Alexa, comScore, Demographics measurement, Google Trends, Hitwise, Internet Audience Measurement, Metered Tracking using panels, Neilsen Netrating, plan, qsearch, Segment Matrix

comScore and Audience Measurement

One of the most frequently asked question in the net space is what is size the internet universe and how much traffic can I target (share of Traffic). There are a few free resources that we usually look up Alexa, Google Trends (to see the relative popularity of a term on Google search engine) . Though these are free, the idea of bribing our friends who have access to comScore, Neilsen NetRating, Hitwise or any such panel information, might be a good. The information provided by these audience measurement companies is far superior to the Alexa.

Fortunately, since my organisation subscribes to comScore data, we don’t have to resort to any unethical favours (I’m infact open to lucrative offers). Jokes apart, comScore data helps to access the growth of our site traffic vs the competition and the universe and is a regular feature at the end of the month / board presentation. There were some occasional, where we had to measure the cross visitation/audience duplication matrics to find out our standing in the net space.

More importantly, my world (read universe) was limited to 26 Mln Indian online population, which is the figure that comScore reports,. All this while I considered it to be a better estimate and ignored IAMAIs and NASSCOM). I also had the notion that based on these numbers penetration of eCommerce was only 10% (roughly 2.6 Mln internet users).

And then, I happen to meet our comScore Account Director last week and had lot of my fancy notion changed. This post is an ode to that meeting and I hope you will find it useful. Please note that comScore is the only source for such rich panel information, as of now…

1. Since comScore uses a panel, and recruits only for household and office usage, 26 Mln number is a representation of this community. This doesn’t include cyber cafes (which was 40% in IAMAI 2006 report), Schools & Colleges (6% in 2006) and other sources (which may include net card). This will significantly increase the numbers (and which also suggests that our eCommerce penetration is very low). In some countries, they quantify that the internet usage originates from outside the universe (e.g persons under 15; from public machines (like internet cafe), they do mention that the projections do not reflect this usage. These countries include China, India, Ireland and Mexico.

2. It is not just a traffic estimating tool. It has lot more data to offer. Reach & Frequency Planning (will be a great assets for folks associated with branding), psychographic segmentation, and identification of Heavy/Medium/Low internet users.

3. It has a panel size of 16,000 in India, which is the highest in the region. It is significantly higher than China (8,000) and the next closest panel size is in Australia (15,000) members. Notably, it has a million opt-ins for the application, however most of them are filtered to include Home/Office. Only in US they offer the Office/Home split.

4. comScore collects data for only 15Years+ individual. They identify this through the mouse-use patterns and keyboard usage pattern.

One other objective of this post is to elaborate on the features that comScores provides, which will empower emarketers such as us, to look beyond Alexa and Google trend Data. The idea is look beyond numbers and demographics profiles and get a psychographic rich profile of our site visitors. To some of us who use site analytics, this data might just corroborate the facts. For other, it will define avenues, as all users are not always the same.

comScore’s Segment matrix H/M/L serves exactly that purpose. It acknowledges that web behavior varies greatly by segments. Heavy users might have an unequal impact on the overall statictics- they are 20% of the online population, but consumer 2/3 of total online pages and minutes. The light users on the other hand account for only 6%. Using this feature you can understand and take appropriate action points for heavy, Moderate and Light internet user segments. These are key benefits…

1. Behavior analysis: Heavy users are the easiest to target, but light and medium users would be necessary to build the reach. The basis for this is the content they consume. With this report you will be able to get an idea where your consumers go apart from their category (say travel/retail)

2. Reduce waste of online ad spends: comScore Segment matrix H/M/L provides advertisers and agencies the means to identify sites, where advertising delivery is more likely to reach light internet without overreaching heavy users.

3. Get valuable inputs for site development: Publishers can prioritise development of content and features according to different requirements of H/M/L user segment.

