Three Ways Click Rates Are Killing Your Brand

Splat!Despite numerous calls for the demise of the click rate, it lives on as a standard fixture in nearly every benchmark and performance report. It lives on, its very existence reducing the effectiveness of your brand campaign.

Click rates live on for a simple reason. No other metric is (1) common across all advertisers and publishers and (2) accessible by publishers. Until an alternative performance metric can broadly be measured by those selling advertising space, click rates will remain a fixture.

The problem is, click rates hurt brand campaigns. When created with click rates in mind, your campaign will:

  • Focus on a call to action instead of your core message.
  • Favor large format and intrusive units that capture low quality, accidental, clicks and upset your audience.
  • Optimize towards broader reach and lower frequency placements, counter to both traditional marketing theory and research on online brand lift.

Maybe you don’t start here. Your plan reflects your brand objectives, at first. But online has trained you and your organization to expect granular and immediate measurements, even though brand lift and impact measurements are rarely granular, and never immediate.

To get the expected measurement, you focus on actions that, in theory, lift your brand. Actions that show someone noticed the creative and consumed your message. Actions like video plays, expansions, even (gasp) clicks. Although you value the potential brand impact, willingly paying more per action than in a pure direct response campaign, optimization slowly turns your brand campaign into a direct response campaign with a soft call to action and a compromised message.

As a brand marketer, you went backwards. You now have a campaign created for the minority that respond (by definition not a cross section of your target audience) and not optimized for its purpose: creating or changing brand perception.

Unfortunately, marketers and agencies alike will justify this behavior by positioning the brand site, not the advertising, as the core delivery vehicle for the brand message. At the same time, they will continue to integrate brand messaging into the advertising itself, instinctively understanding its importance but never measuring it, managing it or improving it.

As a marketer, there are only two good solutions.

  • Use traditional brand measurement or marketing mix modeling. These approaches measure the objective of the campaign, either the change in perception directly or the increase in overall revenue it drives.
  • Stop saying branding is your primary objective. Admit that the real goal is content consumption, registrations or direct sales, and manage appropriately.

Brand marketers, will you rise above click rate and toss all activity-based measurements aside. Will you measure and manage based on your objective? If so, please comment below, or share your opinion with me on Twitter at @wittlake.

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