I was recently chatting to an Account Manager about their job and whether they enjoyed it. I found it interesting when they said they were considering a change in marketing discipline as they were fed up of the analytical focus of affiliate marketing and wanted something a little more creative. I think that it’s quite an interesting perspective and one that’s worth exploring.
The benefits of the CPA model are well known; the accountability and the payment on performance rather than promise. But does this stifle creativity? When faced with numbers, stats and figures, do we abandon creativity to focus on the bottom line? Do we ignore other marketing objectives such as branding or engagement to get the sales up?
Affiliate marketing by its nature will always be based on sales, so for affiliates it is not always possible but with areas like tenancies becoming a big part of the model are there opportunities to consider how we define performance? Could trying more integrated and innovative campaigns lead to more sales and therefore commission for all? After all Einstein did say “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted”. I think this could be said to ring true in marketing.
So are we, as a discipline, too concerned with counting? The area that the Account Manager was keen to work in was social and this is a good comparison. While there are tools out there, quite often social media is more focused on the qualitative rather than quantitative measures. It is interesting that it tends to have a reputation for being a bit more creative and exciting.
One of the key focuses of social is engagement, listening and communicating with your audience. It is therefore freed a little from the numbers that are available for affiliate marketers. Can you measure engagement and branding? There are plenty of tools that claim they can but I am still to be convinced you can ever apply measurement of a group to an individual. Everybody interacts with content and posts differently. Is the person sharing or liking a post more engaged with the content? Or do they just enjoy sharing and liking posts?
The comparative lack of accountability compared to affiliate marketing does allow more freedom for brands to express themselves and be creative. With less fear of failure they can be interesting and unique with more emphasis on creating something special. My favourite recent example is Coors Light with Jean-Claude Van Damme. There are a number of videos on their Facebook page with more and more random videos of Van Damme comparing the ice cold refreshment of Coors light. Here is one of my favourites:
Would this see an instant spike in sales? I am not convinced but I personally have liked their page and watched a number of their adverts. If I see it in a pub or a bar I now consider it as a choice, whereas before it wasn’t even on my radar. Now take this back to affiliate marketing. Would we celebrate and commend a campaign like this? Or would we be asking, ‘but how many sales did it generate?’
That’s not to say affiliate marketing is not creative. I can point to lots of innovation and new ideas that have made the industry flourish and grow. But should we, from time to time, look beyond performance and focus on the fuzzy elements? Do we avoid trying something new to go with the tried and tested?
Measurement is a good thing as you can see what’s working and more importantly what is not. I know people will read this and say that affiliate marketing will always be numbers based as this is how we get paid, compared to social media where you are often paid per campaign. But as important as it is to look at numbers, it is key not to be blind and just look at sales.
There are other objectives for marketing and more innovative and creative campaigns can only help to keep and attract the best people and brands into the industry. Affiliate marketing is an industry that’s exciting and diverse. It makes sense that how we measure it is the same.