Kantar Millward Brown

Point of View

The Digital Blind Spots That Jeopardize Your Brand

Digital is often considered the most measurable medium, but quantity of digital metrics does not equate to quality of measurement. Many digital blind spots prevent brands from fully anticipating or measuring the response to their campaigns. Ignoring these blind spots may jeopardize your brand's overall success.

Digital blind spots fall into two broad categories:

  • BLIND FAITH. According to GroupM, global digital marketing spend will reach $127 billion in 2014 and now accounts for more than a quarter of all advertising. However, since few brands pre-test their digital advertising, billions are spent without any assurance that the investment will produce a good return.
  • BRAND BLIND. Once live, many brands rely solely on behavioral metrics to optimize (either programmatically or manually) but are blind to overall brand response. Clicks and impressions–or even likes, shares, and view rates–are not necessarily good indicators of brand success.

Let’s tackle each of these in turn to understand the nature of the blind spot in more detail, to assess whether the blind spot is shrinking, to see what can be done to improve our vision, and to maximize the chances of brand-building success.

Blind Faith – Leaping into the Unknown

Why do people leap blindly when so much money is at stake? There are several arguments used to justify not deploying pre-launch research of any kind for digital marketing–most are spurious.

  • “Digital is fast; we don’t have time to test.” Digital campaigns are often still developed as afterthoughts once TV and other media elements are finalized, which means they may need to be developed very quickly. But good planning and fast new research methods allow for informed campaigns that can be developed with speed.
  • “Digital is made up of many different things.” It is true that digital campaigns can contain many micro elements. But even if a campaign will be delivered via a series of posts, tweets, or micro videos, the overarching campaign idea can still be tested before expensive production work starts.
  • “Digital is just an extension of TV.” This is a dangerous assumption. A good TV ad is not guaranteed to work well online; many need adapting to work optimally in online environments.
  • “Digital is a space for trusting your gut.” This reasoning might have been excusable when digital budgets were small but is increasingly hard to justify when annual spend is measured in millions.

Without pre-testing, the digital blind spot keeps growing when it should be shrinking. Testing techniques are available both early in the process and at the last minute that can help inform and develop. Our own new LinkNow for Digital solution can deliver simple, validated, helpful, and easy-to-understand results in as little as six hours to improve digital display, video, Facebook, or mobile ads.

Brand Blind – Fixing on the Fly

With a much greater share of overall media dollars, digital needs to reduce risk and deliver firmer guarantees of a strong return on marketing investment. Optimizing behavioral response to a campaign that is actually ineffective by any other measure is a huge opportunity cost.

One could argue that this digital blind spot has been shrinking as more sophisticated behavioral metrics have become available and hungry programmatic engines feed on them and optimize in real-time. While some progress is being made, much of it is based on the assumption that behavioral metrics can be good indicators of overall campaign success, which is simply not the case.

While campaign reports once focused on click rates, these increasingly sophisticated reports are now enhanced with interaction rates, engagement rates, likes, shares, and many other behavioral metrics. However, despite their prevalence and apparent simplicity, all commonly used behavioral metrics have significant limitations. The bottom line is that none of them are replacements for attitudinal metrics (brand awareness, associations, or purchase intent) that are very often the brand’s primary campaign objective (see table here).

Perhaps the biggest overall problem with behavioral metrics in isolation is that they represent the actions of a tiny fraction of the overall campaign audience. Brand response is typically 30 times larger than click-through response (generating awareness shifts of three percent vs. average click through of 0.1 percent). A strong brand response campaign may look weak judged solely on behavioral metrics, and optimization based on behavior alone could actually make it less effective than otherwise.

So what are the biggest areas to which behavioral metrics are blind?

  1. Brand impact. No behavioral metrics accurately assess the degree of brand integration and the impact on brand salience.
  2. Communication. No behavioral metrics can tease out communication of the intended brand messaging.
  3. Long-term associations. No behavioral metrics can identify whether ads have changed opinions about whether a brand is meaningfully different from its competition.

Attitudinal metrics enable digital marketing to be measured using the same currency as TV, outdoor, and print in a way that likes and shares simply do not. These powerful attitudinal metrics can also now be captured in real-time during campaigns. Our own Brand Lift Insights solution (formerly AdIndex) delivers dashboard reporting that allows brand-based optimization after just two weeks of an online campaign.

We Need Both Attitudinal and Behavioral

Brands looking to minimize potentially damaging digital blind spots should establish systematic pre-testing and in-market evaluation programs incorporating attitudinal metrics. As part of these programs, efforts should be made to understand how behavioral and attitudinal metrics interrelate and complement one another. This complete picture will enable brands to launch better campaigns and optimize effectively once they are live.

Key Takeaways

  • Lack of digital pre-testing means brands are blind to how their digital ads are likely to perform.
  • Behaviors do not correlate with brand impact: it is dangerous to optimize in-market performance solely on behavioral metrics.
  • Both of these blind spots can easily be addressed using new, fast brand-focused testing solutions.
Duncan Southgate
Global Brand Director, Digital
Millward Brown Digital
duncan.southgate@millwardbrown.com