Relationships Are Everywhere: Are You Measuring Them?

The Paine of Measurement

It’s February, the time of year when the thoughts of marketers turn to love. Actually, from personal experience, I think that only really applies to those of us of the female persuasion. I find that most men consciously or passive aggressively forget Valentine’s Day and wish they could bring back football season instead.

Regardless, for the next two issues of The Measurement Advisor we’re focusing on the measurement of relationships, trust, engagement, and yes, even love. But we’re not focusing on likes, as they have so little meaning.

No matter how you measure it, there is no doubt that relationships (and the process of quantifying them) is everywhere these days. A major dispute is ongoing between Delaware North Companies and the Federal Government over brand value of the names of national park icons. Short version: Delaware North says they’re worth $55 million, National Park Service says not so much.

And an even more interesting debate is emerging on what “brand value” really means. There’s been an assumption for decades that brand value means more sales. For instance, Apple’s brand “love” means they can charge more money for their products.

New research is throwing darts, not Cupid’s arrows, at that theory. In some cases people with high brand affinity actually spend less. Today a brand’s ability to gather data on consumer attitude and connect that data with consumer spending is teaching brands a lot about what aspects of brand love actually yield bottom-line value.

We are all victims of the incessant competition among brands for “love.” We get hit with loyalty cards, discounts, and gazillions of follow up emails because the results are quantifiable and there’s a formula in there somewhere that says that they work. Somebody somewhere is looking at a dashboard that tells them that they can increase sales or conversions by XX percent by following up with personal email when someone leaves your site without buying something. That’s one reason your inbox is overloaded.

Today more than ever all brands need love, because, to quote Al Gore, Ali McGraw, and Erich Segal, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  Or at least say it as loudly as often.

What brand love brings today is forgiveness. Research will tell you that the more people have good experiences with your brand, the more they will forgive you when you f-up.

The political campaigns are probably closest to quantifying the impact of personal touch. They send volunteers into communities to talk to their neighbors and note opinions, and they feed that data into their master databases every night. They’re getting very good at learning exactly which activity and which messages yield the most voters. And they’re putting it to use, see this article on lessons from the Hillary campaign so far.

I’m a volunteer for Hillary. It turns out that just adding a personal note to the literature I put in people’s doors every night ups the odds of that person voting for my candidate. And actually talking to them increases the odds five-fold. In New Hampshire at least, all those personal touches on the part of thousands of canvassers are more cost-effective than TV ads.

But those are campaigns not companies. While you can certainly design A/B tests and experimental research to test such differences, we’re a long way from having data on relationships automatically pop up on a dashboard. And it will be even longer before technology brings to every desktop the value of the personal touch. The value of the employee that makes the extra effort, that listens to you, ignores the computer screen, and makes an adjustment on your contract that gets you that product a little faster or cheaper.

Brands can certainly correlate a change in Consumer Reports ratings to inquiries and maybe even sales. But they can’t know that ultimately it’s the personal story of one friend on Facebook that tips you over the edge to buy a Bosch over a Kenmore or a KitchenAid.

So, my Valentine’s message is that, like for love itself, there is no silver bullet for assessing customers’ relationships with a brand. You must include data gathering, custom indexes, and discussions to ensure that as many aspects of relationship building as possible are included in your measurement program. ∞

>>>Want to learn more about how measurement can lead to improved employee retention, increased efficiency, and other perks? Check out 50 Shades of PR ROI.<<<

Image by Dietrich Wegner.

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