4. Increase ad sales/revenue- Publisher can demonstrate the site’s ability to reach premium segments. Alternatively a marketer can look at psychographic profile of its site visitor.

comScore has one more good product for search related statistics- qSearch. This tracking provides weekly and monthly views of consumer search activity by search engine, which answers the questions…

1. How large is the search market and how fast is it changing.
2. Which search engine has the greatest reach among all searchers and how is it changing.

qSearch also reports on searches conducted on sites such as eBay, Amazon, Expedia, etc. Furthermore, it also includes search activity from following user activities:

– Searching on Maps and yellow pages
– Search conducted through hosted or affiliate search relationship
– Searches conducted across that various tabs found on most search engine e.g web search -> image search -> Video search. The definition of such fall under
– A user interaction where the user is presented with a search result page
– The search result page allows the user with the ability to refine or change their search parameter
– Search can be initiated from a drop down or clicking a link, as long as first two rules are satisfied.

All push-traffic and non user requested activity is filtered. It reports following searches in addition to all the searches

1. Auto Search: Refers to the search that is conducted by entering a search string into the address box in the browser. DNS error pages are not counted.
2. Toolbar search: Search executed from the Toolbar
3. Affiliate/Hosted search: where the search engine is hosted on an affiliate site.

comScore is at an advantageous position in India with its first mover advantage. Nielsen NetRating is still to start and gain ground. Comparatively Neilsen NetRating has a panel size with lower numbers as compared to comScore. However, they are known for their descipline and method and use the same metered tracking using panels and telephone surveys. Their products are called @plan, which helps in media planning (like H/M/L Segments of comScore). Sooner than later they need to have a foothold on one of the fast developing Internet Markets in India.

Hitwise is another such product, which given share of traffic data. Hitwise studies the browsing pattern at ISP level (in Europe, they have tied up with orange) and has more realistic estimate of share of traffic. Their downside, is on getting the Demographic profile of the audience. They too have to start their services in India.

For any emarketer, Brand assessment, buzz quantification and cross media measurement is a challenging task. Like offline disciplines, the need of the hour is to get used to measurement tools like these, which will help to define and shape up realistic business goals.

Do share your comments.

Cheers!


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Internet Audience Measurement, Internet Industry

comScore and Audience Measurement

One of the most frequently asked question in the net space is what is size the internet universe and how much traffic can I target (share of Traffic). There are a few free resources that we usually look up Alexa, Google Trends (to see the relative popularity of a term on Google search engine) . Though these are free, the idea of bribing our friends who have access to comScore, Neilsen NetRating, Hitwise or any such panel information, might be a good. The information provided by these audience measurement companies is far superior to the Alexa.

Fortunately, since my organisation subscribes to comScore data, we don’t have to resort to any unethical favours (I’m infact open to lucrative offers). Jokes apart, comScore data helps to access the growth of our site traffic vs the competition and the universe and is a regular feature at the end of the month / board presentation. There were some occasional, where we had to measure the cross visitation/audience duplication matrics to find out our standing in the net space.

More importantly, my world (read universe) was limited to 26 Mln Indian online population, which is the figure that comScore reports,. All this while I considered it to be a better estimate and ignored IAMAIs and NASSCOM). I also had the notion that based on these numbers penetration of eCommerce was only 10% (roughly 2.6 Mln internet users).

And then, I happen to meet our comScore Account Director last week and had lot of my fancy notion changed. This post is an ode to that meeting and I hope you will find it useful. Please note that comScore is the only source for such rich panel information, as of now…

1. Since comScore uses a panel, and recruits only for household and office usage, 26 Mln number is a representation of this community. This doesn’t include cyber cafes (which was 40% in IAMAI 2006 report), Schools & Colleges (6% in 2006) and other sources (which may include net card). This will significantly increase the numbers (and which also suggests that our eCommerce penetration is very low). In some countries, they quantify that the internet usage originates from outside the universe (e.g persons under 15; from public machines (like internet cafe), they do mention that the projections do not reflect this usage. These countries include China, India, Ireland and Mexico.

2. It is not just a traffic estimating tool. It has lot more data to offer. Reach & Frequency Planning (will be a great assets for folks associated with branding), psychographic segmentation, and identification of Heavy/Medium/Low internet users.

3. It has a panel size of 16,000 in India, which is the highest in the region. It is significantly higher than China (8,000) and the next closest panel size is in Australia (15,000) members. Notably, it has a million opt-ins for the application, however most of them are filtered to include Home/Office. Only in US they offer the Office/Home split.

