Marketing campaign postmortems are still an integral part of the way most marketing organizations operate. Typically, a group of people get together to assess the performance of a campaign and the lessons learned AFTER a campaign is completed, often reviewing a report that was manually cobbled together from a variety of data sources and team members. There’s nothing wrong about this other than the fact that this tends to be the ONLY time when campaign performance is really measured. This made sense in the days when all activities had long lead cycles (e.g., TV commercials, print advertising) and market feedback was collected via offline mechanisms (e.g., surveys), making access to data limited and untimely. But in this day and age of digital marketing, when many activities can be executed quickly and market feedback can be continually collected, it doesn’t make sense to continue this practice.
Organizations should be striving to become agile marketers by tightly integrating the measurement of campaign performance with the execution of activities, and using the tight feedback loop to make adjustments throughout a campaign. Sure, it makes sense to still have postmortems to wrap-up a campaign; it just doesn’t make sense for it to be the only time that the effectiveness of campaign activities are evaluated.
As I talk with global brands about their marketing measurement plans, I am starting to see the use of mid-campaign reports and in-flight campaign buzz measurement (with social listening tools). These are steps in the right direction but they still do not fully take advantage of what is available today. Marketing organizations need to develop the competence to make adjustments on a daily — if not intra-daily — basis, across owned, paid and earned aspects of their campaigns. Today’s marketers should be making decisions by looking through their front windshield and side view mirrors, and not their rear view mirror. In order to make this happen, organizations need to automate the measurement of their marketing activities and have a timely, consolidated view that shows the effectiveness of their campaigns.
So why are organizations still primarily relying on postmortems as the primary campaign measurement vehicle? Because it is really hard to put together a consolidated view of all activities that shows the effectiveness of a campaign, thanks to a number of non-trivial challenges that are introduced by the pace and complexity of modern marketing:
- Campaign data is highly complex and fragmented: Today, a campaign run by a large brand involves the execution of a variety of activities in a number of channels — TV commercials, print advertising, digital advertising, social marketing, video marketing, etc. The number of activities and channels becomes even greater if a campaign is global in nature. This makes it very difficult to collect and harmonize measurement data from all the different channels into a single omni-channel view of the campaign execution and its performance across paid, owned and earned.
- It’s hard to tease apart the campaign specific data from the rest of the marketing data: Most brands have multiple campaigns running in parallel, including evergreen campaigns. Many times, these campaigns will be executed on the same owned and paid media accounts. So one needs to sift through the individual ads and creatives and identify which ones belongs the the campaign they want to measure and which do not.
- Campaign execution teams are fragmented: Campaign activities are usually executed by different teams of people, depending on the type of activity (advertising, social marketing, PR, SEM, etc.). Some of the teams might be internal and some are often at agencies. This situation is further amplified in the case of a global campaign with multiple regions involved. Each team typically has their own way of presenting the results of their efforts, making it difficult to have a consistent reporting framework across all activities.
- Campaign reporting is typically done manually: Due to the fragmentation of campaign data, the most common approach organizations take to consolidate data across activities and channels is by bringing it all together in Excel. This is a manual, resource-intensive process that is prone to error and that results in decisions being made with old data.
So while it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of a campaign even once for a postmortem, it becomes even a greater challenge to conduct measurement in a timely manner throughout a campaign. That being said, some large brands are doing just that and are integrating the execution and measurement of campaigns, to much success. A great example is the World Cup marketing campaign that one of our customers, Visa, ran in 2014. Throughout the World Cup, they closely monitored all of the activities they were executing on a global basis and made adjustments regularly based on what they were seeing. Here is an excerpt from a CMO.com article that details Visa’s approach…
…the company has been optimizing its campaign based on real-time metrics, such as media impressions, to see which channels and content are driving purchase behavior. A Visa task force has met every morning to talk about all marketing activations at World Cup, but, Burke said, social media stats have taken the spotlight.
“We really have done an extraordinary job–especially with the social activations,” Burke said. “We’ve reached people in a meaningful way. And that’s really because we follow where our consumers go. We have been following—throughout the World Cup—where consumers are going and where we have seen the highest engagement rates. We’ve shifted resources and optimized in real time.”
By automating the measurement of all marketing activities, marketing organizations can tightly integrate the execution and measurement of marketing campaigns, like Visa, and experience the following benefits:
- Improve execution: By automating the measurement of activities, marketers can spend more time on optimizing the execution of their activities and less time on manual data collection. Also, execution issues can be surfaced when something still can be done about them. For example, if an agency starts to reduce the spend behind a video asset but campaign KPIs show that it doesn’t make sense to do so, adjustments can be made. These type of adjustments are not possible when measurement is primarily done after a campaign is over.
- Become agile: Tightening the feedback loop enables marketers to become agile and make changes in a timely manner based on feedback they are receiving directly from the market. They can also run in-flight experiments throughout a campaign and understand quickly what works and what doesn’t.
- Optimize spend: By integrating the execution and measurement of campaigns, budgets no longer have to be cast in stone and adjustments can be made throughout a campaign. Spend can be reallocated to activities, channels, creative assets, or regions that are experiencing the best results, or reduced in areas that are not seeing much success.
There is no reason to continue having postmortems as the primary event for understanding the effectiveness of campaign activities. It is time to move into the post-postmortem phase and optimize the value of marketing campaigns AS they are being executed, rather than just talking about it AFTER the fact. By automating the measurement of activities and integrating it with the execution of a campaign, this can be accomplished.