What’s On

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room….shall we?

So what has a picture depicting sunny spells in Covent Garden got to do with Burberry? Honestly – nothing! But that’s what you’ll see on Burberry’s Facebook page on the 2nd of August 2012. And guess what – 26,896 people liked it and 1588 people shared the picture (stats reflected was accurate at the time this article was written) which means it went viral. And not just that, you don’t have to ‘Like’ the page to see it! Amazing stats and amazing engagement with its users. I haven’t seen any other luxury brand with such stats with their digital engagement! But the real question is – how is success measured?

Engaging audiences, especially the new and fast growing middle class in emerging markets all over the world, is critical for any organization’s growth. In an era where knowledge and information has been democratized, the language of digital is one that any organization needs to adopt. It’s new and with its newness comes many questions and resistance to change. And one of the questions that always comes up is how do we measure its impact? And frankly – that’s not always an answer that most people have. And speaking from experience, truth be told – it’s not something that can always be answered in the first place. And by the way, defining the number of Likes on your FB page is not a measurement of success!

Companies like Burberry spend half of their media budget on digital (June 11, 2012 Fortune Magazine) and that’s pretty bold. And they don’t spend that money to only drive campaigns which is what dominates digital spend today. They spend that money to engage and deliver a great experience to their customer, acknowledging that much of their social media efforts have not been designed to generate immediate sales. Their focus is on driving a great multimedia experience online. Digital is not just a tick in the box like it is for many companies today; it’s a way of life. Online – is about the experience they deliver to the customer and not just an e-commerce site or a digital store. Check out http://artofthetrench.com – even I now want (I don’t need) a trench coat and a Burberry scarf! Christopher Bailer, Burberry’s Chief Creative Officer is quoted saying, “It should never be on a list: ‘Have we remembered to do the digital thing?”. Does that sound familiar? I am sure whether you are an agency or a customer – you’re definitely guilty of this.

But here’s the clincher – Burberry’s in the Fortune article on June 11 2012, concedes that it isn’t easy to calculate a return on the resources poured into Burberry’s technology. And that’s an important statement and fairly profound one that many must take a breather to understand. The investments made have taken place driven by a clear vision and a good understanding of the change happening around us. The results may not show immediately but over time, as in the case of Burberry’s they did. Drawing a parallel for a moment – look at the microcredit industry. An industry that’s grown over time to become a global industry of about $100b with its main mission to end poverty. With billions of dollars being lent out, can the impact be measured? Many reports over time have suggested that such micro loans have had the intended impact. Interestingly enough, in a recent TIMES article (Feb 20, 2012) new research have delivered findings that seems to suggest that long time industry claims on the impact of micro financing may not all be necessarily true. David Roodman, a senior fellow at Washington’s Center for Global Development, who has analyzed hundreds of microcredit clients over many years said, “The best estimate we have of the impact of microcredit on poverty among clients is zero.” And what’s interesting is the concept of microcredit has probably been around longer than the rage of going digital. But despite this finding – I’m pretty sure, it’s not going to stop for profit or not for profit institutions from continuing to lend to help the poor.

Measurement is the elephant in the room. Everyone wants to know how to measure and get an absolute idea of the return on their investment. Thru my journey as a practitioner and one point as a CMO, I realized you can’t get that. It’s just like a child learning how to play an instrument. You don’t measure the return on your investment on a per lesson basis. You pay for classes (call that an investment) with the ultimate goal of having the child play the instrument. Embracing digital, having a digital strategy with the aim to deliver new, immersive experiences that allow you to converse, engage and connect with your customers now is a must. Trying to use the lack of measurement as an excuse not to do so is just wrong. Measurement will evolve and so will the concept of ROI. With an increased focused on engagement and experience – the brand measurement of investment needs to focus more on ROE over a defined time and potentially not ROI. It’s a journey and one that the industry will have to go through as it matures. But the investments start now. Partnerships need to be forged with those who have the experience and with those who get it regardless of brand or size. And at the end of the day, it’s about people. We need more Nikes, Starbucks, Burberry’s, etc… We need more CEOs like Angela Ahrendts to have the understanding of the change taking place around us, the vision and the guts to drive change and transformation. None of these companies, I am sure, got to where they are without making mistakes or by having all the answers. Marketers and business leaders need to own the thought process behind making this bet and not outsource it.

And in thinking about the elephant in the room, I am reminded of this story. There was a Supreme Court judge in the US who was deliberating on a case related to pornography. And in his closing comments he said that he couldn’t define pornography but he would know it when he saw it! Sometimes you can’t define success, but you’ll know it when you see it! And looking at the turnaround Burberry has seen – I’m sure the ROE has been worth it! I’m off to Like the Burberry’s Facebook page. You guys genuinely earned it!