4. comScore collects data for only 15Years+ individual. They identify this through the mouse-use patterns and keyboard usage pattern.

One other objective of this post is to elaborate on the features that comScores provides, which will empower emarketers such as us, to look beyond Alexa and Google trend Data. The idea is look beyond numbers and demographics profiles and get a psychographic rich profile of our site visitors. To some of us who use site analytics, this data might just corroborate the facts. For other, it will define avenues, as all users are not always the same.

comScore’s Segment matrix H/M/L serves exactly that purpose. It acknowledges that web behavior varies greatly by segments. Heavy users might have an unequal impact on the overall statictics- they are 20% of the online population, but consumer 2/3 of total online pages and minutes. The light users on the other hand account for only 6%. Using this feature you can understand and take appropriate action points for heavy, Moderate and Light internet user segments. These are key benefits…

1. Behavior analysis: Heavy users are the easiest to target, but light and medium users would be necessary to build the reach. The basis for this is the content they consume. With this report you will be able to get an idea where your consumers go apart from their category (say travel/retail)

2. Reduce waste of online ad spends: comScore Segment matrix H/M/L provides advertisers and agencies the means to identify sites, where advertising delivery is more likely to reach light internet without overreaching heavy users.

3. Get valuable inputs for site development: Publishers can prioritise development of content and features according to different requirements of H/M/L user segment.

4. Increase ad sales/revenue- Publisher can demonstrate the site’s ability to reach premium segments. Alternatively a marketer can look at psychographic profile of its site visitor.

comScore has one more good product for search related statistics- qSearch. This tracking provides weekly and monthly views of consumer search activity by search engine, which answers the questions…

1. How large is the search market and how fast is it changing.
2. Which search engine has the greatest reach among all searchers and how is it changing.

qSearch also reports on searches conducted on sites such as eBay, Amazon, Expedia, etc. Furthermore, it also includes search activity from following user activities:

– Searching on Maps and yellow pages
– Search conducted through hosted or affiliate search relationship
– Searches conducted across that various tabs found on most search engine e.g web search -> image search -> Video search. The definition of such fall under
– A user interaction where the user is presented with a search result page
– The search result page allows the user with the ability to refine or change their search parameter
– Search can be initiated from a drop down or clicking a link, as long as first two rules are satisfied.

All push-traffic and non user requested activity is filtered. It reports following searches in addition to all the searches

1. Auto Search: Refers to the search that is conducted by entering a search string into the address box in the browser. DNS error pages are not counted.
2. Toolbar search: Search executed from the Toolbar
3. Affiliate/Hosted search: where the search engine is hosted on an affiliate site.

comScore is at an advantageous position in India with its first mover advantage. Nielsen NetRating is still to start and gain ground. Comparatively Neilsen NetRating has a panel size with lower numbers as compared to comScore. However, they are known for their descipline and method and use the same metered tracking using panels and telephone surveys. Their products are called @plan, which helps in media planning (like H/M/L Segments of comScore). Sooner than later they need to have a foothold on one of the fast developing Internet Markets in India.

Hitwise is another such product, which given share of traffic data. Hitwise studies the browsing pattern at ISP level (in Europe, they have tied up with orange) and has more realistic estimate of share of traffic. Their downside, is on getting the Demographic profile of the audience. They too have to start their services in India.

For any emarketer, Brand assessment, buzz quantification and cross media measurement is a challenging task. Like offline disciplines, the need of the hour is to get used to measurement tools like these, which will help to define and shape up realistic business goals.

Do share your comments.

Cheers!


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bookmarks, del.ici.ous, digg.com, furl.com, google folksonomy, Microsoft's Bid for Yahoo, readit.com, rss link, Search Engines, social bookmarking, stumbledupon.com, tags

So, what is Social Bookmarking?

