Tribe recognition comes at a cost (February 17, 2007)

I live in a village on Cape Cod next to the town of Mashpee, an interesting place that was regarded as somewhat backward when I was young in the 1960, a run down town without a high school or much in the way of development, just a lot of scrub pines and oaks, ponds and bays, with a big high end golf community on the oceanside.

As I grew older I learned that Mashpee was the Cape home for the “praying Indians”, those members of the Wampanoag tribe that had converted to Christianity in the 17th century. Their church, or meetinghouse, is about two miles from my house. In the 1920s, one Red Shell, “Cape Cod Indian Historian” wrote a series of historical articles in a local newspaper. Of the meetinghouse he wrote:

“Shearjashub Bourne, a white man, purchased from Chief Quachatisset of the Mashpee village in 1684, a tract of land which is now Mashpee Centre. In payment, he agreed to construct a house of worship in the fashion of the white man for the Wampanoags of Mashpee. He built the church at Bryant’s Neck; near Santuit Pond. The Wampanoags of the upper Cape offered prayer there to the Great Spirit until 1717, when it was moved to Indian Hill, where it has remained ever since. There is an open register within the church where tourists from all parts of the world have inscribed their names and the dates of their visits.”

While the church has stood there since 1717, the descendants of Chief Quachatisset have not been recognized as members of the Wampanoag tribe until this week.

I won’t go into the history of Mashpee. I feel it is outrageous the way the tribe and its descendants have been treated over the past three hundred years, caught up in court and screwed in the typical cliche of land screwings that seem to bedevil every native American tribe.

Well, now they are official, and that means they are, in fact, a sovereign nation. Now the neighborhood is holding its breath, concerned that a casino could come into town sometime soon, a reasonable fear given that this piece of information in the Cape Cod Times this morning:

“Herb Strather, a Detroit real estate and casino developer, is leading the pack of outside investors. Strather has given the tribe $15 million since 1999. It’s not known exactly how the money has been used. That’s one of the reasons prompting a lawsuit filed by four Wampanoag, who are suing the tribe to make financial records public. In particular, the plaintiffs want to know exactly how much money Strather gave the tribe to help secure federal recognition.

Strather’s contribution to the tribe doesn’t come without a price.

”It certainly forces the tribe to give up some of their economic sovereignty to some degree,” said Gavin Clarkson, an assistant professor of Native American studies at the University of Michigan.”

Stay tuned.

Ratios and Leading Indicators – what drives me

Every industry has a specific, almost canonical metric it pays attention to and benchmarks its participants against one another. I wanted to take a few seconds to think out loud about the basic ratios that guide me on a daily basis.
Some business cultures emphasize one financial and operational ratio over another. In Switzerland and Asia, inventory turnover is a big deal. In NASDAQ-listed tech stocks its price-earnings as a measure of value and expectations (P/E). In other industries it’s revenue per employee, while others focus on average revenue per user (ARPU), and then there are operational, specific ratios such cost-per-click.

I live in a world of expense-to-revenue, or “E2R“, expressed variously as “e:r,” “e/r,” and “e|r.” As a relatively green marketer, I assume this is the prevailing canon for measuring marketing effectiveness and efficiency: for every dollar spent in market, what revenue is received, and what budget should be fenced off based on the top line to support a marketing expense. In dummy terms, “How much did I spend to make $X?”

A 1:1 e-to-r means I spend a dollar to make a dollar; that comes out as a 100 percent E/R. We can call that a wash. A negative E:R is when I spend two dollars to make one dollar. This is a 200% E/R and means I’m looking for a new job. A good E:R is when I spend one dollar to make five, a 20% E/R, or as Warren Buffett would say, buying dollars for twenty cents.

This applies in interactive marketing on ad tactics and assumes perfect insights into the purchase of an impression (based on cost-per-thousand impressions, or CPM), yield click-throughs (measured by click-through-rates or CTR), and ultimately ARPU, or average revenue per user (or unique visitor). If I am able to track the user from the first purchased impression to the final checkout, then I can credit the tactic with the sale.

Still with me? This is predicated on that user accepting the tracking beacon, or cookie, from my metric system, a cookie that the user gets when clicking on the search term or the banner ad I’ve purchased for N. If the user permits cookies — in my case one deposited by a script on every page of our website that will permit our metrics tool, Omniture SiteCatalyst to follow that user across multiple visits — then, if our commerce guys have successfully done their job, the user will buy something and I will be able to credit the original marketing tactic with the sale.

Sounds hard and imprecise? It is, but compare it to a newspaper ad. If I buy a full page ad in the Daily Planet and it is seen by a theoretical 100,000 readers, and sales from the zip codes where those 100,000 readers live goes up by 10 percent can I declare the ad a success?

This is the old handgrenade-and-horseshoes school of marketing — the famous I-know-half-of-my-advertising-works-but-which-half” school of marketing.

So back to what I worry about, which is interactive advertising: the interesting thing in assigning expense-to-revenue ratios to a particular tactic is knowing what the intent of the original message was, and second, knowing what it yielded.

Those tactics are pretty simple. Search engine marketing, which is very precise in that I am purchasing clicks through an auction model, but which is usually promotion driven by non-brand tactics like “cheap notebook” or “fast PC.” Then there is display advertising — banners, buttons, IAB standard graphical units — and that is arguably either pure branding or can be pure promotion, but generally are a hybrid of the two. Success in assigning an E/R ratio depends on accuracy in following a customer through multiple visits to my store, because in my market, where I am selling products for $500 to $3000, the customer is researching, comparing, and considering before hitting the purchase button.

We can do this, the rest is pure optimization, arbitrage, and discipline. It’s actually kind of cool and very fun, and a nice feeling at the end of the week to say, “I bought a dollar for twenty cents.”

Cotuit in Winter

The harbor has been frozen for two weeks, I’ve been invited ice fishing twice, and trying to find a set of new ice skates is impossible. While this winter started slower than any others, setting early January records for warm temperatures, February is colder than usual.

So yesterday afternoon, as the sun was setting, I took a tour of the waterfront with my cousin. It was 23+, but the wind was howling and who knows what the windchill was.

It’s not often you can walk on salt ice, but as my cousin says, people have been doing it for years in the Arctic. I won’t do it — something too flaky about harbor ice to tempt me out there.

I stay on solid ground, like this jetty sticking out into Nantucket Sound. The tide was extraordinarily low, I believe it is called a “neap tide” and a lot of sand bar and spit was exposed and covered with ice cakes.

This is what happens if you decide to leave your boat in the water. Not good. This is the same cove shown in the header image of the blog — Ropes Beach. In four months I’ll be swimming here.

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