Debate rages over need for standardised metrics to measure content marketing

Many marketers and content practitioners argue that if industry standards for measuring content marketing are put in place, it might help brands save time. On the other hand, a few say that there is no need for such standards, and measuring content marketing effectiveness depends on the objective of a content campaign

Akansha Srivastava
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Measuring content marketing is tougher compared to other forms of marketing because there is hardly any end date to content. Results can be measured accurately only over the long term. Also, mapping content in the last leg of the consumer journey is difficult before he or she makes a purchase decision because one doesn’t know how much and from where the consumer has consumed content.

Sambit Dash

Sambit Dash, VP Marketing, Honasa Consumer, parent company of MamaEarth, emphasised that content marketing takes a longer time to build resonance with consumers and hence it gets difficult to track its efficacy for a specific campaign. He said, “Once the objective is set, multiple pieces of content need to be floated across media channels to build cognisance with the larger objective, and hence it’s difficult to attribute results to a specific content piece.”

As the field of content marketing evolves over time, brands and agencies are coming up with many new methodologies to measure content marketing effectiveness in the most accurate form. Brands and agencies also have their own way to measure content marketing ROI.

However, there are no real ‘best’ industry standards to measure the effectiveness of content marketing. For some people, some metrics might work while for others, they might not. Everyone calculates content marketing ROI differently.

Many marketers and content practitioners argue that if industry standards for measuring content marketing are put in place, it might help brands to save time.

On the other hand, a few say that there is no need for industry standards, and measuring the effectiveness of content marketing depends on the objective of a content campaign.

Navin Khemka

Navin Khemka, CEO, MediaCom South Asia, agreed that there is a need to have a common ground when it comes to standardising measurement metrics for content marketing. “That’s the only way for it to break barriers in terms of scaling, widespread acceptance and separate the wheat from the chaff. It would be an elaborate process, one which would incorporate the innumerous variable, but a much-needed one. This in turn will not just help us in evaluating our marketing efforts, but also generate insights (both at category and consumer level) that can fuel in our future campaigns.”

Tusharr Kumar

Tusharr Kumar, SVP and Business Head, Global Creator Network (OML’s content marketing team), believes that while marketers do understand that content marketing is a very effective tool in their arsenal, whether that is to build brand equity, awareness, recall or even sales, it’s not entirely always clear how much and at what efficiencies.

“A standard measurement metric would not only help brands plan better but will also help agencies and creators build confidence while planning, deploying and working towards specific campaign KPIs. A dynamic standard that evolves along with platforms and user interaction will help marketers gauge ROI and enable the industry to drive scale,” he said.

Neena Dasgupta

Talking about the importance of metrics to measure content marketing effectiveness, Neena Dasgupta, CEO and Director at Zirca Digital Solutions, gave an example, “Imagine when a piece of content satisfies more than one need. We need to know which particular need is driving the consumption and to what extent that need is satisfied. If there is no measurement metric, we will continue to shoot in dark without know which bullet hit the target.”

Sonia Notani

On the contrary, Sonia Notani, Chief Marketing Officer, IndiaFirst Life, thinks we cannot have standardised measurement metrics to measure content marketing effectiveness.

She said, “Your brand is set apart from all others when you can provide truly relevant and useful content to your audience, customised to their context and through their preferred medium. I do not think we can have standard measurement metrics to measure content marketing effectiveness. We already have an ROI-based outcome on any campaign. This ROI is a derivation of the base KPI mapped to the objective of the campaign and of the underlying business.”

Giving an example, she explained, “If I were to take a very simple example, an FMCG brand will typically prefer brand awareness, perception creation and recall on a digital or social platform. Alternatively, a BFSI brand may work on a differentiated content strategy to build the brand or for instant lead generation /purchase.”

Rahul Jain

Rahul Jain, Co-Founder, Flickstree, seconded Notani’s thought process. He said, “For some, reach is most critical, while for some, sales could be the primary objective. Whatever be the objective, content marketing allows that flexibility to the advertiser to define it as per their marketing goals and KPIs.”

Notani also said she isn’t sure if it is fair or relevant to look at a pure content measurement metric. “Advertising metrics based on platforms already exist and form a critical input into setting ROI parameters for any campaign based on the objective,” she added.

Would it be possible to formulate standardised metrics in the near future?

The conversation has already begun. There is always a solution to any problem. Given the growing importance of content marketing, marketers and agencies have started working on figuring out uniform metrics that can help calculate ROI on content marketing. But there is a long way to go as there is a need for all to come on common ground.

Zirca’s Dasgupta believes that just because we haven’t been able to do it yet, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. She said, “The advertisers will have to put their foot down and take the lead on making platforms and publishers come together to arrive at a uniform set of metrics. That is the only way they will be able to measure the bang for their buck in the same coin rather than comparing apples and oranges and being left none the wiser at the end of their campaign.”

She suggested, “A good start may be to arrive at a framework that can provide us metrics bouquet of sorts or even differing benchmarks based on the marketers’ needs. This framework will need to be flexible enough to integrate not just different formats, but alter benchmarks by key drivers such as consumer mindsets, advertiser category, and the various contexts that the content is available in.”

While agencies are working in the right direction in finding the best content marketing metrics, brand managers can play an important role to educate themselves and derive marketing KPIs that best suit them. Khemka of Mediacom said, “This, in turn, will give rise to a robust setup aimed at giving directional inputs and ever-evolving performance metrics to all the marketing efforts. But an elaborate model, which has the potential to evolve as requirements change, is the need of the hour.”

Kumar of OML’s Global Creator Network thinks that the creation of uniform metrics for content marketing ROI will help bring much larger scale and confidence in content marketing. But brands will have to work closely with the content platforms to do so. He added, “Since the platforms will continue to evolve, the metrics will need to factor this evolution continuously. That will also help it stand out from the passive and stagnant traditional media measurement metrics.” 

A very optimistic Dash of Honasa Consumer told, “I believe that anything that is worth doing is possible to measure. As we develop better models of attribution and have seen enough case studies of how content marketing helps brands, I’m confident we’ll be able to determine more standardised measurement metrics.”

Giving a different angle to the above point of view, Jain of Flickstree said that if one looks this from an advertiser’s point of view, uniform measurement metrics are already available to some extent. Social media platforms even if they are walled, provide all levels of granular data on content performance and who is watching or reading and to what extent. This helps determine brand exposure and any action that the user takes and is also measurable to the last click and finally the purchase made.

He said, “The need of the hour is not to reinvent the discussion around content marketing effectiveness but to educate advertisers and brands on how to get the attribution right, which is platform agnostic and which will help them measure the effectiveness more accurately.”

Notani of IndiaFirst Life believes we need to streamline some existing metrics with evolving mediums to enable improvement based on collective learning, rather than probably diluting the objective, and focusing on ‘uniformity’.

Debate measure content marketing standardised metrics