There were Google “bots” and then came the bookmarks. Probably, 3-4 years down the line we might have this introduction for Social Bookmarking websites Del.ici.ous, Readit.com etc etc. It will take some time to pick up and can be considered as the hottest trend right now. My question on linkedin on “how many of you use social bookmarks and are the results effective?” has only two respondants 😦

So, what do the social bookmarking tags/sites do? Very simply put, they help you save bookmarks as tags and share it with the community. Sites like del.ici.ous go a step further and show you interesting results. Sites like dig, show you the most popular stories. Consider this, everytime a person uses the bookmark to search information, he has taken one step further away from Google/Yahoo SERPs, indicating a huge traffic potential in times to come. The only difference being, these results of social bookmarks is the collective effort of readers (read humans) who have tagged/indexed the information. They might have researched on Yahoo/Google (and therefore sourced through a bot/algorithm), however the information is filtered and hence richer. Over a period of time, familiarity will pave way for more frequent usage.

Lets go little deep and explore the “semantics”. Social Bookmarking is a term for allowing people to publish, categorise and share their bookmarks. Del.ici.ous uses a non-hierarchical keyword categorisation system, know as folksonomy, where user tag their links with one or more freely chosen keyword. This is like naming method (Taxonomy) but authored by users. Once bookmarks are posted and tagged, the keyword that users give them can be combined and shared in powerful ways. Users can see all the bookmarks on a keyword to learn what others feel is important, and see how many people bookmark a particular item to gauge its popularity.

Stripped down to its core, social bookmarking is a means by which a group can categorise and locate information based on its own evolving taxonomy. In other words, it’s very collaborative and a little unstructured. Users “tag” content and the content is “Bookmarked” for all to see based on those tags. That kind of information categorisation is sometimes referred to as “folksonomy”, a hybrid word referring to regular “Folks” and “Taxonomy”, a method of organisation. The whole process is democratic. Whereas the search engines use top-down approach to sorting and filing data (the program algorithm shows people what it “thinks”), social bookmarking is bottom-up, grassroot system wherein users tell other users what they think and something of consensus usually forms. In true sense it is not the backlinks referral or SEO optimised content, but the popularity by fellow users that determines the ranking. Items favoured by more than one person percolates up in popularity, helping the user to find interesting things to read on subjects.

Social bookmarking sites fill as unique niche by helping organise truly useful information. It’s a bit different from news of the day content covered by sites like Digg, although there is some overlap. People tend to bookmark content they found useful enough to consider revisiting at another time. This could be content thats simple longer than they have time to absorb when first discovered. A person could also subscribe to his bookmark feed using a program like bloglines using RSS link near the bottom of the page.

One limitation of social bookmarks (like del.ici.ous) to date is the privacy control. All bookmarks are visible to everyone else in the system, so this may not be an ideal location to bookmark financial reports of acquisition candidates, the MySpace profiles of prospective employees or other things that may raise an eyebrow. Yahoo has a similar product called MyWeb that does offer the ability to mark bookmarks private, shared with friends, or public, but hasn’t taken off like del.ici.ous. Though Yahoo acquired del.ici.ous last year, but hasn’t done much to integrate.

Social bookmarking will soon evolve beyond its techie tool avatar. Sooner than later, and as more people use it, netizens will realise that it is not just a web based access to bookmark. It is driven more by a form of implied reciprocation where bookmarkers contribute what they found interesting with the understanding that others will the same, leading to a community which is source of good content; the classic “collaborate and grow” netiquette.

Do you use social bookmarking? If you don’t, it is always a good time to start and begin contributing and lend that ‘Human touch” to search results.

Cheers!

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Search Engines, Social media, Viral Marketing

So, what is Social Bookmarking?

There were Google “bots” and then came the bookmarks. Probably, 3-4 years down the line we might have this introduction for Social Bookmarking websites Del.ici.ous, Readit.com etc etc. It will take some time to pick up and can be considered as the hottest trend right now. My question on linkedin on “how many of you use social bookmarks and are the results effective?” has only two respondents 😦

So, what do the social bookmarking tags/sites do? Very simply put, they help you save bookmarks as tags and share it with the community. Sites like del.ici.ous go a step further and show you interesting results. Sites like dig, show you the most popular stories. Consider this, everytime a person uses the bookmark to search information, he has taken one step further away from Google/Yahoo SERPs, indicating a huge traffic potential in times to come. The only difference being, these results of social bookmarks is the collective effort of readers (read humans) who have tagged/indexed the information. They might have researched on Yahoo/Google (and therefore sourced through a bot/algorithm), however the information is filtered and hence richer. Over a period of time, familiarity will pave way for more frequent usage.

