Marketers are perpetually looking for the most useful metrics to guide marketing decisions. None are perfect and many are in flux.
Share of voice (SOV) became a marketing staple decades ago. In theory, share of voice is a simple way to compare a brand’s media spending against the total media spending of the category. The metric was bolstered by research from Peter Field and Les Binet that showed a link between share of voice and share of market. They found that if a brand increased their share of voice beyond that equilibrium (creating an “excess share of voice”), it could result in market share growth.
The rise of digital muddied the waters. Share of voice is much harder to calculate in digital channels. This has led to renewed attention and debate around additional or alternative metrics. Les Binet has been researching the value of share of search (SOS), which some like Mark Ritson advocate as a potential replacement and others like Shann Biglione at Zenith see as a different tool altogether.
I like how Shann summarized some of the drawbacks and benefits of share of voice, and where marketers can go from here:
“Bluntly, the tracking of digital spend is a bit of a shitshow, often leaving share of voice reports with big disclaimers that digital is very likely underreported, if at all. This was fine when digital spending represented less than 10% of the total, but is now a big headache for analysts and marketers relying on that data. Ask a media team for an SOV analysis and watch their eyes roll in despair.
“Looking for an alternative is by no means a waste of time. However, what is critical to understand at this stage is that share of voice is an input that marketers have strategic and operational control over. The beauty of measuring SOV is that yes, you can use it to estimate your ranking and it correlates pretty well with your market share but, more importantly, you can affect this ranking almost immediately by just opening or tightening your media budget. If your share of voice is inadequate, you can decide to fix it. Share of voice has this ability to serve as a marketing thermostat: it lets you measure and control the heat…
“Interestingly, beyond the industry finding a collaborative way to fix it, the solution to the SOV problem might actually be about… moving entirely away from it. In many cases, SOV analysis can have inflationary effects on categories’ media budgets. A bit like an arms race, obsessing about how big your competitor’s budget is can easily drift categories towards unhealthy levels of spend…
“After all, we’re an industry that prides itself in being consumer-centric. So how about we spend more time and effort building plans based on the consumers?”