When What You Measure Doesn’t Really Matter…

By objective marketing analytics, Amazon’s H2Q competition was a smashing success. The e-commerce goliath generated palpable excitement, anticipation and publicity through its purposefully public process of choosing communities to build additional headquarters. But somewhere along the line, conversation shifted from the benefits of opening an Amazon headquarters to the costs.

While there are a variety of legitimate viewpoints about the collapse earlier this month of its deal with New York City, the situation amplified a narrative that all those jobs and the recognition that came with the announcement may not have been worth the accompanying requirements and headaches. Overall, I would argue that the Amazon brand was stronger prior to the HQ2 campaign.

Now, don’t worry about Amazon – it’s going to be fine. But the experience reminds us that all organizations need to be strategic in how they measure marketing and PR success.

I’m a strong believer in quantifiable metrics. We always need to hold ourselves accountable, and we need to know when to abandon strategies that aren’t working. Traditional metrics such as ad equivalency and website hits are often-used tools to measure success. But they aren’t always the best.

Sometimes your efforts generate publicity, but the wrong kind. In other cases, even favorable attention can be counter to your strategy of changing the conversation or keeping a lower profile. There are even instances in which the right message in the wrong setting does more harm than good.

Savvy marketers know that metrics are a poor substitute for strategy. They always take the opportunity to determine their desired outcome, and then work backward from there. The folks at Amazon would have been better served to consider their greater goals – and their vulnerabilities – before launching the high-profile HQ2 competition. Sometimes making a big splash just leaves you all wet.