Lets go little deep and explore the “semantics”. Social Bookmarking is a term for allowing people to publish, categorise and share their bookmarks. Del.ici.ous uses a non-hierarchical keyword categorisation system, know as folksonomy, where user tag their links with one or more freely chosen keyword. This is like naming method (Taxonomy) but authored by users. Once bookmarks are posted and tagged, the keyword that users give them can be combined and shared in powerful ways. Users can see all the bookmarks on a keyword to learn what others feel is important, and see how many people bookmark a particular item to gauge its popularity.

Stripped down to its core, social bookmarking is a means by which a group can categorise and locate information based on its own evolving taxonomy. In other words, it’s very collaborative and a little unstructured. Users “tag” content and the content is “Bookmarked” for all to see based on those tags. That kind of information categorisation is sometimes referred to as “folksonomy”, a hybrid word referring to regular “Folks” and “Taxonomy”, a method of organisation. The whole process is democratic. Whereas the search engines use top-down approach to sorting and filing data (the program algorithm shows people what it “thinks”), social bookmarking is bottom-up, grassroot system wherein users tell other users what they think and something of consensus usually forms. In true sense it is not the backlinks referral or SEO optimised content, but the popularity by fellow users that determines the ranking. Items favoured by more than one person percolates up in popularity, helping the user to find interesting things to read on subjects.

Social bookmarking sites fill as unique niche by helping organise truly useful information. It’s a bit different from news of the day content covered by sites like Digg, although there is some overlap. People tend to bookmark content they found useful enough to consider revisiting at another time. This could be content thats simple longer than they have time to absorb when first discovered. A person could also subscribe to his bookmark feed using a program like bloglines using RSS link near the bottom of the page.

One limitation of social bookmarks (like del.ici.ous) to date is the privacy control. All bookmarks are visible to everyone else in the system, so this may not be an ideal location to bookmark financial reports of acquisition candidates, the MySpace profiles of prospective employees or other things that may raise an eyebrow. Yahoo has a similar product called MyWeb that does offer the ability to mark bookmarks private, shared with friends, or public, but hasn’t taken off like del.ici.ous. Though Yahoo acquired del.ici.ous last year, but hasn’t done much to integrate.

Social bookmarking will soon evolve beyond its techie tool avatar. Sooner than later, and as more people use it, netizens will realise that it is not just a web based access to bookmark. It is driven more by a form of implied reciprocation where bookmarkers contribute what they found interesting with the understanding that others will the same, leading to a community which is source of good content; the classic “collaborate and grow” netiquette.

Do you use social bookmarking? If you don’t, it is always a good time to start and begin contributing and lend that ‘Human touch” to search results.

Cheers!!

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ECOmmerce, ETailing, Global ECommerce Reports, IAMAI, MakeMytrip.com, Nielsen Global Online Survey, Online Classified, Online Industry, Online Subscription, Yatra

The Nielsen Global Online Survey

I was generally surfing for articles on general trends and direction on eCommerce and how is it shaping up in India. The good news is that the picture is rosy, which is no different to what you would have heard elsewhere. Its not a new news. Consider this, Indian internet space is real hot, has 37 Mln users, which is a good number (compare this to China with over 100 Mln and US 150 Mln). A robust Indian financial system makes it lucrative for eCommerce growth.

Our central body for internet and mobile- IAMAI B2C reports that eCommerce is expected to cross Rs.9000 crores (USD 2,250 Mln), a 30% growth over last years figures. Travel is the biggest driver of eCommerce and accounts for Rs.5,500 Crores (USD 1372 Mln). OTAs (like Makemytrip.com & Yatra), Tour Operators, Hotels and Railways, form this category. It is needless to say that travel as a category renders itself to online medium seemlessly. The next biggest contributor is online eTailing, where the total size is 850 crores (USD 212 Mln). Online classifieds contributes 540 crores (USD 135 Mln) and online subscription making up the rest of 20 crores (USD 5 Mln).

Rosy picture indeed, when you consider that our huge base of middle class spending
population of 300-450 Mln is still untapped.

