As marketers, we all are justifying the work we do based on how the data relates to the organization’s return on investment. We know we have to project an estimated ROI before a project even begins and monitor it closely. And if that goal isn’t hit, the project is often deemed a failure. I get it. Money is being spent and stakeholders want to know that it’s not just going down the drain. Data. Analytics. Measure, measure, measure. That thinking is wrong. At least when referring to branding. How do you measure, in dollars, the brand experience? You can’t. And you shouldn’t.
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Are you feeling a small panic attack coming on? Maybe questioning my sanity? Let me explain.
Recently at IRCE (Internet Retailer Conference + Exhibition), we handed out a LOT of plush llamas and superhero capes and masks. I was constantly being asked at the event – how do you measure the ROI? The answer: we don’t.
We don’t measure it. We don’t try to calculate it. We don’t worry about clear-cut ROI.
But if you want to look at this in terms of business, in so many ways this does come back to us. They tweet. They post. They tag. They spread our values around: the LOVE and the JOY. It causes even our competitors to market for us. All for the cost of an $8 plush, we get photos on 3+ forms of social media all talking about how great we are. Why? Because people value the same things we do and recognize the genuineness of our expression. So I ask you again – How do you measure, in dollars, the brand experience?
Some forms of marketing efforts we do measure; paid search, for example. We track and adjust, we pause and increase budgets, and we drop ads based on CTR and conversions just like any “normal” marketing initiative.
We’re just expressing who we are and loving people, regardless of whether they receive it as love, regardless of whether they think we’re just trying to creatively get into their wallets. We love. Because it’s who we are. So you can’t put a price on living free from who you are and loving others without reservation. It’s not even about our company or brand. The brand is just a vessel through which we do this. But our team does this in their own personal lives, too, when there’s no brand attached to it, often anonymously when not even their own name is at stake.
What’s the point of being in business if we have to hide who we are and beat the same drum as everyone else? Why would we spend the grand majority of our productive time hiding our values, our identity, and ultimately, the things that really set us apart from the rest? It’s like singing the same song as everyone else: It’s certainly not going to get you noticed, and it’s not embracing the reality that you, as a brand, have your own song to sing. Sing YOUR song. Be honorably dissonant from the rest.
And if you do, you’ll find that you either learn a lot about how you can improve or you’ll gain some hardcore raving fans, which are the hardest kind to come by.
So when you are having a brainstorming session trying to think about your next big-budget marketing initiative, first stop and think about your company culture. How do you represent that culture? You most likely can’t do that with an ad. Ads only talk about WHAT you do, not WHO you are. And if you do talk about who you are, it sounds cliche (like “we have great customer service” for example). Who you are is far more important, because we all have competitors that do what we do. Represent your culture and THAT will set you apart. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what marketing is supposed to be?
Doesn’t seem so crazy now, does it?