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MARKETING MATTERS: Gauge message’s effect for marketing success

Most consumers make sure they get what they paid for. So, when it comes to advertising, shouldn’t we as business managers make sure we are getting what we paid for?

Think about your own business. Do you know whether your messages are reaching your target market? Or that the meaning of the messages is coming across as you had intended? Most importantly, how can you tell that your communications efforts are changing or reinforcing the intended attitudes or behaviors?

Irish Nobel Prize-winning author George Bernard Shaw once said that “the greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” It takes some effort and commitment to get past the illusion to make sure your ad dollars are well spent.

Here’s what you must commit to:

w Measuring continuously – before the advertising campaign, during and after

w Measuring the intended impact

w Keeping your measurements simple, specific and regular – your findings will remain valid

Advertising campaigns, especially in today’s hyper-marketing environment, work like waves on a beach – their effects are often slow and aggregative over time. So, measure continuously.

Next, be clear about what you should be measuring. Go back to the advertising campaign and determine what your goal was and what your anticipated results are. If your goal is to drive traffic to your Web site, then the number of hits becomes an important metric. If you are trying to increase awareness, then brand recall and recognition are what you should be measuring. If you are trying to improve your brand’s image, then measure customers’ attitudes toward your brand. If your objective is to share something new about your services, then measure that knowledge.

For most businesses, building and sustaining awareness are usually implicit goals. When measuring the effectiveness of your advertising in this regard, it is important to take a multi-step approach to determining recall and recognition to uncover how much of your message actually reached the consumer. Did they just remember seeing your television commercial or can they recollect some of the specifics of the message? Did they just glance at a recent newspaper advertisement or can they recall the actual offer you were promoting?

Whether the metric you are interested in gauging is awareness, satisfaction, perception or something else, you need a starting point. If you measure only after the ad campaign, you may be able to surmise that your product’s awareness is high or that perception is. But without some sort of baseline measurement, you lose out on any indication of whether the awareness of your product has actually increased or decreased as a result of your advertising efforts.

And now, as with any type of information, what you do with the data becomes key. Be prepared to make changes to your communication strategy. Maybe you need to change the message a little. Or increase the frequency. Perhaps it is a matter of learning more about the reading/listening/ watching habits of your target market.

Tracking your advertising is only meaningful to the success of your company when you use the data to make strategic decisions about your communication strategy. Otherwise you just have another report to sit on the shelf with the others. In the end, it’s not just about execution (read: spending), it is really about executing smarter – do the research, have a strategy and get the most from your advertising dollar.

Chris Baker is senior research associate for Marketing Intelligence LLC, and a 2005 Tucson Business Edge 40 Under 40 winner. Kapil Jain, a former University of Arizona professor, is president and owner of Marketing Intelligence. Their column will run bimonthly.

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