What does Measurement Mean to Marketers During Covid-19?

In this rapidly changing environment, it’s increasingly difficult to know how to market in a way that will protect your brand’s current and long-term health.  Marketers are simultaneously facing supply chain limitations and changing consumer dynamics, both lending to unprecedented disruption in a highly dynamic – but generally predictable – and certainly ‘measured’ space. 

For each brand, the impact will be different.  Some will see enormous short-term spikes in sales.  Toilet paper, hand sanitizer and canned goods are experiencing never-before-seen short term sales growth.  Other brands will struggle under travel restrictions and temporary closures.  What remains constant is a desire to understand how to redirect today in order to protect tomorrow.  We’re all searching for the data that will help us make the right decisions.

There are three key areas marketers must consider:  Messaging, Media and Measurement.  While this article focuses primarily on Measurement, there are a couple of consistent themes being touted around Messaging and Media that are important to reiterate.

Messaging

In times of uncertainty, remind consumers about brand purpose.  Communicate strength and solidarity.  Avoid humor or a focus on promotions and innovations.  Guinness leveraged a strong heritage in St. Patrick’s Day to assure consumers, “we know this year things feel different…don’t worry, we’ll march again.”  

Media

Most media channels are up noting viewership growth with each passing week.  If adjusting marketing dollars, think about both the national and local conditions where advertising is being placed and default to appropriate messaging for locked buys.

Measurement

Keep Measuring There is a lot of research and measurement that remains important and will continue to be relevant for your brand.  For example, if you have a primary research study in place to measure the impact of sales or foot traffic, you may not get the best metrics for this in the first half of 2020, but there are many other valuable metrics like awareness and brand sentiment that will be important to guiding near and long term planning.  

For A/B testing or ‘lift’ type measurement, keep in mind both control and exposed are matched on demographics and/or category behavior.  As such, both groups will have similar representation of consumers who have changed buying patterns or brand sentiment as a result of our current environment.  This will limit any bias in the measurement.  These types of measurements become much more important now as they are real-time indicators of consumer actions and sentiment and can offer insight to guide decisions around marketing execution.

Where marketers will need to pull back is measurement requiring in-person participation.  Focus groups and on-site analysis will be limited and should be minimized in lieu of virtual communities, bulletin boards and mobile/virtual ethnographies. 

Keep a Long-Term Vision Short term volatility is high and unlikely to help provide sustainable direction.  As such, be conservative in extreme measures but adjust as necessary to protect annual spend and brand equity.   Measurement tools such as marketing mix should be used for forecasting and scenario planning.   Existing mix outputs can be used as long as the planning framework is accounting for disruption variables. 

For planned marketing mix work that will include 2020 sales data, ensure the model platform incorporates data to measure the impact of coronavirus.  Metrics such as percent of positive tests, which can be obtained from the CDC and includes regional and weekly variation, will improve model stability and better read the changes to marketing that are driven by the marketing execution.  This also holds true for store closures or gaps in distribution.  Be sure ongoing measurement includes a holistic view of the environmental challenges we are facing now.

Measurement tools should continue to anchor short and long-term marketing decisions.  As marketers, we have learned to be flexible and nimble in a dynamic media environment.  Keep a pulse on your brand by ensuring you have appropriate messaging in the right media with the measurement savvy to support brand changes.

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