The Danger of Measuring Success With “Easy” Numbers

Thirty minutes after we wake up our left brain kicks in with numbers, concerns, lists, and questions. From that point we quickly quantify and evaluate everything from the weight we see when we step on the scale to the number of customers we serve.

We do this because numbers are easy to measure, and they rarely tell the whole story.

One of my favorite ad campaigns lately has been the Special K’s “More Than A Number”. It is a poignant message for women not to judge themselves by the size of their jeans and it can also be applied to the way we run our businesses.

Two of the most common things we use to measure our business’ success are the number of customers walking in the door and the number of things they buy. These are “easy” numbers. Numbers that are necessary for survival, but when measuring success of great brand implementation they only tell part of the story.

Special K sells cereal, so they’re clearly going to be looking at the number of boxes sold and number of repeat buyers. Those numbers give a great outline of the financials and forecast for the future, but they don’t measure the impact their brand has on customers.

When using “easy” numbers we have no way of truly understanding success.

Special K’s ads used to be aimed at increasing “easy” numbers, but a few years ago this approach changed. They stopped saying “buy our cereal because you need to lose weight” and started saying “you are beautiful and we want to help you be the best you can be”.

The pivot in messaging and focus on the positive marked a huge change in the way the company communicated with customers. It has also dramatically changed the way consumers interact with Special K.

Today Special K offers an entire brand based on feeling good about yourself. They’ve since launched new product lines, new campaigns and free weight loss plans. They have over 2 million “My Special K” members. These members have made the Special K brand part of their daily routines. This number measures brand impact far better than the number of boxes flying off shelves.

Measuring the success of your businesses and brand by the size of the jeans it wears will only give you half of the story. How are you telling the other half? And how are you inviting your buyers to be a part of the story you tell?

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