What Is Your Share of Noise?

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by: Alain Thys

I’m usually a soft spoken guy, yet when I read this article in AdWeek a quite profound WTF?? did exit my lips (I’d say Pardon my French, but I am Belgian 🙂 ). Carat Aegis is advising its customers that with the economic downturn, they should maintain "share of voice" in their category. 

After all, dropping the ball today, would mean you’d only need to spend more in the future.

TVWeek had more on the story:

Marketers looking to save a few bucks during rainy days also can re-evaluate their media mix. They often can improve efficiencies by moving to less expensive TV dayparts or shifting from expensive media to less costly outlets, Carat said.

In other words "It’s OK to buy crap, as long as you spend the same". Of course, I respectfully disagree.

Don’t get me wrong. I am too of the opinion that the mindless cutting of marketing budgets does more harm than good. Assuming they are not spent mindlessly. I further agree with Carat that marketers should engage every channel and focus on the insights.  

But I also think "Share of Voice" should just be removed from every polite form of conversation. Or at least be replaced with the more accurate "Share of Noise".

"Share of Voice" is not about the customer. It’s about the branded shouting match that annoys us every time a movie gets interrupted. That makes us flip needless pages to keep reading that article. That makes us wonder which radio station we’re actually listening too, as all commercials sound the same.  
SoV lives in a world where,  "the LOUDER you shout, the better it is".  

In an age where we finally figured out it is about conversations and customer focus, this is simply non-sensical. There’s proof in many markets that the GRP’s you buy – or even the awareness you create – often have no influence at all on the sales number. So the chance that share of voice will have a significant impact, is pretty slim.

That is why I submit we should exchange the concept of "Share of Voice" by the concept of "Share of Conversation". Which share of conversation does your brand capture in the market place? Do people "care" enough about you to actually talk about you? Because we know that if they do talk (well) about you, you will sell more.

I agree with Carat that in the tough times ahead, you shouldn’t just stop marketing. In fact, you should double your efforts. But I submit you should focus these efforts where they matter. On your customers and making sure they talk well about you. 

If you can prove that this can be done by maintaining your advertising expenditure, great! But most of the media plans I’ve seen don’t come near this type of thinking. Instead, they simply contribute to the maximisation of pointless noise and media commissions.

Stop the Noise, Start the Conversation.

And now I get off my soapbox 🙂

PS. I just did a quick Google search on Share of Conversation and apparently I cannot claim the term 🙂  Edelman is already going in this direction (see item 3). They are still just focusing online, but it’s a good start.