If You Cant Measure It…

If You Cant Measure It…


This is the last post in a series I started last week, on how great marketing is actually just great storytelling; more specifically, I’d like to write today on the importance of assessment and measurement in your marketing efforts, and how measurement ascertains the success  – or failure – of your product storytelling efforts.

The saying “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” is (perhaps erroneously) attributed to management consultant Peter Drucker. The idea being, of course, that if you can’t properly assess an activity using some objective methodology, then there is no way that you can determine how to effectively control the success of that activity (other than relying upon plain ol’ blind luck).

I agree – in part – to this statement. But it doesn’t go far enough in the importance of assessment to merely claim that we must be able to measure an activity.

Effective measurement goes beyond cold, statistical stock-taking; it requires reflective assessment on the meaning behind the feedback that you are gleaning from your data, not just the data itself.

Soak time, if you will.

Back in a far-distant part of my consulting career, I worked with a large polling organization and a large publicly traded hospital chain on patient satisfaction surveys. We were examining the rates of satisfaction from patients who were attended to in emergency rooms, and later admitted to the hospital, as well as those patients admitted to the hospital without going to the emergency room, first.

What was staggeringly obvious was that those patients who first went to the emergency room, and were then admitted, had a significantly poorer reflection on their quality of care than those patients admitted directly to the hospital, sans ER visit.

What was going on here?

Well, ERs are notorious for the long waits they impose upon (most) patients. But more importantly, you typically don’t go to the ER electively – you go because you are experiencing a real medical crisis. The trauma of the ER experience was being transferred onto the subsequent hospital stay, fairly or not.

Had the satisfaction data not been assessed from the story aspect of what was happening (patient to ER to Hospital), the context of what was actually happening was not readily apparent.

After the fact assessment is truly important to gauge the success of a product story; however, assessing and measuring engagement success while the story is being told is equally – if not more than – important. If you’re telling a story in front of an audience, you can tell the success of engagement through the feedback of yawns, smiles, claps, or raspberries you receive.

Likewise, a well crafted product or brand campaign will measure in real time the efficacy of the message as it is received.

Now – truly with traditional media, it is difficult to do this. How can one measure how well a magazine ad or billboard is performing? But for digital media, this barrier does not exist. In fact, real time measurement is one of the biggest force multipliers of any type of digital channel over traditional media.

Feedback and assessment must be baked into your brand story from the onset of the first strategy meeting. Otherwise, how can you react when you’re campaign isn’t producing the desired result you intended, if there is no way to gauge feedback? Or worse, your campaign has caused an unintended PR nightmare for being out of touch with 21st century social norms? Even though Kenny Rogers famously sang “there’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealin’s done“, that can be death to a brand – or company – if you wait until the end of a campaign, to react to what your story is doing in the world.

I’ve purposefully shied away from talking about specific tools for digital campaign measurement and assessment, for the same reason that I find the phone that Michael Douglas uses in Wall Street to be amusing, now. Time marches on, and new tools will always be coming along.

The important things to take away are:

  • You need to design in your marketing measurement methodology from the start;
  • You need to continuously measure – and react – while your story is being told;
  • and You need to assess the overall efficacy of the campaign once your story is complete.

I welcome the chance to hear your feedback on these posts, and listen to your thoughts on what I got right – and where I missed the mark entirely.

Happy Marketing – and, Happy Storytelling.

A Beginning, A Middle, and an End

A Beginning, A Middle, and an End

Once Upon a Time

This week, I’ve been discussing the secret to great marketing; namely, that great marketing is actually great storytelling. Today, I’d like to discuss how the process of your storytelling can affect the efficacy of your message.

All really good stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

You don’t always have to start your story at the “beginning”, or end your story at the “end”, but you absolutely have to have a process for telling your story.

Let’s look at some interesting television, cinematic, and literary examples of innovative storytelling, that illustrate narrative process, and then see if we can apply those lessons to a marketing plan.

The Greeks were the first to play around with changing up the order of telling a story. They used the narrative technique of in medias res (“in the midst of things”), to jump into a story arc in progress, and then backfill preceding exposition before continuing to the end. Homer’s The Odyssey is probably the best known literary example of this non-linear storytelling technique.

In cinema, there are more than a few examples of in media res and disjointed temporal storytelling. Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are two famous examples of a narrative occurring in vignettes, out of order in time. In Pulp Fiction, the vignettes initially seem to be totally unconnected to the larger narrative until we begin to recognize the connective tissue with later episodes.

