Measuring Marketing Effectiveness

Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist, explores ten drivers of marketing effectiveness and how to maximize ROI on this week’s IN CLEAR FOCUS.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: evidence-based measurement of marketing effectiveness. Bigeye’s Senior Strategist, Dana Cassell, joins us to discuss a novel meta-analysis of almost 6,000 award-winning campaigns and their ROI. Conducted by advertising strategist Mark Ritson, the research study identifies ten drivers of marketing effectiveness.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Last November, ThinkTV – a marketing and research association dedicated to commercial television in Canada – held an event examining the relationships between media marketing and effectiveness. In his keynote presentation, advertising industry maven and educator Mark Ritson presented practical recommendations applicable to brand strategy, media, channel planning, and creative content. Prior to the event, Ritson had enlisted the help of a team of MBA students to conduct a meta analysis of almost 6,000 entries to the Effie awards. The Effie awards were originally launched in 1968 by the New York chapter of the American Marketing Association as an awards program to honor the most effective advertising efforts. The award now honors all forms of effective marketing with a network that spans the globe and provides insights into effective marketing strategy. Ritson and his team coded the material, featured in the Effie case studies and mapped the information against the results generated by the strategies described. The process yielded an overall Effie score for each submission that could be translated into a proxy of effectiveness. The research team found a consistent correlation between the brands with the highest scores and their return on investment. Based on the Effies research, Ritson identified 10 leading drivers of marketing effectiveness. To talk about marketing effectiveness, I’m joined here in the studio by Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist. Welcome back to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Dana.

Dana Cassell: Thanks. I’m so glad to be here.

Adrian Tennant: So Dana, working with clients, how do you typically define marketing effectiveness?

Dana Cassell: Marketing effectiveness for our clients is about the extent to which our marketing efforts meet the strategic goals that we set with our clients before we engage with them.

Adrian Tennant: Perfect. So let’s dive into the first of those ten drivers, which is brand size.

Dana Cassell: Yeah, brand size. This came right out of this study.  so the correlation between the scores and the effectiveness, and this is really the idea that bigger brands have an unfair advantage.  brands that are currently bigger at the time of their campaign because they have a larger share of or a larger share of shelf. So this is kind of an unfair advantage for a challenge your brand or a new brand. If you’ve been around a while, you’re a more established brand, it is more likely that you’ll have a higher score for effectiveness just to that it’s due to the size of the brand. But luckily for other brands that aren’t naturally huge, other factors come into play like creativity. Adrian?

Adrian Tennant: Yeah, we talked about this in the first episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS earlier this year. Exceptional creative can help brands big or small make an outsized impact. Ritson cited research by Nielsen Catalina Solutions which attributed 47% of sales contribution delivered by 500 campaigns to creativity. The only other individual factor to come close in terms of impact was reach, which was found to contribute 22% of campaign effectiveness. If we think about the differences between brand building campaigns and those focused on short-term activation, it’s those brand building campaigns – those without a specific offer or promotion attached to them – that also tend to offer more creative opportunities for storytelling. So talk to us a little bit about brand codes, Dana

Dana Cassell: Brand codes. The data nerd in me loves the idea of brand coding. And in this study we’re talking about how a wide range of assets in a campaign like logos or taglines, font, graphics can be codified and measured for effectiveness. The quote from the study that I love is that, “you really can’t over-codify a brand’s touchpoints.” He challenges us to try it. We’ll only make money. So it’s codifying is all about making a brand or a product distinct from its competition by testing the value of different pieces of its assets. And often he notes marketers or people on the client marketing team can get touchy about this because we’re so close to the development of all of these pieces and we can become over-attached to the way they are in their current state. So brand coding helps us to remove some of our personal feelings and attachments from these elements of the brand and really understand what are the most effective manifestations of those brands over time.

Adrian Tennant: And am I right in thinking that consistency is going to be a key with that brand coding?

Dana Cassell: Consistently coding pieces of the brand? Sure. Absolutely. In all measurement, that’s important. And as we code something we can learn about that element. For instance, the logo and over time we can even break the logo into additional codes. So once we find a little data point that seems to have some juice in it, we can keep breaking it down. So I think this is what he mentions. There’s not really an opportunity to over-code. We can find what’s happening and then dig deeper, dig deeper, right-size that for the moment and then move on. And of course as time passes, as you know, consumer trends and behaviors do too. So we can code over time and find new changes. It’s a nice way for me to remove the emotion from the creative pieces of the brand. So what did you learn from this study about long- and short-form communication?