Neilson Global Online Survey corroborates this fact. According to the report that it
released on 28th Jan, 2008, over 875 Million Consumers Have Shopped Online — The Number of Internet Shoppers Up 40% in Two Years. Clothes/Shoes were the fastest growing Internet buys and “Visa” was the Most Popular Credit Card Payment Method. Read the full report here.

Another extract from the report is the following- among Internet users, the highest
percentage shopping online is found in South Korea, where 99 percent of those with Internet access have used it to shop, followed by the UK (97%), Germany (97%), Japan (97%) with the U.S. eighth, at 94 percent. Additionally, in South Korea, 79 percent of these Internet users have shopped in the past month, followed by the UK (76%) and Switzerland (67%) with the U.S. at 57 percent.

Credit card is the most preferred mode of payment ( more pronounced in Asia and Latin countries). Turkish online shoppers (who represent the economic elite in that country) topped global rankings for credit card usage (91%) for online purchases followed by 86 percent of Irish online shoppers and 84 percent of Indian and UAE online shoppers. The report further says, “Shopping on the Internet with the ease of a credit card is especially appealing to consumers in emerging markets who simply cannot find or buy items they want in their retail trade. The Internet has opened up a whole new world of shopping for these consumers”. There is a list of online shopping sites covered in the study.

How much ever good we might feel reading the numbers, the fact remains that internet penetration has plateaued. The total eCommerce relevant TG will be 5 Mln, which is only 10%. The month on month growth is dismal. Broadband coverage is not increasing as expected. Moreover, the language websites is not taking off in a big way. Till the next wave comes, we will witness only organic growth.

Do let me know your thoughts and comments on this subject.

Cheers!!


Digg!

e-Commerce, Internet Audience Measurement, Internet Industry

The Nielsen Global Online Survey

I was generally surfing for articles on general trends and direction on eCommerce and how is it shaping up in India. The good news is that the picture is rosy, which is no different to what you would have heard elsewhere. Its not a new news. Consider this, Indian internet space is real hot, has 37 Mln users, which is a good number (compare this to China with over 100 Mln and US 150 Mln). A robust Indian financial system makes it lucrative for eCommerce growth.

Our central body for internet and mobile- IAMAI B2C reports that eCommerce is expected to cross Rs.9000 crores (USD 2,250 Mln), a 30% growth over last years figures. Travel is the biggest driver of eCommerce and accounts for Rs.5,500 Crores (USD 1372 Mln). OTAs (like Makemytrip.com & Yatra), Tour Operators, Hotels and Railways, form this category. It is needless to say that travel as a category renders itself to online medium seemlessly. The next biggest contributor is online eTailing, where the total size is 850 crores (USD 212 Mln). Online classifieds contributes 540 crores (USD 135 Mln) and online subscription making up the rest of 20 crores (USD 5 Mln).

Rosy picture indeed, when you consider that our huge base of middle class spending
population of 300-450 Mln is still untapped.

Neilson Global Online Survey corroborates this fact. According to the report that it
released on 28th Jan, 2008, over 875 Million Consumers Have Shopped Online — The Number of Internet Shoppers Up 40% in Two Years. Clothes/Shoes were the fastest growing Internet buys and “Visa” was the Most Popular Credit Card Payment Method. Read the full report here.

Another extract from the report is the following- among Internet users, the highest percentage shopping online is found in South Korea, where 99 percent of those with Internet access have used it to shop, followed by the UK (97%), Germany (97%), Japan (97%) with the U.S. eighth, at 94 percent. Additionally, in South Korea, 79 percent of these Internet users have shopped in the past month, followed by the UK (76%) and Switzerland (67%) with the U.S. at 57 percent.

Credit card is the most preferred mode of payment ( more pronounced in Asia and Latin countries). Turkish online shoppers (who represent the economic elite in that country) topped global rankings for credit card usage (91%) for online purchases followed by 86 percent of Irish online shoppers and 84 percent of Indian and UAE online shoppers. The report further says, “Shopping on the Internet with the ease of a credit card is especially appealing to consumers in emerging markets who simply cannot find or buy items they want in their retail trade. The Internet has opened up a whole new world of shopping for these consumers”. There is a list of online shopping sites covered in the study.

