Department store magnate John Wanamaker once said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.” Wanamaker’s conundrum vexes marketers to this day. With the exception of direct marketing, the relationship between message and consumer behavior is still maddeningly elusive.
A big problem is that conventional research tools are ill-suited to assess the impact of marketing investment on behavior, mainly because it’s nearly impossible to track all the steps from the moment someone sees an ad to the moment when they make a purchase. As a result, market researchers have had to settle for metrics like awareness and attitudes – essentially asking actual and potential customers about how they feel about a given product or advertisement–which aren’t necessarily predictive of behavior. Just because someone thinks a BMW is the best car out there doesn’t mean she’s going to buy one. On the flip side, just because someone has a low opinion of his home insurance company doesn’t mean he’s going to make the effort to switch.
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