Measuring the value of FMCG brand marketing

FMCG marketing is a peculiar art. Brand marketing using consumer channels only incidentally targets the people who buy their products from them (the retailer’s buyers) – so marketers are doing the work they might argue they want the retailer to do. In essence, the FMCG brand bypasses the intermediary and reaches out to influence the end consumer, hoping their demand will motivate retailers to decide to stock their products. By way of persuasion, brands use the consumer marketing they do to convince retail buyers that their product will be in demand, so to buy ahead of demand. There’s a little inference, quite a bit of assumption, and a sprinkling of hope and magic dust. But perhaps not that much measurement, except well after the fact once the sales figures have come in at the end of the quarter.

This has in fact always been a problem for traditional marketing channels. Advertising has to date been measured using wonderfully vague but industry standard “brand consideration” scores. The numbers in themselves are relatively meaningless, because at bottom it’s a benchmarking score, not a value attribution. But it does give us a means of comparing before and after and this with that, provided we can survey a sufficiently representative sample size.

Until the advent of digital, the assumption was that brand consideration and eventual total sales was as much as could be done. With the coming of the web, for e-commerce brands, suddenly it all became very joined up, and we could see the direct results of a call to action on a customer. Once this had been established for campaign-based marketing, marketers moved on to incorporating eCRM – long-term engagement strategies – into the list of activities whose value could be attributed to a tangible commercial result.

For non-ecommerce situations however it has been frustrating that nothing substantially better than brand consideration, the old advertising-oriented KPI, has taken over as the principal yardstick for marketers. The new digital standard metrics that have been added are once again comparative: dwell time on site, page impressions, open rates, click-through rates and recall. They allow some kind of industry and ‘before-and-after’ benchmarking, but contribute little by way of showing us what value a campaign has contributed.

In 2008 McCain Foods, the dominant (read: most successful) frozen potato products manufacturer, started an eCRM programme. The company used segmented email campaigns to try and drive changes in attitude that could be measured over time.

Quite sensibly, they started with brand engagement indicators, improving open rates, click-through rates and dwell time. One of its segments, brand resistors (typified by people who felt the category was unappealing due to perceived wellbeing issues or the brand unappealing due to perceived premium pricing), went from a 14% engagement rate to 63% over the course of ten months – great indicators. But no indication of what this meant in terms of commercial value.

Brand consideration was measured within each segment, and compared to the same scores in the general population. McCain quite quickly proved that engaging people in timely, relevant and meaningful dialogue over time could have a direct effect on brand consideration. The gap between those in the eCRM programme and those not in the programme widened by 11% in ten months. If this kind of marketing was judged in the same way as TV, it was a screaming success. But McCain wanted to go one step further and find a way of attributing actual commercial value to its online marketing. With limited budgets, and a new recession, being able to state that spending £1 generated £26 in incremental sales would be marketing nirvana.

So McCain set about devising a way to measure changes in value driven by its eCRM campaigns. The segmentation was tweaked so it exactly matched the commercially available Tesco segmentation. A Golden Questions Survey benchmarked eCRM programme participants’ purchase behaviour (frequency, product choices, average spend per month), and this was compared with the Tesco data corresponding to the same segment. The eCRM programme was rolled out for each segment with relevant, engaging content and offers. And over time the survey was repeated, comparing the eCRM customers’ behaviour with their Tesco analogues. In the most engaged segment of around 50,000 people, average purchase frequency went up by 3.1% in six months. Multiplying this rise in frequency by average transaction value showed a staggering rise in incremental revenue over the year. And because it can tell you precisely how much money it makes for every £1 it spends, McCain has invested hugely in expanding its eCRM programme, developing sophisticated new websites and online campaigns. By using some lateral thinking to provide a means to attribute commercial value to FMCG marketing, this peculiar art has finally come of age.