What's the difference between vanity, & victory KPIs?

This is one of the biggest challenges in the digital space.

We are blessed to have big data at our fingertips, however the line between gift and curse is one that must be recognised and respected.

To measure performance of your product / service we obsess over data. Data tells us the consequence of an action, right? We crunch the numbers, dissect any movement in analytics, and develop actionable plans off the back of analysis.

But in this world of big data, where do you even start? What do you measure? What's the difference between a vanity metric and a victory metric?

Vanity metrics are a way of boosting your ego, or a way hiding something. The curse of having so much data at your fingertips is that even when core KPIs skid, marketers are able to find niche (vanity) metrics that look good. 

The Marketoonist Tom Fishboure incorporates this premise into a number of his illustrations:

"Who needs customers when you have friends, fans and followers"


"Our marketing program is clearly successful as shown by this graph of how awesome i think it is"


Tom's extreme, however there is truth to his exaggeration.

Vanity Metrics include data points such as followers, fans, pageviews, bounce rate, downloads, etc. These metrics may be an indication of growth, trajectory or revenue but don’t directly correlate to the bottom line performance of your product / service. What's worse is that vanity metrics are easily manipulated.

Red flag phrases;

"Traffic volume is down, however time on site has increased; we are now driving the right traffic..." 

"Conversion rate is down, however basket value is up; we have optimised the checkout process..."

"Profitability is down, however traffic volume is up; therefore you need to speak to you development agency about site optimisation..."

"Traffic from social is down, however impressions from our campaigns are up; you need to speak to your creative agency about the quality of assets..."

If your digital agency / internal marketing team repeats a variation of any of the above; you have a problem...

Victory Metrics (often named actionable metrics) are specific and repeatable actions that you can quantify. They are metrics that will help you accountant sleep easy at night, and ones that will contribute towards your bottom line. 

Ensure that before you launch a campaign, agree KPIs and hold your digital agency / internal marketing team to them. It is important not to throw the baby out with the bath water, however any deviation is usually a sign of poor planning or deception.