The ultimate guide to brand measurement

When we start a new engagement with a college or university, we love our initial discussions about project goals and measuring success. It’s a step full of vision and ambition, tempered with an eye toward focus and standards. It’s equal parts emotional and rational, and we love every nerdy second of it.

Over the course of a client engagement, many different conversations about analytics and measurement transpire. Here’s a taste of some of the most common topics we encounter.

Tracking the ancillary

Regardless of the industry or the objectives, every brand wants two things from analytics: to understand what’s working and what’s not, and to use that knowledge to realize brag-worthy results. But, as many marketers can attest, it can be tough to trace quantifiable results directly to your brand positioning.

That’s why we shouldn’t confine ourselves to measuring only things that are in our direct sphere of influence. We also need to identify and track metrics that might not be obvious or direct indicators of success, because they just may signal progress toward a business goal.

For example, if the objective is to drive awareness, we can certainly track traditional things like impressions and reach. Or, we can step outside of what’s traditional and also track the percentage of new visitors to our website. Now, can we claim that all of those new visitors were a direct result of our awareness efforts? No. But it’s likely that we had an affect on some of that traffic, and we’re going to take some credit for that, because it signals progress toward our goal.

These ancillary metrics can help paint a more holistic picture of your brand’s performance, particularly as it relates to other campaigns, messages, and cultural goings-on that your audiences may also interact with.

Engagement is a myth

When social media became all the marketing rage, the focus of measurement shifted to emphasize “engagement”—so much so that even analog channels now aim to drive engagement with audiences. The challenge, however, is this: in our noisy digital ecosystem, tapping a quick “like” is now native to how we consume information. The barrier to completing these actions is so low that they have become passive and routine. We can no longer assume that a like or share means that someone is truly engaged.

(Side note: We’d be fools to really believe that our goal is to drive engagement. We’re all part of a business here, so the ultimate goal is to drive some form of conversion.)

The notion of engagement in and of itself is not a myth. But the way that we’ve been defining and interpreting it is. We need to revisit our approach to this idea to ensure we are tracking against the things that actually matter.

Two types of metrics, each with two flavors

We can think of metrics in two big buckets: conversion (actions that drive business results in some way) and engagement (micro-conversions that lead up to the big actions). We can further qualify the buckets by applying two filters: passive and active metrics.

Passive metrics have a low threshold for action. They may not require any thought or much of a contribution to the experience, but they do allow people to interact on a shallow level. Active metrics, on the other hand, require a cognitive action. Therefore, they indicate a deeper connection between audience and brand, and suggest a closer proximity to a legitimate conversion.

Think of it like this: You’re at Graeter’s and you can choose between getting gelato (engagement) or ice cream (conversion). Each has distinct qualities that make it delicious and satisfying, although ice cream is the clear moneymaker for Graeter’s.

And, both the ice cream and the gelato come in vanilla (passive) or chocolate (active). Vanilla and chocolate are both quite tasty in their own right, but when you combine a scoop of each in your cone or bowl, you get the best of both worlds. #noms

Here’s a graphic summary of this line of thought:


Balance is key

When putting together a measurement plan, you need an approach that balances engagement with conversion, and passive with active. It’s the most effective way to understand the full scope of how audiences are responding to your brand or campaign.

Here are three things you can do now to begin measuring with a balanced approach:

  1. Get a baseline via a Google Analytics dashboard template 
  2. Explore basic A/B testing 
  3. Start with one link in the channel chain, such as social media