Measuring the impact of Viral is more than a numbers game…

posted by Brendan Hodgson

Via Mathew Ingram’s blog, I read with interest Tony Hung’s interpretation of Dove’s viral Evolution campaign – which Adage recently suggested achieved greater ROI than a Superbowl ad – and specifically his thoughts around measurement. However, I tend to disagree with Tony’s assertions.

Without question, the ability to directly connect a PR or marketing initiative to a specific business outcome will always be the holy grail. But that isn’t always the full measure of success. Without having the insight of being involved in this campaign, I would suggest that there are multiple motivations to this exercise – donations to the Dove Self-Esteem Fund being only one, albeit perhaps the most important.

The value of viral – and particularly now with technologies such as blogs and YouTube – is, in my view, as much about being able to capture - through a single activity – raw audience insights, whether via feedback, comments and blog posts; all of which can serve to further enhance the overall perception of the brand.

Without these tools, we might only be able to share our collective admiration for the ad, and/or disgust at what it represents (if that’s how we, in fact, truly feel) with the person sitting next to us on the couch. It filters raw emotion and uncompromising feedback like no survey or focus group ever could, and becomes a powerful gauge – and potential influencer - for overall brand reputation (obviously, reinforced by the collective success of other “Campaign for Real Beauty” initiatives). It even feeds into those who would suggest that this campaign is, in fact, a subtle reverse psychological marketing ploy.

But I think that last point is important. Are we to measure this campaign from the basis of individual tactics, or do we need to look at it from the broader perspective of the overall campaign? According to Adage (quoting Todd Tilleman of Unilever):

…the emotional response the “Campaign for Real Beauty” has evoked from women has substantially strengthened brand loyalty, noting that two-thirds of brand sales now come from people buying more than one product, up from one-third three years ago.

“If you stood only for function, people would assess the brand based only on one category,” he said. While cross-marketing, new-product performance and other tactical appeals have helped build that number too, he said, “I’m convinced the real driver of it is that the brand has increased awareness of this mantra, this mission.”

It hasn’t hurt sales, either. Dove has gained share in the past year in four of its five major categories: personal wash (body wash and bar soap), hair care, deodorant and hand-and-body lotion. 
Personally, I also wonder what impact the potential for repeat viewing has on a specific audience… This video continually fascinates me. I’ve watched it a number of times now and, as a father of six-year-old twin girls, it has undeniable impact – perhaps even more so than for other audience segments. 

So what, then – to use Tony’s phrase? The fact that the article makes no mention of a spike in donations shouldn’t take away from other potential metrics of success - the numbers game being only one… 

1 Comment


Sean Moffitt

Brendan, Well said on not defining the new media based on old media metrics – the retun on involvement and insight is always discounted – I must admit however the media valuation I had read somewhere else and was impressed. Sidebar – as a father of two and as I discovered yesterday through ultrasound three girls – I love the campaign too. Look forward to seeing you tomorrow  

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