Don't Waste Your Marketing $$! Why Good Attribution Is Critical

November 13, 2019

Korey Thurber, SVP, Data Science & Marketing Solutions


Poor marketing attribution – it’s the number one reason for wasted marketing spend and is a direct result of the lack of insight into the cumulative effect of multi-touch marketing.

To fully put into perspective the importance of a customer-centric focus and the need for a robust attribution solution, it helps to reflect on how marketing has evolved over the past 60 years. There are three clear stages:

1. Brand marketing (1950s–early 1990s). This was the age of big national media campaigns and mass marketing. Big brand campaigns from the likes of Marlboro, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are still burned into our memories today.

2. Direct channel (early 1990s–2012). Database marketing and the direct-to consumer business really started to take wing. Math and science disciplines were now being applied to data housed in centralized databases to measure and assess the performance of direct-to-consumer marketing programs and to build predictive models with which to identify the best target audiences. Banks became pioneers in this space, but companies such as Amazon and Netflix evolved it significantly.

3. Customer-centric …  NOT just digital (2012+). It was not so long ago that digital marketing was primarily about broad-reaching ad buys based less on robust targeting and more on what ‘felt like the best thing to do’. The ‘old school’ individual and household-level data that many analysts cut their teeth on have now become a reality in the digital space! Digital marketing is continuing to evolve toward being more addressable and more targeted, with large portion of ad spend happening at a very targeted individual level. All the analytic disciplines (campaign test design, campaign analytics, predictive models, segmentation, frequency and cadence of touch, etc.) that evolved using offline individual and household level data are now being used heavily across addressable digital media — as well as in conjunction with traditional offline data. Everything that was ‘old’ has become ‘new’ again. The ability to deliver more targeted messages and personalized experiences across all interactions has become a reality.

But determining how to accurately attribute desired outcomes such as new customer acquisitions and purchases to the various interactions is still a monumental headache for many marketers.  Let’s break it down into two primary challenges.

The first is the most basic and has existed since digital marketing became a thing – understanding the impact of online channels’ ability to impact offline purchases.  Of the two major challenges, this is the simplest to solve through use of promotion codes in conjunction with good campaign test designs, which is a valuable, highly underused discipline in the customer-centric marketing reality that exists today.

The 2nd and more difficult challenge is measuring consumer interactions with a brand across screens and devices.  Ideally, we want to know how consumers engage with a brand across screens and devices, which channels they are engaging, and where they finally convert.  Today, consumers use numerous screens (smartphones, tablets, laptops/desktops, smart screens in their automobiles, etc.) throughout their buying journey with a brand.  As consumers switch from one screen to the next, it’s difficult to “follow” that consumer and capture a reasonably accurate few of the corresponding interactions.

There are solutions though!  Please keep an eye out for my next blog post as I explore and present specific solutions for these critical attribution challenges!


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