Quote Wanamaker all you want, insisting that advertising success can never be properly quantified, and you'll be 50% right. It's nearly impossible to tell whether a brand awareness campaign led to a purchase months down the road, no matter how many unique user IDs you put on your customers' devices. Media reach metrics, from Nielsen to ComScore to Facebook, are heavily extrapolated projections delivered with a massive dose of bullshit.* PR and earned media are in the same boat: Measurement of impact of a press release or news story is next to impossible. You can never actually tell how many people saw, liked, acknowledged, loved, or were deeply annoyed by your advertisement or content.

Brand awareness, or the amount of people who are familiar with your company after an ad campaign than before, is measured with what's called a brand lift or brand recall study. Participants in brand lift studies are shown brand names and asked to recall whether they have seen or heard of the brand before. As with all focus groups and qualitative marketing methods, study participants are people who enjoy giving their opinion and have time to participate in studies—a small subset of the general public. The whole approach is as fallible as the human brain. These studies are notoriously expensive and, from my perspective, unnecessary as long as you can calculate more tangible business results (i.e., an increase in revenue). From what I understand, the digital versions of brand recall studies— which you've probably seen on Facebook and in display ad units—are still pricey and not much more accurate.

But you know what people do when they've heard about a brand from an ad campaign or press release and don't know what it does? Or when they remember that a brand sells a product they're in the market to buy?

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