Adrian Tennant: You know this was really interesting. Ritson calculated the payback from longer-running campaigns compared to shorter ones. He found that there is a correlation between the number of weeks and months a campaign runs and its Effie score. So a focus on short- term activation, which if you think about it is what most performance marketing in the digital space is typically focused on –  he found it can have a detrimental effect on long-term brand building, which is all about building associative memories. so Dana, I know you and I love to talk about the Grocery Wars. If you’re located here in the Southeastern United States and think of the Publix Supermarkets TV spots around the holidays, you know, strategically, those are 100% brand building designed to evoke, feel-good emotions. Two of the best-known researchers in the field of marketing effectiveness, specifically from advertising, both of which happen to be from the UK, are Les Binet and Peter Field. In their analysis, they recommend that 60% of marketing resources should go to long-term brand building and 40% to short-term activation. So the practical issue for many of us is that business cycles are often shorter than these findings suggest would be optimal. And the Binet and Field 60/40 rule, you know, requires some flexibility. Thinking about the channel mix is an important part of that.

Dana Cassell: Yeah. One element of this study that I found interesting is the concept of balancing mass and targeted marketing. So obviously this is a debate, well, well discussed in our field, whether mass or targeted marketing is the right approach for marketers. So essentially, before 2011, segmentation and targeting were dominating. And then we’ve had a shift toward an overall balanced approach becoming more and more common. And I think what’s important here is understanding what mass means for your brand. The learning from the Effie study is that rather than taking an either or mindset, both strategies are required for success. So targeting can be useful for performance marketing campaigns with short-term impact. Mass is obviously helpful for brand awareness, broader audiences, long-term brand building. But knowing what’s mass for your brand in, in your space is important. We wouldn’t want to dilute our targeted efforts by trying to go too broad and mass media. So when we bring this strategy in-house to balance mass and targeted for our clients, sometimes we have to narrow our focus on what types of media, geographies, and reach could be considered mass for our clients so that we can get this healthy mix where one does not cannibalize the other. And that segues into another piece of this study, which is the idea of the multichannel mix. What media are the most effective for advertising campaigns? And the Effies DataBank pointed to a simple fact: the more channels we add into the campaign, the more effective that work is likely to be. Of course, we have to balance, reach and frequency. We can’t add too many channels and dilute our message. So again, just like that mass and targeted approach, when we internalize a multichannel mix for our clients, we have to measure the effectiveness of adding another medium one at a time to make sure that we have the budget to support that. And that throwing dollars into a new media doesn’t cannibalize one of the existing media that we’re working with. So I think that balance, you know, is fascinating. During the study they point to an ROI index by media platforms and it’s just an upward drive from one platform all the way up to five. We just see the needle growing on effectiveness.  literally the data points to the more media you’re using, the more effective your campaign will be.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. That’s interesting. So is it still a reach and frequency model underlying?

Dana Cassell: It is a reach and frequency model of course, which is why I think that the mass and targeted versus multichannel, this is what ties it together. We can’t say reach is King or frequency is King. It’s the balance. And that’s a nuance. It’s a reason that it’s important to have a team, a client agency team working together that really understands their strategic goals of the organization so that we don’t just let the philosophy of a mass approach drive that we understand the strategic goals and we can use a mass and targeted approach. And a multichannel approach that makes sense for our budget and reaches our strategic goals. So these are kind of some of the more interesting points. Speaking from the strategic side of the house, I never wanna ignore the creative. There’s clearly, you know, an emphasis here on how we’re buying our media, but it’s important that beautiful creative, compelling media as part of this. So as we’re using beautiful creative on all these multichannel platforms, how are we telling the story of our brand? Obviously it’s something that marketers are focusing on and how are we differentiating our brands and our products from our competitors? This report talks about realistically differentiating your brand and what kind of impact that makes on a marketing campaign. What did you learn about a realistic differentiation through this Effie study?

Adrian Tennant: Yeah, that actually achieving brand differentiation once again corresponded with a strong Effie score.

Dana Cassell: Hmmm.

Adrian Tennant: But Ritson does point out that the concept of differentiation is potentially a bit of a slippery slope.  and he also mentioned, you know, professor Byron Sharp’s research which is summarized in the book, “How Brands Grow.” The book was published back in 2011 but it’s still very relevant to today. The book is based on work done at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of South Australia and it’s really a manifesto for evidence-based marketing. That is what actually works in practice rather than what should work based on somebody’s marketing theory. And Ritson and Sharp both seem to agree here that brands are actually pretty small considerations in most consumers’ lives. So differentiation is achieved through salience, first of all, that is whether a brand, you know, immediately comes to mind when a customer is in a buying situation. Second of all, understanding the competition and using that knowledge to stand out in whatever modest way is obtainable in practice. And third, through brand associations, because no brands live on an Island.

Dana Cassell: Sure. I can see how codifying and differentiation are correlated.

