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Why brands and agencies have a much bigger measurement problem than Facebook's inflated metrics

By Jeri Smith, CEO

October 27, 2016 | 4 min read

Marketers were justifiably upset by revelations that Facebook’s video metrics had been significantly inflated by between 60% and 80%. The knock-on effect such errors have had on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of brand investment is incalculable.

Why Brands and Agencies Have A Much Bigger Measurement Problem Than Facebook's Inflated Metrics

But what if marketers aren’t measuring the right things in the first place, and haven’t been for a very long time? What if the Facebook error is nothing compared to the bigger picture of what marketers are missing? What if brands are killing themselves more quickly and surely than their existing metrics can reveal?

As someone who has been researching the impact of advertising for more than 30 years, this is the advertising emergency I see unfolding.

Marketers are intensely focused on video view metrics, but totally ignoring whether or not those videos are persuading anyone to consider or purchase their brand. They don’t seem to realize that a video can get millions of views and social shares without moving the needle one bit in terms of how consumers think of their brand or motivating them to purchase. Agencies know their clients just want to see those impressive viewership numbers, and they don’t know how to measure for persuasion or consideration anyway. So agencies, rather than looking out for brands and calling out the misguided perspective on what counts, enable the delusion.

It’s discouraging to see agencies encourage brands to be as timely and entertaining as possible, at the expense of building the brand. In fact, much of brands’ digital and social activity actually erodes brand equity – and authenticity. Hundreds of brands strain to piggyback on the same stories of the moment, regardless of whether they have anything to do with what their respective brand represents, how it’s different from the competition, or the value it offers consumers. Consequently, brand differentiation is at an all-time low. Yet marketers and their agencies continue to focus on all the wrong metrics.

Social media campaigns can indeed have a strong amplifying effect on dollars invested in traditional media. They can raise brand awareness, build affinity with target consumer segments, and connect in ways not possible with traditional advertising messages. If consumers watch your video or read your tweet and think, “Wow, this is a brand for people like me,” you’re knocking it out of the park.

But are you even measuring for that? Are most brands? Not at all.

Being entertaining and sharable doesn’t mean you’re building your brand story in a way that will generate brand love, purchasing and loyalty. This focus on all the wrong things has led to brands losing the distinctive character that made them successful in the first place.

Any CMO or agency whose reports focus on views and shares, without intense scrutiny of overall impact of the brand’s messages, is doing a major disservice to the brand. Perhaps fittingly, the enduring fixation on ‘going viral’ and failure to measure the right things coincides with unprecedented churn of CMOs and other senior marketers.

Until the industry stops using platform metrics weaknesses to explain brand equity drain, adopts an intense focus on building the brand, and starts paying attention to the right numbers, the avalanche of pink slips will continue – and deservedly so.

Jeri Smith is chief executive of Communicus

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