Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hospital Branding: How do you measure success?

Maybe it's the Olympics, or maybe it's that time of year when new campaigns are being launched and will be judged as precisely as ice dancing.  In either event, the topic of measuring brand success is near and dear to every marketer and the discussion of metrics should be at the starting gate rather than the finish line.  After all, that's why we go through the discipline of establishing quantifiable goals, developing targeted strategies, and generating tactics to achieve desired actions.

Remember DAGMAR?  For those who don't, it was an old advertising agency acronym for "Defining Advertising Goals Measuring Advertising Results."   As a student, I remember thinking DAGMAR was some scowling scholar who was always peering over my shoulder reminding me that this was a business of results, not only big creative ideas.

Results...oh how times have changed.  Decades ago, marketers would celebrate in the hallways when bi-annual market research showed percentage point increases in awareness and preference.  Fast forward to 2014.  Can you imagine waiting around for the next wave of data or trying to make the connection between marketing efforts and sales without adequate information?  We are in an era of instant gratification and real-time results - DAGMAR would be doing his happy (ice) dance!

While we can literally review a campaign's success via digital media and metrics within hours after launch, there is still a place for other, more traditional types of measuring.  Again, it comes back to objectives and what you're trying to achieve.  Here's a take on different ways to evaluate success and their various methodologies.
  • Attitudinal - Studies suggest that before consumers will use your products and services, they need to know and like you.  Their attitude toward your brand is important information and includes variables such as awareness, preference, likability, and knowledge.  One of the best ways to measure your success in this arena is through market research and consumer studies.  You might not jump up and down in response to a percentage gain shift in preference, but it's a vital piece of information relative to your competition and the ultimate usage of your brand.  
  • Behavioral - Social networks and digital media have created new measures of success called behavioral metrics.  Behavioral metrics are interactions with your brand without the consumer actually having to pay for their experience.  Facebook "likes," website visits, banner click-throughs, and other digital analytics are all examples of these measures and help satisfy our thirst for instantaneous results.  Other examples of behavioral metrics include the number of attendees at a seminar, screening program,  or other marketing event.  Again, there's no monetary exchange, but there is a "trial" of your brand and the experience you are seeking to create.
  • Transactional - The third category goes for the gold, in keeping with the Olympics theme.  This is where the proverbial "rubber hits the road" and sales are generated for your product or service.  For marketers, this is oftentimes the most difficult to measure because reports are lagging and share-of-market data is incomplete. Additionally, when sales are up there are many factors in play, but when they're down, it must be the fault of marketing!  Hospital marketers have an even tougher time because share-of-market information can run behind by as much as 18 months when depending on hospital associations for this data.  Lastly, no matter how effective marketers are in tying out strategies to transactions and sales, there are many naysayers who are not convinced the effort is working or worthwhile. 
While DAGMAR's head would spin given all the complexities of the branding and advertising business compared to decades ago, his scowl is a reminder to think through desired results before developing integrated strategies.  The three measures of success discussed here, attitudinal, behavioral, and transactional do not live in silos - they have to co-exist and complement one another.

Transactional measures are still golden and you will be judged by your ability to move market share.  However, the other measures of success will help illuminate your branding efforts and provide consumer engagement along the way.  Here's to your standing at the podium!


Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, a brand strategy and communications firm located in the Chicagoland area. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or rob@springboardbrand.com

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