The Idaho Potato Commission is the Measurement Menace of the Month

Okay, I’ll admit that one reason behind naming the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) our Measurement Menace of the Month is that I just couldn’t resist writing about how to measure the promotion of a Potato Hotel. Yes, a hotel in the shape of a giant potato. (That’s the surreal-looking super spud out standing in its field in the photo above.) “Potato hotel” is probably not the best SEO term, but you have to admit it’s intriguing.

Six years ago the IPC created a six-ton potato to—wouldn’t you know—promote potatoes. The 28 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 11.5 feet tall giant tuber took a 200,000-mile cross-country tour on the back of a semi-truck. Its victory lap complete, a woman who had helped shepherd the mobile spud around the country turned it into an Airbnb, named the Big Idaho Potato Hotel. (The terms “Big” and “Hotel” are a bit misleading; it’s a tiny one-room rental with an adjacent silo for a bathroom.) An admittedly clever idea, and not surprisingly it got a lot of media coverage.

Metrics: mashed or fried?

But where the IPC went wrong was in their metrics, attributing $1 million worth of “free publicity” to the traveling tuber.

Beyond the deplorable practice of attributing ad value to the media coverage, there are many other things wrong with the metrics. First of all, presumably the goal of the publicity was to attract customers to the Airbnb. But, given that it’s only got one bed, they really didn’t need “close to 1 billion media impressions” and all those AVE fake dollars. What they—and every other Airbnb host—really wants is lots of good reviews; hosts live and die by their reviews. But there is only one review on the Potato Hotel site, and it reports that their reservation was cancelled. I doubt this state of affairs was a desired comms objective.

It’s also quite possible that the purpose was to continue to promote Idaho potatoes, since the description on Airbnb states, “If you love the fluffy feeling you get when you eat Idaho potatoes, you’ll love staying in a giant potato turned cozy, grown-up getaway for two!” (I don’t know about you, but I’ve never gotten a fluffy feeling from eating potatoes. In fact, the feeling I get after eating potatoes is something I wouldn’t really want to go to bed with. But I digress.) The point is that, given that the steel and concrete potato is now stationary and planted a field, I’m not sure how many potatoes it can sell.

Let’s learn some lessons

The lessons here are:

  • Clearly state the goals and objectives for whatever promotion you’re doing;
  • Make sure you have correctly identified your target audiences; and then
  • Measure against those goalsonly those goals. Ignore all the other numbers that the purveyor of your media tour or PR agency tries to throw at you.

Congrats to the Idaho Potato Commission, our Measurement Menace of the Month! ∞

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