How do we measure the impact of enforcement?

Dealing with the winds of change

At Rouse we manage brand protection and anti-counterfeiting programs in China for some of the world’s most respected consumer goods companies. To strengthen our clients’ positions we adopt a wide range of strategies and tactics in numerous arenas - online, in-market, customs etc. - tailored to meet their immediate needs and budget.

Over the course of the past few years we have developed a series of analytical tools to help our clients (anti-counterfeiting and brand protection professionals) better understand and value the impact of the different investigation and enforcement programs they are running in China and across Asia.

Driven by budget constraints (and a lack of broader understanding and alignment) these tools assist legal / brand protection / security department personnel design, demonstrate and articulate the value their programs bring to senior management within their business.

Long gone are the days when brand protection professionals could dodge year-end budget trims by simply proclaiming that countering fakes is ‘the important thing to do’. Just showing how much money was spent, how many investigators were instructed, how many market sweeps were triggered, how many escalated police actions were carried out, how many widgets were seized and how many hours taken to do all that, is no longer sufficient. They are now tasked to maximize impact with minimal budget – for every dollar the business spent, how much revenue does it bring back?

Whereas local investigation and enforcement vendors buzz with activities (raids, warning letters), delivering outcomes (seizures, fines) to MNC brand protection teams, how often is the status quo challenged and what steps are taken to go beyond the ‘activity-outcome’ divide? To what extent do tools exist that measure enforcement ‘impact’?

Measure the Immeasurable

Measuring impact is different to measuring activity. To many, the term ‘impact’ confounds measurement. While the other two (activity and outcome) can be objectively supported by data, it would seem totally subjective, somehow fictional, to say one case is more meaningful than another, by a quality margin of this extent. After all, “impact” seems immeasurable.

Or is it? Perhaps it is true if we think like a lawyer, but what if we think like business people?

It is possible to estimate impact by checking it not just from an operational angle but also from a business angle, whether the activities and outcomes support wider commercial needs. A case could score 100 points if it fits perfectly.

To measure impact and inform strategy we collect and analyse a lot of internal and external data. Noting that data alone does not always provide the necessary insight, not to mention meaningful comparison against business vision, we spent time developing visualization tools to help communicate insights to clients.

Life Is Mostly in Bubbles

One of our favourite visualization and analysis tools is the Bubble Matrix (also known as the Four Quadrant). It is an effective and versatile model to review an enforcement landscape or develop a targeted market / trade survey approach, for example.

To guarantee a better understanding and interpretation, we capture information regarding all activities and outcomes in several scenarios. We then design and filter out the necessary research and data collection to ensure that the final data supports our overall objectives.

Enforcement landscape

We recently supported a senior in-house brand protection manager to measure the enforcement impact of its program for the last two years. The aim was to assist the company’s new CEO to better understand how the enforcement program worked and how impact was measured. The bubble matrix was designed to

  • covers all enforcement cases;
  • compare spend against return;
  • be self-explanatory and contain no more than ten words;
  • provide some levels of insight; and
  • fit on one-page.
Bubble chart plotting enforcement activities

As we can see, all enforcement cases were analyzed and plotted as bubble on a matrix canvas.

The X axis represents the investment in the case, calculated by financial costs, numbers and the seniority of the team members involved etc.

The Y axis represents the outcome, calculated by value/quantity of items seized, arrests and fines etc.

The size of each bubble represents our estimated initial impact, based on the calculation of numbers and facts, which are aligned with the client’s strategic objectives.

The analysis helped the client to identify four types of enforcement cases as shown by the different coloured quadrants :

  1. Quick hitters (modest investment leading to modest outcomes, e.g. a case not exceeding the criminal threshold).
  2. Deep water (significant investment leading to only modest outcomes, e.g. challenges demonstrating the scale of illicit activities);
  3. Notorious criminals (modest investment leading to significant outcomes, e.g. evidence of large scale counterfeiting requires only modest support to secure deterrent outcomes);  
  4. Vibranium (a fictional metal in marvel comics: hard to find but very valuable, requiring deep investment in complex cases which leads to significant outcomes).

A trendline can be populated to demonstrate the focus of actions as well as the expected Return on Investment. Feedback from this type of analysis can inform data gathering and priorities in the future.

Trade Fairs Prioritization

We supported another client refining their trade fair monitoring and enforcement strategy by prioritizing which trade fairs to attend. We came up with a series of objective measurements using a few specific, easy-to-obtain data points.

Bubble chart showing trade fairs and their audiences

Similarly, each bubble represents a trade fair. The bigger the trade fair is, the larger the bubble.

The position on the X-Axis represents to what extent the trade fair is targeting foreign / international markets, businesses and customers. The further to the right the bubble is positioned, the more foreign / international customers the trade fair is targeting.

The position on the Y-Axis represents to what extent the trade fair is promoting / marketing luxury goods. The higher the bubble is positioned, the more the trade fair is promoting / marketing expensive / luxury goods.

Conclusion

In short, the Bubble Matrix is an important part of our consultancy / enforcement toolkit helping us to solve a host of problems, conduct SWOT analyses and demonstrate impact.

Although the bubble matrix is not able to make the decision for you, it can help you to better understand impact as well as the relationship between alternative courses of action available to you. This in turn simplifies decision making and helps to justify positions and actions, as well as budget needs.   

This article was first published on LinkedIn by Saul Gong.