Taste of Marketing Measurement

Last month I attended ‘Taste of the Danforth‘, my favourite summer event in Toronto. Now in its 19th year, this weekend long event along a 3km stretch of Danforth Avenue typically attracts around 1.3 million people over the weekend. I live nearby, attend almost every year and generally eat too much while I’m there.

I planned to meet a friend on the Danforth Friday evening but when the forecast called for rain, we called off our plans. The forecast turned out to be wrong and as I sat at home on a fairly dry Friday night, I wondered just how many other people didn’t go to Taste of the Danforth due to the threat of rain and how much that might have reduced sales for each restaurant participating in the event.

Marketing Effectiveness

I also thought about how event organizers seemed to have been very effective at creating awareness for the event. I saw a lot of local media coverage and I noticed how Taste of the Danforth was listed in every what’s-going-on-in-Toronto/Ontario listing I saw in print and on-line.

Marketing effectiveness measurement tends to focus on whether specific program objectives were achieved, such as attracting and keeping profitable customers and creating value for the business. Yet, as I was reminded by sitting at home when I should have been out eating too much, marketers can do everything right and still end up with bad results due to factors outside of their control, such as bad weather (or a bad forecast).

Event Objectives

I’m guessing the event’s main marketing objectives are to generate awareness, attendance and trial of both the area and of individual restaurants, and to also increase post-event traffic and revenue for local merchants.

While I sat home that night, I watched a segment of a local newscast about Taste of the Danforth in which a restaurant owner told the interviewer that this event generally makes his year. I imagine that some restaurants might aim to sell enough souvlaki in three days to possibly pay for a renovation or to simply make enough that weekend to stay in business for another year.

Objectives like this point the way towards some of the metrics I would include on a scorecard to measure the effectiveness of the marketing, but there are other factors to consider.

Those Pesky External Factors

For this event, the number one external factor outside of marketing’s control that can impact its success is the weather. I imagine that the event organizers must make the appropriate sacrificial offering (lamb would seem appropriate) to the Greek god (Zeus?) most responsible for weather. A hard rain could severely reduce attendance for an evening or whole weekend.

The Measurement Dilemma

There are three general approaches to choose from regarding external factors.

1. Ignore Them

This option will always be as tempting as all the delicious foods one finds at Taste of the Danforth. I can’t imagine how I’d ever determine how many people didn’t go to Taste the Danforth that Friday night because they thought it might rain, or how many sticks of souvlaki didn’t get sold as a result.

2. Model Them

This option is worth considering when you have a lot of data. If the organizers have 19 years worth of data that would correlate daily attendance with weather forecasts and actual rainfall, then that would be a start. Still, for most marketers, the costs of sophisticated models and analytics can quickly become too high relative to the size of the marketing expense they’re meant to measure.

3. Track Them

I think it is well worth tracking any external factor that could impact results, such as weather, competitive activity and labour disruptions. I arbitrarily score each external factor on a five-point scale, where the low end of the numerical scale corresponds to “very negative” and moves up through “somewhat negative”, “no impact”, “somewhat positive” and “very positive”.

I keep this very unscientific scoring of external factors separate from the rest of the scoring I do on the factors that seem to be within marketing’s control and on the results that can reasonably be attributed to the marketing. I don’t muddy the waters by including the external factors in the calculation of the overall score, but I do note them and score the severity of those factors.

The value of tracking external factors comes when you analyze a group of marketing programs, such as past years of Taste of the Danforth. Imagine looking back and seeing great year to year variations in attendance and not knowing in which years it rained all weekend, or there was a transit strike.

Without tracking external factors, it would be easy to come to the wrong conclusions about the effectiveness of specific marketing programs. It would be hard to decide whether specific programs should be repeated or changed and also to learn which tactics were the most and least effective.

Always track those factors outside of your control and the degree to which they may have helped or hindered your results. That will at least give you a taste of what else might have been going on at the time that may have impacted your results.

About Rick Shea
Rick Shea is President of Optiv8 Consulting, a marketing consultancy that helps small to mid-sized organizations improve their marketing impact and business outcomes through customer insights, strategic discipline and effective content. Copyright ©2016 Optiv8 Consulting. All rights reserved. You may reproduce this article by including this copyright and, if reproducing electronically, including a link to: http://www.optiv8.com/

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