How much ever good we might feel reading the numbers, the fact remains that internet penetration has plateaued. The total eCommerce relevant TG will be 5 Mln, which is only 10%. The month on month growth is dismal. Broadband coverage is not increasing as expected. Moreover, the language websites is not taking off in a big way. Till the next wave comes, we will witness only organic growth.

Do let me know your thoughts and comments on this subject.

Cheers!!


Digg!

Affiliate Marketing, bottom line, brands, business goals, data, David Aaker, Future Brands, marketing performance, Sachin Bhatia, sales, Santosh Desai, Zen and the art of motorcycle maintainence

Marketing and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainence

As I was driving back home today and cruising through the chain of thoughts, I was reminded of a few regular comments in my organisation, which my marketing folks will not find irregular- Where are the numbers? Marketing can never get their numbers right? Marketing never backs up data. etc etc.

The war between between sales and marketing lingers on; numbers and leads and conversion. These are eternal debates and has been a discussion point for many research papers and conferences.

However the truth is and the fact remains that at the end of the day and the quarter and the year end, sales is the only factor which has a direct impact on the organisation’s bottomline and it is these numbers that builds CFO’s confidence (and therefore CEOs). Marketing on the other hand, and till this point this would be still contesting and justifying, which gets me thinking- Is marketing an exact science?

Let me elaborate a little on what I’m talking about. I happen to attend a session on ROI marketing organised by ZenithOptimedia, where panel included Mr.Santosh Desai (Future Brands), Mr.Sachin Bhatia (MakeMyTrip.com) and a gentleman from new Walmart team. Mr Desai’s thought were very provoking, he said- Numbers are handled very loosely and sometimes we measure for the sake of measuring. Remember, when we made graphs for science lab test. The line in the graph would come first and then would the figures. Results and targets would come first, then the numbers. All of us would have encountered this situation.

Now, consider marketing, where the greatest tool/invention is the concept of “Brand”. Ironically, it never features in the balance sheet. But it is a brand which drives the consumer mindspace, preferences to use the product and therefore sales and market. Organisations spend huge time and money to build a strong brand. An ideal stage would be something like Google, where one doesn’t have to spend any money, but before one gets to this situation, one has to do a lot of board meetings and meet quarter end sales pressures.

And if I were to ask, how big the brand should be, what is the measure of a big brand and how can it drive business goals, to what extent does it effect the bottomline and will shareholders buy it? Well, it is very debatable, but surely, it is not as easy as to have a future projection for sales. It is like defining the “Quality”, which might empirically precedes any intellectual constructions. Deriving formula for numbers and projection is easy, but creating a brand isn’t. Sales is easy, Marketing isn’t. Thats why there are few marketing guys and very few of them become CEOs 🙂

Let me elaborate a little more and dwell on the realm of philosophy. World’s fastest growing company, Google didn’t know what it would become when it launched “Adwords”. Best of the discoveries were not planned. It happened with a mixture of conscious effort and magic (call it hands of god, stoke of luck, belief etc). Robert R Prisig’s book “Lila” (he also wrote “Zen and the art of motorcycle maintainence”) has a very insightful story. P wanted to reach Newfoundland, and prepared well for it. He trained himself as a sailor, gained proficiency in reading stars and maps. And so one day, he started on his journey to Newfoundland. There was a terrible storm and he lost his map, but then his inspiration kept him going. He used his instincts to guide him towards coast. He saw an island and he remembered that newfoundland was 10 kms to the right. Though he could not measure 10 km, he went further and saw some people. In order to ensure that his calculation was right, he asked these people how far was newfoundland. To his surprise he found that he was in Newfoundland!

In the process to get the right numbers, right target, right stretch target we seem to suppress our instincts and loose the feel for numbers (read business) and can’t look beyond. If we can’t differentiate between business goals and targets, the numbers become useless to reach goals. We loose the bigger picture. We measure for the sake of measuring and we make numbers to defend our options and resort to precision and more precision. The qualification of success would be how precise we are. And so would be the bonuses!

Marketing is philanthropic in its construction and all about hopes, dreams and aspiration and philosophy, which may not follow a polynomial regression equation and extends beyond the number business. Marketing is an inexact science and a creative profession. It is laidback, but performs, we should try to force fit its statistic correlation with bottomline.

Or shall we? I would love to hear from you 🙂

Cheers!


Digg!