Adrian Tennant: So Dana, I feel like the next point was made for you the importance of setting meaningful and strategic objectives.

Dana Cassell: Isn’t that beautiful? It’s the last one in my list and something I’m thrilled to discuss.  setting between two to five strategic objectives led to strong performance on the Effie score spectrum. And as a strategist, of course, I’m thrilled that it’s included in the list. More than that, I’m thrilled that the data points to it needing to be included in the list. So even in the papers that were written as Effie submissions, the research team found relatively few campaigns laid out true strategic aims. That is disappointing but not necessarily surprising to me because I think we go really quickly – we have a tendency in our industry to go really quickly into tactical goals as opposed to two strategic goals. So one example of this is an actual example from the 2017 Effies awards is the Australian Dares iced coffee case study. And  it won a grand Effie that year and they did set out a strategic goal. And their strategic goal was to increase consideration of the brand among blue collar workers from 15 to 65% in a five-year span. And I went into a rabbit hole of watching the ads that were created from this campaign. And I would encourage you to do the same. They have this campaign that talks about their iced coffee being the choice when your head is all over the place or when you’re places all over your head depending on how the campaign is running at the time.  and they were making a move to help this iced coffee become a habitual choice for when consumers aren’t thinking straight. So the blue collar set, you know, there’s obviously that’s a great market that they’re trying to expand into and they achieved that strategic goal over time. They had a 300% increase in sales in five years following this campaign. And it’s interesting to find they have eight products as of now here in 2020. They only have eight products. They have really simple packaging and they positioned cold-brew as fancy, which I think is really amazing way to differentiate that brand from other large coffee brands.  there’s no snobbery about their iced coffee and I love that they had this strategic objective to kind of speak to the everyman, the average consumer, to find a new market. So it’s beautiful as a strategist for me to see that it’s included. It was lovely to watch a case study of a brand, find a way to become the leading brand in their category through strategic differentiation.

Adrian Tennant: Fantastic. And I should say, we will include of course, links to all of these resources that we discuss on the “Insights” page.

Dana Cassell: Enjoy it, enjoy seeing a dog in a baby bjorn. So just you have that to look forward to.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. I’m there.

Dana Cassell: Yeah. So strategy was the perfect gift to deliver in my lap. I think our last point of the conversation is perfect for you. How knowing how much research to do can, can impact effectiveness.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah. Well of course I was delighted, but not surprised, that research is identified as a driver of marketing effectiveness. Ritson’s presentation underscored the value of the approach we take here at Bigeye – you know, that is that research is absolutely vital in making sure the foundational basis of a campaign is sound. We know that research is key to unlocking the right audience targeting, brand positioning, and establishing the optimal balance of long and short term campaigns. Enough said. So Dana, what’s your take on Ritson’s research methodology?

Dana Cassell: I love the concept of trying to figure out the common ground between campaigns from different parts of the world with different objective strategies, products, brands business motivations. Finding common ground in a set this big – 6,000 entries – is a huge undertaking. And I think in the industry we have a lot to learn when someone sets about to do this kind of research. There are obviously downsides to it. I think the first point we made was brand size impacts effectiveness. That’s kind of a wah-wah. Like, well, what if I’m not a big brand? There’s a whole piece of this research that doesn’t apply. Share of voice share shelf is another, you know, it’s something that’s hard to apply to myself if I’m not the leading huge brand in my category. So there’s pieces of this methodology that I think are difficult, but  in an overarching way, I love to see the common ground between those 6,000 entries, all of whom believe that they have a campaign that is, has produced enough effective result for their client that they’re worth examining for an award. An award driven on effectiveness obviously captures the heart of a strategist.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah.

Dana Cassell: What did you think about the findings in the study?

Adrian Tennant: I think for me what was really interesting was that we have perhaps a sense of some of these things being important, but rarely do we have access to empirical evidence. That is the case. I mean, we see our statistics from the campaigns that we run. But oftentimes it’s very hard when you’re working with a client who has maybe worked with a number of advertising agencies over the year to really compare apples to apples. For me obviously the big part was of course learning that research is fundamental, but also understanding the nuances of long-term versus short-term campaign thinking.  and to your point, you know, brands that are already famous tend to stay famous, but that isn’t to say that a smaller brand can’t compete and find a niche for itself and then follow the same rules as the bigger brands to develop their own degree of fame.

Dana Cassell: Sure.

Adrian Tennant: Dana, thank you very much for joining us again today.

Dana Cassell: Thanks for having me. Anytime you want to talk about strategy and research, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: Of course! My thanks to Dana Cassell, Senior Strategist at Bigeye. You can find links to the resources we discussed on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights.” And please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you again for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.


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