In his latest column for MAD//Insight, Tony Miller, CMO and marketing consultant, former Disney and Weight Watchers, asks whether marketing’s obsession with measurement is helping brands grow.

As marketers, we’re caught in the grips of a profound measurement dilemma. A technical recession and sluggish economic growth have chipped away at budgets, and with marketing still invariably regarded as a cost rather than an investment, it is an area of organisational expenditure under the most pressure. And this pressure is resulting in everything needing to be measured to the Nth degree - all of the time; and across all activity.

But are we just measuring everything because we now can? Is all measurement driving better business outcomes? And is our addiction to measurement diverting our attention away from creativity, innovation, and ultimately building our brand? Let's unpack this.

Are we just measuring everything because we now can?

I would argue yes, because of business pressures (as mentioned above). Now, I’m a huge supporter of measurement and we need to ensure we are delivering value to the business, and proper measurement is fundamental to this. But our teams are “head down” solely focusing on hitting targets for the next week, month, quarter. The money being spent is skewed to channels that show immediate results, strong CPAs, and tangible ROI. We have become hooked on measuring short-term returns regardless of long-term strategic goals. This is clearly evident when you look at global spending figures. The latest WARC media data report forecasts Meta to earn more from advertising than the entire global linear TV market.

Is all measurement driving better business outcomes?

I would argue not. Non-transparent platform measurement is still a big issue, across the board. The impending lawsuit against Meta for inflated potential reach figures (of up to 33%) is just one example that is still being pursued in court.

On top of transparency concerns, the new DMA Value of Measurement report (out in June) reveals that there are 189 different effectiveness metrics being used across the board in 4 main categories: Business Effects, Brand Effects, Response Effects, and Campaign Delivery Effects. And within these four categories, we have a preoccupation (69%) with both response effects (ROAS, conversions, leads, acquisitions, bookings, footfall) and campaign delivery effects (reach, frequency, impressions, likes, clicks, shares, views, etc) which do not solely move the dial on overall business effects (LTV, ROI, profits, sales, market share, penetration, loyalty, price sensitivity).

Is our addiction to measurement diverting our attention away from creativity, innovation, and ultimately building our brands?

Yes, because the focus on measurement tends to look at short term impact. Therefore, measuring just response and campaign delivery effects alone is more likely to get the lion share of marketing spend. As a direct consequence there is not enough money to adequately invest and stretch into long term brand health. According to BrandZ’s latest UK ranking the brand value of UK’s companies fell 14% last year. It goes on to show that “the businesses with the strongest brands do better.”

Addressing the imbalance between brand and performance is vital to brand health. It's not an either or. Brands that don’t will lose out on all fronts: distinction, differentiation, innovation, and their brand narrative. In Peter Field’s ‘The Cost of Dull’ research he goes as far as to prove the fact that “dull ads are 6.1 times more ineffective at growing market share than interesting ones - those that spike emotions and deliver fame. To match the effectiveness of more interesting ads the industry has to pay an average of £9.2M extra in paid media each year.”

Not only does it cost brand health, if not addressed customer service (and ultimately its value) will crumble. Rory Sutherland recently mentioned in a post of his, “Customer service which manifests itself in long-term repeat sales and customer retention will never be measurable with the speed, precision, or attribution that you can obtain if you spend the money right at the bottom of the funnel.” It ultimately becomes a race to the bottom with price and offer wars. And our own DMA Customer Engagement research saw feelings of disloyalty to brands increase by 20% when only focused on price.

Focus on the Metrics that matter.

We all understand the pressure to hit the numbers, but with all our attention just on today’s results; we’re slowly taking our eye off the prize. The prize being meaningful business growth. In a recent Harvard Business Review article on How Brand Building and Performance Marketing Can Work Together executives at a global electronics giant said that performance marketing had taken over their marketing budget and that they had lost their “brand narrative.”

So, instead of doubling down on everything, everywhere all at once, we need to focus on the metrics that matter - a small number of KPIs that have real meaning, namely a combination of business (LTV, ROI, profit, sales, market share, penetration, loyalty, price sensitivities) brand effects (awareness, consideration, brand perceptions, purchase intent) and response effects (ROAS, conversions, leads, acquisitions, bookings, footfall).

And the good news is (silver linings and all that!) the DMA Value of Measurement report shows that those who have invested in brand marketing have seen an improvement in effectiveness over the last three years, whilst last year, marketing’s impact on broader business metrics have improved year-on-year (after two years of decline). Long may this continue.

Invest in best practice measurement solutions.

And when we do invest in the right metrics, there is a 67% business effectiveness uplift for campaigns that avoid using campaign delivery effects in their reporting (DMA Value of Measurement report). Marketers who steer away from campaign delivery effects in reporting, invest in best practice measurement solutions, and have a culture of effectiveness measurement, results in stronger overall business performance.

These best practice measurement solutions include: MMM, MTA, Brand Tracking, Brand Uplift Studies, Regional hold out tests, and Pre-testing.

Allow campaigns to breathe and give life.

We also know the longer the duration of the campaign, the more likely it is to focus on the metrics that matter. Long duration campaigns of over a year in length are 25% more likely than average to be offering a true representation of marketing effectiveness in measurement. Shorter term campaigns of up to thirteen weeks in length are 15% less likely than average to show a true representation of marketing effectiveness.

Speak the language of the boardroom.

Human connections are what drives brand growth. Creating stories that appeal to everyone. People, at the end of the day, are human beings that want to be entertained, engaged, and listened to. We need to create work that draws on this; connecting to people on a human level. The most effective work makes people feel something, not just think something. And sometimes that can’t be measured in a week, a month, six months, or even a year. That’s a hard pill to swallow, and it takes a strong leader to instil the right rigour, focus, budget, and attention on the metrics that matter in both their team and ultimately the boardroom to redress this balance.

Want to continue the conversation? Come join the DMA’s Value of Measurement launch on 6 June.