Confessions of A Food Marketer On How To Measure Success
Proving that a company’s marketing efforts are successful can feel overwhelming and most marketers confess they honestly have no idea what’s working.
Hubspot surveyed a large group of marketing professionals, and 42% said it was their top priority to provide ROI for their marketing activities. Proving ROI and marketing effectiveness isn’t just important to provide job security, but it should also help dictate the marketers chosen tactics. Measuring advertising and marketing campaigns can be difficult in the food and beverage industry as the paths to purchase aren’t always clear. Some brands have figured this out better than others, and the marketing team at Kodiak Cakes has developed a great approach to judging performance and measuring success.
42% of marketing professionals said it was their top priority to provide ROI for their marketing activities.Hubspot, State of Inbound, 2018
Kodiak Cakes started over 30 years ago in the shadow of the Wasatch mountain range in Park City, Utah, and today, they provide a wide range of whole grain and high protein-focused food products like baking mixes, frozen waffles and easy to prepare muffin cups. They are distributed in over 20,000 stores nationally. Brandon Porras, Vice president of Marketing at Kodiak Cakes, leads a team of 25 and previously was in sales and marketing with General Mills. He is charged with planning and executing national campaigns and measuring performance both in retail and online sales channels. Porras said, “We are really trying to be objective, but still subjectively try to understand where the ROI is coming from and back it up with the data where we can.” This subjectivity in their marketing can be tough for food and beverage marketers to defend when leadership questions if they are doing things as effectively as possible.
Alignment with Leadership Crucial to Success
Many CMOs and Marketing Directors find that proving value with company leadership can be one of the hardest parts of their job, but Porras believes that it is precisely the leadership that has made his job much easier in growing their marketing efforts. Porras believes it is essential to have strong leadership buy-in, but that patience is the most important quality to stress. “Some leaders will say if they are putting a couple of million into your marketing plan, then you better show me immediate results and fast. But our leadership gives a great deal of freedom and patience to figure things out.”
“Some leaders will say if they are putting a couple of million into your marketing plan, then you better show me immediate results and fast. But our leadership gives a great deal of freedom and patience to figure things out.”Brandon Porras, VP Marketing, Kodiak Cakes
Another key aspect of alignment is deciding which channels should provide measurable results and which bring intangible value to the brand. Porras made a concerted effort to divide his marketing team into advertising and community-focused groups. The team that is community-focused is charged with social media platforms, cause marketing and customer relationship channels like monthly newsletters. He stresses that some channels like social shouldn’t be focused on driving sales. Porras encourages marketers saying, “you have to get the leadership team to understand, without the data, that gut feeling that tells us it is the right way to build a brand. It is important to us, and we’re going to continue to invest in building the brand on those platforms.”
How to Measure Advertising Campaign Effectiveness on Retail Sales
Once there is alignment on which channels are going to provide measurable results, developing a plan to quantify in-store purchases can be extremely difficult. Most food manufacturers only have monthly or yearly company sales volume reports to judge marketing impact, but developing different reporting periods may help to better review changes in sales.
Kodiak Cakes’ marketing team takes a more systematic approach by setting baselines before a campaign starts to judge performance later. They run marketing campaigns in a certain city, and then they measure sales in 13-weeks sprints, divided into data – before, during and after a campaign. These numbers are compared to other cities with similar demographics to see how they fare without active campaigns. These numbers inform the overall strategy and provide a better baseline to make judgments against.
Testing Different Ad Objectives
Their team will also test different objectives during these periods to see which gains more impact. Porras noted, “we’ve just tested out a reach campaign, not looking for any action, where we will show a big stack of pancakes or waffles with our packaging, just to build strong brand recollection when they’re in the store.” They then compare this reach campaign against ads that were driving potential customers to their store locator to see which has a greater impact in that city.
Co-branded Advertising with Retailers
They work directly with buyers to provide co-branded advertising with local retail stores that carry their products. This has also led to stronger relationships with retailers. “We tell buyers that if they give us a zip code list of stores, we’ll cobrand our ads and drive people to their stores. By adding digital advertising, we’re able to go into buyer meetings with retail and are able to tie in that out-of-store aspect to in-store. It makes them more receptive to even putting a couple of extra items in-store.” This also becomes highly measurable as the company can review sales from that retail store to see what impact was generated.
“We tell buyers if they give us a zip code list of stores we’ll cobrand our ads and drive people to their stores. By adding digital advertising, we’re able to go into buyer meetings with retail and are able to tie in that out-of-store aspect to in-store. It makes them more receptive to even putting a couple of extra items in-store.”Brandon Porras, VP Marketing, Kodiak Cakes
How to Measure Influencer Marketing ROI
While measuring advertising impact on retail sales can be difficult, most marketers are finding that it is even more difficult to manage the impact that influencers provide on a brands’ overall sales. Many marketers believe that the most effective measure of influencer impact is in their own engagement with their fans when mentioning the brand.
Kodiak Cakes has been successful by focusing on micro-influencers that are already engaged with the brand rather than those that have large followings alone. Porras notes that they will engage with influencers by providing free products and promotions first before paying for any sponsored content.
They also provide influencer affiliate codes for online order tracking. They use those codes to see what impact a particular paid influencer generated in sales or traffic to the website.
Don’t Treat Like Traditional Ads
He also encourages marketers to not see influencers as just another type of ad channel. “You have to find the right influencer partners that don’t make it feel like an ad or else you’re basically paying way more than you would for an influencer to do the ad. Porras continues, “because influencers do have an effect, but they also charge more to be a part of your content and involve your brand.”
Measuring ROI vs. Performance Can Be a Challenge but Not Impossible
While it may feel impossible to prove which things are working, it can remove pressure from marketing executives to track everything by first aligning on what should be measurable for sales and which should build a brand. Having patience and setting defined timelines for measuring performance before and after campaigns will keep things objective. Also, working with local retailers will keep sales attribution easy to track while building valuable partnerships. Lastly, look at each tactic, like influencer marketing and social media, as different than others to ensure you are measuring for the right impact. Porras confesses that choosing 2-3 new tactics to measure each year helps him to keep funneling money to what works and testing something new each year.