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Chris Foleen, Marketing Project Coordinator, TransCore, Inc.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Campaign as Quest: Using Web Analytics to Tell the Story

I started reading a book called Read Literature like a Professor.  It's interesting.  As a once-upon-a-time literature major in college, it is a good reminder of symbolism and structure, etc.

Well, as a now marketer and someone who spends a large amount of time telling stories with numbers, this seemed like something that could easily be applied to reporting and web analytics.  Especially the "quest" structure.

Two Models
First, let's take a look at the basic elements of a quest as described by Prof. Foster:
  1. A quester--the hero or heroin
  2. A place to go--somewhere other than here
  3. A stated reason to go there--save the maiden, do a job, etc.
  4. A Treacherous Path--i.e challenges and trials, villians, monsters, etc.
  5. A discovered reason--the lesson learned (never the same as the goal)
Note: Items 2 and 3 go together always go together.

Second, let's take a look at the very basic elements of planning a campaign with analytics:
  1. Determine Objectives
  2. Decide on tactics and KPIs
  3. Setup and run the campaign.  Correct course as necessary.
  4. Report results and learnings.
One piece that is a key difference between analytics and the quest model is that in a quest, you assume the main character is the right person for the job.  In campaign planning, you may have several characters in the form of different tactics which may come in and out of the picture. To overcome this, you have to understand the campaign itself as the main character.

Another difference is that in the quest model, the "real" reason for the quest is never the originally stated reason.   This is the core mechanism for character development that happens in the story.  In marketing, we can't be switching around goals like that.  If we're going to save that damsel in distress, we're looking for a 100% success ratio with low budget impact and a chance for repeat visits, if you know what I mean.  The goal is the goal.  

However, we often do come away from a campaign having learned something new about the audience, marketplace, tactics, user experience, etc.  These additional learning can be just as valuable as the original objective because they influence the next campaign.  That could be seen as a sort of character development.   

Bringing the Models Together
So, with a little bit of rearranging, we can merge the two models in this way:
  1. Questor = Campaign
  2. Place to go = external placements, marketing buys, etc.
  3. Stated goal = campaign objective
  4. Treacherous Path with monsters = running the campaign, identifying hurdles, making adjustments.
  5. The discovered  reason = final report and the discoveries made along the way.
In #5, we find out if the story was a comedy or a tradgedy.  Of course, no one wants a tradgedy, but sometimes it happens and that is important to recognize.  Because many times, with tradgedy comes deeper learning, which sets the stage for a sequel, or a grand finale.

Answer Six Questions to Tell the Campaign Story with Web Analytics
Telling the story of a marketing campaign using the quest narrative model has less to do with cramming your marketing into a plot structure, and more to do with communicating easy to understand ideas.  If you can get these unquestionably identified, the story will build itself.

Answer these questions:

Q: Who is the hero?  A: Your campaign; name it.
Q: Where did it go?  A: Your placements, media types, etc.
Q: What is the goal? A: Generate 200 sales with ROI > 300%
Q: What happened along the way?  A: [show an annotated trend line]
Q: What was the biggest obstacle?  A: [i.e. conversion rates]
Q: How did it all end?  A: We got 200 sales, but ROI was only 80%.

Now plug in the touching ending that wants them to read more, something like:
We learned people are not motivated by [whatever] as much as we thought.  The low bounce rates show that visitors to the microsite were interested, but the promotional offer itself seemed to be off the mark.  Based on analysis of the response, an offer that highlights [whatever] should result in more sales and a higher ROI.
We recommend planning a follow up campaign immediately.
The journey is over--we've gone there and back again. The hero kinda won the day.  The villian has been identified and plans are soon to be in the works for his defeat.  

The story is told.

Analytics really can be an adventure.