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Results At The Expense of Value

I know I must have written or talked about this somewhere before. But today your humble host of The BeanCast engaged in an interesting discussion about balancing results and brand. And it led to some new thinking.

My Twitter conversation with Lois Geller (yes, THE Lois Geller, who you really should know...and for God's sake read her books), centered around my old harp about whether we too often rely on "what works" at the expense of "what's best."

Short-term results at the expense of long-term goals — I'm certainly guilty of this. You probably are as well. We live in an immediate society. We want to know something is working and we want to know it now. Particularly in advertising and marketing professions we are almost never praised for our long-term achievements with our campaigns. We are rewarded for what we've done today and for the promotions in front of us.

In the case of our discussion earlier today, the subject was specifically about direct marketing. But really this truth applies to branding, PR, interactive and social campaigns equally as well. Everyone wants to know that the buzz is high, that the response is a landslide and that the ROI equals truckloads of money. And let's face it, all those things are important and are part of our job descriptions. But I sometimes wonder if we go a little overboard on the mathematical evaluations of our campaigns.

Trusting Our Guts As Well As Our Brains

I know it's a little idealistic to say that sometimes we should trust our guts, but there it is. We really should trust our gut a little more. Because as tempting as it is to say, "The white envelope is clearly our best bet, because it generates that sweet spot between production costs and response to generate maximum profitability," it's still generating no lasting value for the brand. It's a friggin' white envelope with a logo. It may get opened and it may get results, but it turns our brands (and, frankly, the shops that produce these envelopes) into commodities.

The same is true of branding. As much as we want the broadcast spot that generates the most buzz on the USA Today Ad Meter, yet another crotch shot that makes us laugh does nothing to build the long-term character of our product. (That one's for you, Bill Green.) It's makes us a beer commodity, even if we're a corn chip.

Numbers Make Lousy Storytellers

I believe in results and I believe in measurement. I stake my career on these things, so I want everyone to understand that I haven't suddenly smoked crack and gone off the deep end. But it's worth considering that numbers have never, and never will, tell the whole story of customer engagement. As storytellers they suck, because they're always skipping to the end of the book and devaluing the plot line that got us there. This is a shame, because the story represents the long-term interests of the brand, even while getting us to the immediate fiscal needs of the quarter.

So what I'm saying is, always be investing. Even if the mailer can be cheaper or the spot can be funnier, be looking at what is really being communicated to the customer. Because these intangible impressions are what are building the foundation of every communication that comes after it.

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