Even Brand Marketers Need to Take Behavioral Data into Account

Last week I attended a day of discussion on online measurement at OMMA Metrics & Measurement conference in New York City. The opening keynote came from John Burbank, the CEO of Nielsen Online. His impressive resume includes CMO at AOL, VP of Marketing at AT&T/Cingular and Brand Management at P&G. Coming from a history of building well known brand names, his view of online advertising was partial towards brand marketers. The primary message of his keynote addressed how brand marketers should align their metrics with attitudinal and purchase data to understand the true impact of their ad dollars.

Burbank said brand marketers should measure the impact of their campaign on brand attitudes, brand perceptions and offline sales. However, he discouraged brand marketers from using behavioral metrics like viewthrough and search queries to assess the success of their brand campaign. While it’s true that direct response campaigns will be better measured using behavioral metrics, brand marketers should not ignore behavioral indicators.

A few months ago, Compete measured the attitudinal impact of an automotive OEM branding display campaign by surveying a group of exposed consumers and comparing their responses to a control group. Some of the brand metrics such as unaided brand awareness and ad recall saw positive lifts. Both brand attributes increased by five percentage points for exposed compared to control. However, a few of the other brand measures like top of mind and brand favorability showed negative declines. So how does a marketer gauge the success of this campaign based on mixed results from the brand survey?

We also ran data to measure the behavioral impact of this automotive campaign and the behavioral data indicates that the campaign prompted higher rates of online activity for viewthrough and search. Exposed consumers were 83% more likely to visit the OEM site, 115% more likely to view the product page on the OEM site and 98% more likely to perform a brand query on a search engine compared to the control group. Based on what consumers actually did online, as observed by clickstream data, tells a very different story about the success of this campaign compared to what they said in the online survey.

So brand marketers need to look beyond traditional brand metrics and incorporate behavioral data especially for their online campaigns.  The takeaway here is that attitudinal measurements alone don’t tell a complete story.  Those in the online advertising industry should open their behavioral blinders, especially if you happen to work for an online audience measurement company.