How to measure your content ROI

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Samuel Beckett

by ANDREW CANTER, BCMA

June 2016

“What is the best way to measure branded content ROI?” is a perennial question we are often asked. As anyone who has tried to evaluate the success of a branded content campaign will tell you, there are numerous challenges to overcome.

Measuring a content marketing/branded content campaign can be the market research equivalent of putting together flat-pack furniture – simple in concept, but surprisingly difficult in practice. And like that ‘simple’ wardrobe you have spent several hours trying to assemble, you can be left looking at lots of components without knowing how they relate to one another and unsure if the whole thing will actually fit together.

What are the numerous challenges you need to overcome?

1. Different forms

The first challenge is that what constitutes branded content is very diverse. It could be:

Whatever it might be, it is unlikely that consumers will regard it as advertising and therefore we cannot talk to them about it in those terms.

2. Measuring success

Secondly, content marketing/branded content is often part of a wider integrated campaign and isolating its success or effect can be difficult.

In particular, what did it contribute compared to conventional advertising?

How well did the marketing support for a piece of branded content perform relative to the actual content? It might be that the promise of the content was stronger than the actual delivery, and in some cases the campaign was a success not because of the actual branded content, but the campaign elements supporting it.

3. Identifying key variables

Another issue is identifying what is working well in the branded content and if a ‘less is more’ approach would have been more successful, or conversely if the branded element was so subtle that it was missed by many consumers. This is one of the most common debates between brand owners and the producers of the content, with the natural temptation among the former to over-acknowledge their own magnanimity in providing this great content.

Nothing is perfect

These are just some of the more common challenges; you can be sure that each branded content campaign will bring several more of their own.

Therefore, when evaluating a campaign, the first thing to recognise is that whatever approach you take, it is unlikely to be perfect.

Like that piece of flat-pack furniture, ‘good enough’ is the aim, not ‘design perfection’.

In general, it is easier to address the challenges outlined above using a sample-based design that is modular and flexible, rather than trying to track a campaign ‘in-market’.

Unlike an in-market tracker, in a sample-based design we are not seeking to find people who have seen a campaign in the real world. Instead, we are creating an environment in which they are being exposed to the campaign or elements of it in a very controlled way, and without them knowing that our interest is in the brand featured in the content.

This type of design framework therefore employs multiple test cells versus a control group to enable the research team to evaluate individual elements of the campaign, as well as the campaign as a whole.

Be careful with vanity metrics

In today’s world of web analytics and social media, i.e. YouTube ‘views’, Facebook ‘likes’, Twitter ‘followers’, etc there is a tendency to default to these metrics, using them to measure the effectiveness of content marketing/branded content campaigns.

Whilst we believe there is a lot one can learn from data points such as the number of people ‘sharing and liking’ content, it should not be used as a substitute for understanding how the branded content has changed behaviour as a result of being consumed.

Content marketing/branded content is increasingly focused around video/TV-like creative executions and therefore, should include the type of metrics used to measure effectiveness in those mediums, i.e. cut-through, brand recall, purchase consideration and brand image, whether that is positive or negative. 

Changing perception is arguably the most significant outcome of a branded content campaign, so failing to measure this masks its true potential.

Changing perception is arguably the most significant outcome of a branded content campaign, so failing to measure this masks its true potential.

Often people don’t think about measuring the ROI of content marketing/branded content until it's too late. It should be agreed at the beginning of the process, long before anything has even been created.

We must understand how people react to the content and which are the most attractive elements. If the audience connected with the content, was this emotionally, rationally, or both? Did they find it entertaining and/or informative?

Without this type of information, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to know why one campaign may have appeared more successful than another. 

Contentmonitor

Due to these myriad challenges and issues, the BCMA has developed the Contentmonitor measurement tool to prove effectiveness and demonstrate best practice in content marketing/branded content.

Contentmonitor is a universally available tool for anyone involved in content marketing/branded content to evaluate their content campaigns.

This approach gives an in-depth insight into:

1. How the campaign is performing against key brand metrics, allowing ROI to be determined

2. Which elements of the campaign are performing the most strongly in meeting the campaign objectives

3. What could be done differently to support the campaign more strongly and optimise its ROI?

Contentmonitor goes well beyond social media and brand tracking metrics to provide a deeper understanding of what content marketing/branded content is doing for a brand and more importantly, why.

It has been designed to be flexible to cope with the rapidly evolving market. Modular in design, it uses the latest measurement techniques, including facial coding that offers the opportunity to measure levels of emotional engagement while respondents are actually viewing the content.

World leading brands, agencies, platforms and producers have all used Contentmonitor to prove the value of content marketing/branded content ROI.

It's usually very hard to retrospectively determine the impact of a campaign when the target audience, like ours, is so difficult to reach. What this research has given us is real insight, not only into whether our target audience liked the campaign or not, but how different elements made them feel towards our brand, and which messages were coming across strongest.                 HSBC Group Head of Marketing Insight & Planning