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The 2008 election ROI paradox and drumming gorillas

iStock_000005509580XSmall.jpgAt the IDG conference in Seoul last month I had the pleasure to meet Bruce Haines of Cheil Worldwide, a British expatriate living in Seoul. Bruce is one of the smartest marketers that I've met in a long time. During his keynote, Bruce cautions marketers against trying to assess ROI in a vacuum devoid of the brand. As with any number, ROI figures can lie and can be easily manipulated.

Bruce cautions marketers against trying to assess ROI in a vacuum devoid of the brand.

The 2008 Election

Bruce used the example of the US election to prove the point. This was an example that that made a lot of the people in the room sit up and take notice. I wanted to dive into it a little deeper to show the point and open a discussion around ROI. It's something I've written about before, but this is an ongoing conversation, so let's look at the numbers.

Here is a breakdown of the actual election spending numbers. The dollar figures are the reported spending amounts from the Federal Election Commission. Final votes are from CNN.com.

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Looking at the return (votes) on investment (dollars spent) McCain is clearly in the lead. He ended up spending approximately $3.50 less for each vote.

That, however, does not tell the whole story as we all know. The real return that matters is the brand that was built and ultimately winning presidency. Looking at the wrong checkpoints on the way to a goal can lead us astray.

Drumming Gorillas

Another example Bruce used to hammer the intangible value of branding is the Cadbury drumming gorilla ad. Here is the clip if you don't know what I am talking about.

If you look at the overall success of the campaign from a purely fiduciary standpoint, you could say it was not very successful. This article originally from Grocer Magazine shows that Cadbury's market share actually dropped to around 1%. Again it depends on what you're measuring. If you expect ad spending to increase market share, this would not have been a success. Factors that you don't see include increases in raw materials costs and consumers price increases.

The issue for us here today is how to measure cool.

What is not measured is that Cadbury is now seen as a "cool" brand according to Bruce. He mentioned that if you'd told him a year ago that Cadbury chocolate would be seen as cool he would have laughed. The issue for us here today is how to measure cool.

So here are some discussion starters, to bring this back to marketing:


  • What % of your ROI metrics are custom to your business? What % are "industry standard"?
  • As ROI is necessary to prove marketing value to higher ups, how do you deal with it?
  • How do you define the right metrics to make sure you're spending the optimal amount of money executing the right strategies?
  • How do you measure intangibles like "cool"?
  • Similarly, brand is nearly impossible to measure, yet extremely valuable. How are you attempting to measure brand value?

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