Season 4 of the television series Arrested Development tells its story over the same time frame, but uses different character’s points-of-view to complete the overall narrative, with successive POVs filling in more information on what is happening in the story.

Christopher Nolan’s Memento, is told from the point of view of a man with no short term memory, who leaves himself post-it notes before going to bed, and tattoos himself in order to try and remember who killed his wife – in effect, rebooting and reliving his life with each new day.

George R. R. Martin’s massive set of tomes, A Song of Ice and Fire (the source material for HBO’s wildly popular Game of Thrones) is told from the point of view of an army of POV characters, beginning at the death of the Hand of the King Jon Aryn, and backfilling a world and a history through periscopes, flashbacks, prophecies, memories, and unreliable narrators.

And just one more literary example before I (finally!) get on with discussing storytelling process: Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. Cloud Atlas nests six different episodes, across hundreds of years of time, to tell a larger story of human injustice, perseverance, and love. Each story line – preceding the middle of the narrative – ends, with the subsequent episode harkening back to the preceding through some recorded medium (a half-torn book; a record of music; an investigative report; a movie; a holographic recording). Ultimately, the story unwinds the nested storylines, to reveal the larger themes of the novel.

While the jumbled temporality of all of the preceding examples makes each of these stories compelling to read or to watch, they do all have one thing in common: each story began with a plan, and a process for how to tell these stories in entirely unorthodox ways.

The very process of how stories are told, is as much an “actor” in a compelling narrative, as are the stories themselves.

Let’s look at some distinctive marketing examples, where the process of the product storytelling was as much a character as the story items.

Probably the most notable recent high profile example I can think of is the Oreo Social Media Super Bowl XLVII Ad:

During the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII when a power outage at the Superdome caused some of the lights to go out for 34 minutes, the sandwich cookie’s social media team jumped on the cultural moment, tweeting an ad that read “Power Out? No problem” with a starkly-lit image of a solitary Oreo and the caption, “You can still dunk in the dark.”

Powerful? You bet. Accidental? No freakin’ way.

These folks had a plan – and a cadre of people ready to act on the plan. They were monitoring an event they knew millions of people would be engaged in, they had the right people with the right tools ready to act, and they had the permission – and most importantly, trust – of the brand they represented (Oreo) to tell a story on the fly. The fact that they were able to beautifully and forcefully message, in real time, was perhaps a marketing Black Swan event, not soon to be repeated.

Aside from the preparation and planning that this marketing team laid out ahead of time, to fantastic effect, was their recognition that the viewing process of the Super Bowl (and television in general, for that fact) has changed. It is no longer a single screen experience. We binge-and-appointment-watch our favorite shows, while texting our friends and scanning our social media feeds.

Watching is now a participatory experience.

I will relate one more personal anecdote on marketing process, related to my time as CIO at Hendrix College.

In January of 2014, we purchased a new MakerBot Replicator 2 3D Printer, that we intended to use as the genesis for a Maker Space in our Student Life and Technology Center.

But before doing that, we realized that we needed to have a plan in place to tell the story of what the printer was, what it was supposed to do (and mean), and how it would be deployed at Hendrix – as well as to open up a larger discussion of what Maker Spaces are, and what they can mean to the liberal arts.

I gathered together our Media Center, our Marketing and Communications Team, our student workers, and our on campus 3D printer advocates, and we formulated a plan to tell the story of the printer (goofy as it may sound when you write it out like this) – from unboxing the equipment, to staging the printer in a prominent place in our space, to planning a series of articles and webcasts discussing the printer and maker spaces in general, to storyboarding and creating a video detailing the virtues and application of the printer, to inviting local middle school kids to campus, to speaking at local civic groups… you get the idea.

We incorporated a multi-discipline process to craft a compelling story, that was non-linear, and could be repurposed modularly to tell our story in a plethora of channels. The long and short form videos created from the effort are something that I am extremely proud of.

Before leaving the topic on the importance of process in storytelling, let me emphatically say that just because you have a process, doesn’t mean that your storytelling will become rote, routine, or predictable. A stable marketing process enables everyone to be on the same page with regard to messaging, it allows everyone to know “where we’re going”, and – if done correctly – can lead to replicable success, time and time again.

Monday, I intend to discuss how engagement can make the difference between campaigns that soar, and those that leave their brands running for cover.