The Year Of Measuring Human Connection

jeff-banderData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Ephraim (Jeff) Bander, president and chief revenue officer at Sticky.

American motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar famously said, “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”

Little did Ziglar know how prescient and apt his mantra would become for marketers in the digital age: According to a 2013 Forrester Research survey, 50% of every buying decision is driven by emotion.

Sadly, the study also reported that an astounding 89% of respondents felt no personal connection to the brands they buy. Since then, marketers have gone through an emotional epiphany and started to place human connection, not product facts and features, as a primary goal and objective.

For example, Virgin America, Subaru, Coca-Cola and other Fortune 500 companies have shifted their marketing strategy toward tugging at consumers’ heartstrings rather than striking function-driven rationality. As a result, they’re coming “out on top”: Heartwarming ads with messages of family and generosity were some of the most effective ads during the holiday season. More compelling examples that show increasingly attuned sensitivity to today’s changing cultural fabric include Macy’s tapping into #LoveWins and Doritos issuing a special-edition rainbow bag to support the Supreme Court’s milestone gay marriage ruling.

Creatively exposing new human qualities and expanding the scope of engagement across mobile channels will remain marketers’ standing agenda for this year. By completely turning digital measurement thinking on its head and steering toward more relatable customer-driven objectives, the entire digital media ecosystem can significantly improve consumers’ personal relationships to brands.

Redefining Human Connection From The Consumer’s POV

Too often in digital media, the perception of what constitutes a human connection to a brand is framed by the metrics made accessible by ad tech providers to advertisers, agencies and publishers: impressions, clicks, page views, viewability, time spent on content and so on. But this data only convey online transaction information and leave too much room for flawed measurement systems in the form of accidental clicks, nonhuman, bad bot traffic and varying definitions of viewability.

As a result, the real deep, actionable insights around consumer-brand relationships remain hidden from marketers’ purview. As Ev Williams said, “Ask any junior high student which rectangle is bigger, one that is three inches wide or one that is two-and-a-half inches wide, and they’ll tell you it’s a nonsensical question unless they have more information – specifically, the height.”

Now, we need to give digital marketers the height, depth and color.

What if we flipped our thinking to directly integrate a consumer’s perspective of a real human connection? We are all consumers of products, so it isn’t far-fetched to imagine expressing the following kinds of statements:

  • I like the brand.
  • The brand clearly understands and cares about me.
  • Their ads make me smile, laugh, think, want to take action and do something, etc.
  • I subscribe to their content because I find it useful and informative.
  • Their content has a lasting impression on the products I buy.
  • I want to share this content with my friends, family and colleagues.

Wouldn’t it be significantly more insightful if digital media had access to measurement that aligned to these customer-centric statements? Instead, as evidenced by continued ad-blocking woes, our industry has operated at a pretty low bar and settled with, “That ad wasn’t annoying.”

We need to step up our game and rethink digital measurement that will avoid the mediocre and incentivize the right behaviors, elicit positive emotions and build solid human connections.

Opportunities For Measurement Innovation

Last year witnessed some praiseworthy milestones in digital measurement by focusing on engagement. But let’s resolve for some fresh new thinking.

Jeremiah Gardner, the author of “The Lean Brand,” proposed an interesting emotion-based measurement framework involving three sequential buckets: interaction, engagement and participation. Metrics within each of these phases can significantly improve. For example, in the engagement phase where consumers proactively provide feedback, publishers can tweak their sponsored content formats to elicit new kinds of responses from readers at the bottom of the posts.

Instead of asking, “Did you find this useful?” the post can ask, “Did you find this entertaining?” or “Did this make you happy?” or “Did this change your opinion about Marriott?” These suggestions just scratch the surface. Brands can play with this mini-survey format and think of more creative, witty ways to elicit responses. Now, marketers can learn more specific information from their consumers directly in a noninvasive way. As a result, rather than reporting that consumers found a post useful, they can present why the consumer found it useful or how it made them feel.

Adam Snyder, chief digital officer at Kwittken, recently described an unnamed global bank’s failed Father’s Day campaign to illustrate the importance of sentiment-based measurement. Although the campaign reported high impression volume, sentiment could not have been worse. Of the 1,000-plus comments, nearly all were incredibly negative, expletive-filled rants about how horrible the company was. To date, marketers have mainly focused on monitoring and measuring campaigns once they go live. But if marketers spent more diligence conducting pre-launch creative testing with prospective audiences, advertisers such as the global bank could avoid costly mistakes that negatively impact consumer relationships.

Today’s consumers are savvy media mavens with higher expectations for authentic experiences. The accessibility of various opt-out options and abundance of resources and channels for information is keeping brands on their toes to deliver personal content. To re-energize consumers this year, marketers can start by honing measurement that directly speaks to the emotional requirements that establish and solidify human connection.

Follow Ephraim (Jeff) Bander (@Stickyadman), Sticky (@sticky_ad) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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