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Search, Social Media Important Indicators of Branding Effectiveness



Michael McVeigh
Senior Vice President, Strategic Services
Zeta Interactive

Michael McVeigh, senior vice president of strategic services for digital marketing agency Zeta Interactive, heads up the agency’s acquisition marketing team that focuses on search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), social media, mobile and analytics testing. In overseeing these efforts, McVeigh has his pulse on how companies are integrating and measuring these formats and channels to create a more cohesive online branding experience. He spoke with eMarketer’s Lauren Fisher about some of the trends he’s witnessing in branding usage and measurement, and he explained the importance of search and social media for brand marketers.

eMarketer: What trends are you seeing in how clients are measuring their digital branding success?

Michael McVeigh: We are an ROI-, marketing services-focused company, so we’ve been in highly tracked performance media since we started. It’s pretty apparent there is a general move away from traditional ad recall-type metrics to things that are measurable, quantifiable and accountable within media.

I’m particularly intrigued and excited by the offline integrations that are blossoming—for example, the heavy integration of Shazam with Super Bowl ads. These are really powerful trends because they signal that traditional media is starting to walk and talk like digital media has been for a long time.

I’m certain that even those owners of very traditional budgets are looking at that performance and they’re now asking the questions like, “How many registrations did we get spurred by that Super Bowl ad?” or “How many snaps of that QR code did that poster get us as that event?” But with that trend also comes a lot of refinement; it’s still very early days for that stuff.

Now, how are all of these things necessarily correlated back to brand effectiveness? I don't know, but those are branding campaigns, and there’s now more digital means of measuring the impact, along with other things like measuring branded search term spikes. Google Insights for searches is a very powerful charting tool to throw out a brand name and see how it goes up and down in a given time period.

eMarketer: It’s interesting you mention search, which is often largely considered a direct-response channel. What role does search play in branding?

“Because search is so important, things like SEM and SEO should not be overlooked for branding.”

McVeigh: Search is very much part of the connective tissue of digital media, and it’s strategically placed in terms of cause and effect. When people want to know more about something or experience something, they search for it. Even if it’s a digital video, many people still go to Google search and type in “Toyota Super Bowl Ad YouTube” to navigate to see that video. On mobile apps, consumers are searching to see if other people liked something, reviewed it or found it useful. Even with social media, if a consumer wants to interact with a brand on Facebook, they perform a search on Google for the brand plus Facebook, instead of going directly to Facebook and navigating through that search experience.

Because search is so important, things like SEM and SEO should not be overlooked for branding. For years, we’ve been debating with clients about why they should be buying their branded search terms when they’re No. 1 in SEO. It’s always been about getting greater real estate on the search engine results page and guarding against someone from advertising on their branded term.

But the rise of much more advanced ad units, whether they incorporate site links or product listings, has really helped answer that question for brand advertisers. With these bigger units, they can now take up half the screen instead of one-tenth of a page. They now understand the importance of owning their own brand again in the space.

eMarketer: Let’s talk a little bit about social media. What role does social media serve in the digital branding experience?

McVeigh: For a lot of advertisers, social is actually the bridge of their understanding between the traditional world and the digital space. While such things as email and search are often still viewed through narrow conversion-oriented metrics, social is where brands start to see how many people they have reached throughout their network, much like those big, over-arching air powers of TV and radio.

eMarketer: How effective do you think the typical metrics of fans, “likes” and mentions are for measuring brand health?

McVeigh: It’s very much a mixture. They are all really valuable, but you can’t necessarily associate them with the right level of impact, the brand itself or what the brand is selling. You can’t just say that the average value of a “like” is X number of dollars. For example, if you’re a financial services company that sells life insurance and somebody has gone out of their way to “like” you or mention you online, the long-term value could be tens of thousands of dollars.

There is no one universal value for a social media engagement point. But if brands can correlate it to the lifecycle of their customer, they can start to better quantify those actions. Of course, it also depends on campaign messaging and what exactly the social media content is that they are responding to.

For example, if you’re just going out there and asking if your fans like kittens, and that’s what you’re getting a “like” on, that’s not really an engagement point. They might not even remember it was your brand that asked. Conversely, if someone is “liking” a lifetime guarantee for one of your products, that is a much clearer connection between consumer and brand.

“Likes” and fans certainly have a value and should be measured, but companies need to think long and hard about what valuation they put to them. However, once they do that, they need to be willing to continuously reevaluate these things and change them accordingly.

eMarketer: What advice do you have for marketers looking to measure the effectiveness of their digital branding campaigns?

“If you have a product that you don’t sell directly online, please do not attribute a pure revenue ROI metric to your efforts. You won’t be able to measure it.”

McVeigh: Start early in creating a common language in your organization around what the correlated success metrics and KPIs are in digital. It could be affecting 20% growth on branded search queries. It’s not hard to come up with what the corollaries are in digital to show you’re having an effect.

Also, competitive intelligence and competitive benchmarking tools offer great value for proving brand health against competitors. Everybody likes to win, and winning is often clearest when you see how you perform against your competitor. Tracking branded searches against competitors or other analogous brands gives marketers a window to see comparisons and seasonality. You can also use a panel-based competitive intelligence tool—like comScore or Nielsen—to really dig deep into how clients are trending and changing relative to their competitive set and their target demographic.

Finally, if you have a product that you don’t sell directly online, please do not attribute a pure revenue ROI metric to your efforts. You won’t be able to measure it.

A longer version of this interview is available to eMarketer Total Access clients only. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a Total Access client, click here.

Check out today’s other articles, “Omnichannel Shopping Puts a New Spin on Ecommerce” and “UK Social Media Users Not Thrilled About Ads.”

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