Measure what is relevant, not what is available, convenient and sounds magical

Recently I saw a TV ad for a vitamin supplement. I do not know whether it is FDC approved or not. The Ad shows a woman drinking orange juice directly from the container (about 1 gallon). As she guzzles it with pain, the voice over says,

“You have to drink a whole gallon of orange juice to get the amount of vitamin-C in a single tablet of of our brand of Vitamin-C. It is the only tablet that gives you vitamin-C without the calories”

Very likely a true statement. But is it relevant? A single tablet of most such supplements has 1000mg of Vitamin-C and a single 8oz glass of orange juice  has 30-60mg. So a gallon bottle has 480-960mg of Vitamin-C. So a true claim.

What is our daily need for Vitamin-C? About 30mg. What will your body do with all those extra 970mg of Vitamin-C but to excrete it? Even if our body keeps the additional 970mg, what benefit comes of it? or worse, what are the side effects? What about other nutrients present in the glass of orange juice that are not accounted for?

This is  clever messaging, focusing customers attention on metrics that are readily available, prominent, convenient and advantageous to you even though the metrics may be completely irrelevant.
It is easy to dismiss such metrics when the claims are outrageous, when someone without authority/power/pedigree states them or after someone breaks it down. However, what if such a claim is stated by someone in authority, with pedigree/title or with some semblance of data and analysis?

  1. Group Buying sites that tout their ability to deliver an year worth of traffic to businesses – But at what cost?
  2. Marketing Managers who quote the number of times their product story was quoted in media and blogs – But at what cost and what is the incremental revenue?
  3. A Social Media guru urging businesses to invest in social media presence and measure the investment’s sucess with a new metric “Return on Engagement” – But at what cost and what is the incremental revenue?
  4. Shifting investor and market’s attention to growth in deferred revenue – but what if it came from pulling in future sales at a discount?
  5. Measure how big the customer smile is after they leave your store, it is a clear indication of profitability (okay I made this up, but the rest are not)

Proponents of such spurious metric and their followers are likely to answer the cost and incremental revenue question with, “in the long term it will pay off”. Your questions should be, How long a long term?, What other options would deliver the same “long term return”?, What is the long-term return?
Do you measure what is relevant or what is prominent, convenient, available, magical and irrelevant?

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