I remember a grad school course in Mass Communications research that made me think it would be hard to ‘measure’ advertising results (Grady Course Listing). 15 years in a creative service business have help prove that in more detail. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the UI work we do definitely effects results in a measurable way. I just think that companies and service firms struggle with the need to Quantify results that are probably more Qualitative.
We are starting to see the frothiness of web hype (Web 2.0 BS Generator) again with mergers, venture money and hyperbole from consultants, but many of the old adages still apply. The Journal of Marketing has only been around since 1936 and has published a ton of research on effectiveness. One of the articles I remember most came from a 1961 quarterly publication. It was by Robert Lavidge and Gary Steiner and we used it in class at Georgia when we discussed measurement. It took users through the 6 step process from Awareness to Knowledge to Liking to Preference to Conviction to Purchase. Advertising programs have been teaching kids to write copy to get people across that spectrum ever since. Bill Bernbach exemplified the skills starting with the 1959 Volkswagon Think Small campaign and held our attention for decades.
How does that age old ‘selling’ translate to the web? Where are we on Lavidge and Steiner’s continuum? Seth Godin has important opinions in his book “All Marketers are Liars” highlights which can be seen in a fantastic video of a talk he gave at Google’s offices (Godin Video). He believes that people “poke around” on a site until they can find meaning. And Meaning is the only thing that leads to Action (purchase in the old model).
His premise is is that you don’t have to invest millions in advertising (like the push model of old) if you can make a story worth telling by your customers. Engage your site visitors with a story? Have you been to a sales training session of any type where they didn’t tell you that? Story telling as a sales process works and it has been since the beginning of advertising. Getting customers to tell them is another story altogether.
So – how can a company cause those conversations to take place? That may be the most qualitative measure I have ever studied.