based information to provide community-level insights that are actually more valuable than individual data alone.

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