All attribution is wrong (but do it anyway!)

Complicated. Expensive. Unreliable. Frustrating.

As Head of the analytics department here at Marketing Architects, I’ve heard all these adjectives (and a few more unprintable ones) when CMOs and marketing executives describe their previous experiences with multichannel attribution.

To most, it’s a time-consuming exercise that’s filled with shaky data and unexplainable math, conducted using black box methods that rival the CIA’s code of secrecy. Mere mortals have little chance of understanding its details.

My honest answer, when I hear these stories?

All attribution is wrong. (But you need to do it anyway.)

The “silver bullet” does not exist

This may sound counterintuitive. After all, why pour time, effort and budget into a flawed application? The answer gets to the central issue of attribution: your data model. All models have flaws, from missing data to incorrect assumptions. There is no silver bullet or single, perfect tool to measure each and every influence, action or result that your broadcast ad generates. Period.

Once marketing executives accept this fact, it’s possible to move forward with multichannel measurement programs that actually work. Imagine making decisions based on analytics where you are highly confident. It can happen.

To increase confidence, reset expectations

First, be clear about what your multichannel attribution model can (and can’t) deliver. Who doesn’t want to link every customer interaction—online and offline—to a quantifiable sale? It’s the holy grail of marketing measurement. But a 360-degree view requires immense discipline across the enterprise to capture information completely and govern data for accuracy; most organizations are years away from this goal.

What your multichannel attribution model can deliver are actionable insights to help you hone your media budget, message, offer and brand strategy. With broadcast advertising, for example, expect your attribution model to show you:

1. Which dayparts generate the strongest response

2. Which stations and markets are most effective

3. Which creative packs the biggest punch

Second, know what is (and isn’t) measurable. Television, and other “top of the funnel” activities, create a variety of positive influences that optimize your brand in the minutes immediately following an ad, as well as in the days and weeks to follow. Tracking immediate actions, such as Google searches, phone calls and web orders, is relatively straightforward. Measuring improved brand awareness, consumer preference and word of mouth is harder.

Consider our recent work with a leading mattress retailer. Their ad creative proved so popular it generated organic Facebook and Twitter posts in addition to traditional metrics. That’s a positive response that will no doubt lead to greater sales and stronger brand recognition in the future. But it’s also a result that’s difficult to quantify with traditional multichannel attribution models.

Use multiple models to boost your trust factor

Lastly, tune up your data model. Whether you create your own, rely on your broadcast agency or work with third-party attribution partners, make sure the model has flexibility to accommodate the unique data points of your company, product and campaign. Avoid “one size fits all” models that take a more cookie-cutter approach.

Whenever possible, run at least two attribution models side by side. In this way, you can inject more confidence into the analytics and insights that you receive. Here at Marketing Architects, we use our proprietary toolkit for analysis, while an outside attribution firm simultaneously models the same data. When both models reveal similar results—using two slightly different methodologies—we know we’re heading in the right direction.

Your attribution is wrong. But please, do it anyway.

Get inspired. At Marketing Architects, accurate attribution is so important to us that we invest in your success. Ask about our Analytics technology platform and the additional measurements we provide through third-party attribution sources. Contact us.