Metric Madness: “How Likely Are You To Recommend Me?”

Metric Madness: “How Likely Are You To Recommend Me?”

Marketers love a good metric system, but the numbers we’re so keen on crunching aren’t always the main objective, says Honorary Adjunct Professor, Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Stephen Holden.

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

Marketers are mad about metrics! By that, I mean both manic-mad and misguided-mad.

The manic side is clear in the availability of marketing metrics beyond measure: Net Promoter Score, brand valuation, brand equity, purchase intention, ServQual, social media “likes”, CTRs (click-through rate), etc.

The misguided side is that we have become like a child fascinated by a tape measure or a digital scale. A little girl pulls out the tape measure and delights as the tape automatically retracts. A little boy puts his hand on the kitchen scales, the digital display lights up, a number appears.

We get a number, but what does it mean? Who knows! But everyone is measuring it, so we do it too.

As a consumer, I’m baraged by requests to complete little surveys for my bank, my mobile provider, my internet-provider, the airlines I fly, etc. And so many of them end with what we all know is the Net Promoter Score:

“How likely is it that you would recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague?: 0=not at all likely, 10=extremely likely.”

But what does this mean? I suspect that many think that a high recommender score means high satisfaction and/or high future purchase intention – and a low recommender score the converse. But even just a little thought highlights that ain’t so.

What mobile network would I recommend? In accord with MBA-speak, the answer is “it depends!” If you want coverage in rural areas, go with Telstra – and no, that is not my network provider!

What internet provider would I recommend? Not mine because they suck. However, they have rather neatly promised me the world wide web, tied me into a 24-month contract and then delivered crap service. But how good are the alternatives? Not much better – as reflected perhaps in the low NPS norm for internet service which is three!

Purchase intention, satisfaction, and recommendation measure three different things. I might recommend a wedding dress designer, but I have no intention of using them again!  I loved going to Tahiti, I might even recommend it if I thought it suited the person I am talking to, but I’m never going back: “been there, done that.”

I am dissatisfied with my bank, but I have no intention of changing: it’s just too hard. I might even recommend them as being the best of a bunch of bastard bankers.

And I have no intention of talking about, let alone recommending, my favourite guilty pleasures (my favourite treat at the local bakery which is in limited supply), my dirty little secrets (the toilet paper I use), things so trivial or personal, I simply don’t know the brand and/or would never would discuss with others (butter, toothpaste).

Another meaningless measure is the widely touted brand value. What can this measure mean when multiple agencies come up with different scores?

Marketing Week columnist and academic, Mark Ritson has eloquently railed on this nonsense in print and in a public debate with the companies which hawk this BS.

Just because I can measure something does not mean it is useful. I could measure the average height and weight, of the marketing department, but what does it mean? If you’re measuring marketing muscle, you need measures to match.

Make the measure to fit the effect, not the other way round.