Brand Impressions Can’t Measure Brand Success; Here’s Why

Impressions continue to drop in value, heading in the direction of a Mexican peso or any other unstable currency.

We recently heard a rumor around a digital agency charged with helping clients build awareness, brand value and associations for their brand. Someone on the team figured out they could code a robot to replicate users and therefore boost their “impressions” numbers for clients. Now, who would do this? That seems like fraud, yes?

Boosting impressions is nothing new; it’s been done in a variety of forms since the beginning. In order to measure impressions, when the newspaper was the big freakin’ deal, do you think they underestimated readership? Then there is radio. Certainly we don’t overestimate radio listening audiences, right? So, what’s the big deal if a digital team finds a method to line their pockets with Benjamins, using a simple bit of code? Smart bastards.

Well, let’s look at currency manipulation, because that’s really what we’re talking about here. If an agency gets paid to deliver 1 million impressions, it means a $100,000 spend at $1.00 CPM. We can debate the nuances of each of these numbers, but the important piece is someone is getting paid to deliver impressions. So, if the currency of impressions is being manipulated, by many players, then what are they really worth?

Let’s step back a few feet, turn your head sideways and view it from another angle. What is defined as an impression? Dictionary form: “an idea, feeling, or opinion about something or someone, especially one formed without conscious thought or on the basis of little evidence; an effect produced on someone; a difference made by the action or presence of someone or something.”

Now, how about Facebook’s version: “Impressions. The number of times a post from your page is displayed, whether the post is clicked or not. People may see multiple impressions of the same post. For example, someone might see a page update in the News Feed once, and then a second time if a friend shares it.”

Did you see the difference? Read between the lines. We’ll get back to this in a moment.

The reason we’re here is obvious, bigger is better. When someone presents the results of this year’s marketing efforts, the impressions number needs to be larger than last year. And, when we compare our brand to others, we had better be making more impressions, right? Maybe not. We could look at reforming impressions; perhaps consider better impressions, longer impressions or more meaningful impressions, but none of these make a worthy metric for the business, when they’re filtered through digital platforms. 

Instead, let’s devalue impressions to zero. Which is more like the current state, we just need the entire marketing, media and brand world to see it. And, with this, start looking at memories, behaviors and movements, as measurable outcomes from our efforts to bring brands and people closer together.

So, back to the Facebook version vs the universal definition of an impression. If an impression is currency, then Facebook is the exchange bank, taking a percentage for delivering your impression. As a currency, impressions represent the relationship between brands and people, and those filtered through certain “banks” get devalued (i.e. Cambridge Analytica and Facebook).

But, in actuality, the entire currency is devalued. This is because when someone puts an impressions number in front of leadership, it isn’t typically attached to a dollar value of that impression. Everything is bundled, an impression is an impression, is an impression. Until it isn’t.

What can you do?

Stop accepting the currency. Remove the word from presentations. A vacuum creates pressure and an opportunity to fill in with currencies that actually matter.

More on the next, more valuable currency in upcoming posts.

Aaron Keller

About The Author

Aaron Keller

I am an author, strategist, researcher, cyclist, reader and consummate entrepreneur. When an interesting idea crosses my path, I find any way we can bring it to life. Earning an MBA from the Carlson School and numerous valuable credits at the school of hard knocks, I’ll sit at a boardroom conversation with anyone. Want to talk business strategy, consumer behavior and design? Oh, it’s on.

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