Confused by the title of this post, “Marketing Attribution is a Drill Bit”? I’ll get to that in a bit, but first some context. Last week I attended the Forrester Forum for Marketing Leaders in Los Angeles. Having been a few years since I last attended the conference, I was excited to see what progress had been made and hear from peers across new ideas and areas of focus.
Key Marketing Trends
This year’s event, primarily attended by CMOs and senior marketing executives, was titled “Creating Brand Advantage with Perpetually Connected Consumers”. While I expected the bulk of the content presented to focus on the impact mobile is having on the marketing landscape, the overall event turned out to be a broader discussion of the forces reshaping marketing. The vast majority of the speakers were interesting, but throughout the two days there were really four consistent themes that emerged from the presentations and conversations.
Mobile Mind Shift
- Mobile phones are approaching saturation globally and 50% of the US population now has smartphones. This represents a massive sea change for marketers.
- Consumer expectations are changing as it relates to how they engage with brands and consume information. Forrester calls this the “mobile mind shift”, which is a very interesting framework for marketers to assess the appropriate approach to mobile.
- Companies are responding with very creative uses for apps (as one example, E*TRADE now supports voice recognition/commands both to access stock quotes and initiate trades directly from smartphones) and location services. On the other hand, most marketers continue to struggle with how to effectively use digital ads on mobile (42% of consumers have a negative view) and how to leverage “perpetual connectedness”.
Social Media Moves Down the List?
Although social remains a topic mentioned in almost every presentation, it was clearly not the topic it was three years ago. In fact, the lack of focus on social raises an interesting question about where this currently lies on the CMO’s priority list. Judging from conversations at the conference, defining meaningful goals for social and measuring social marketing effectiveness continues to be elusive.
Shifting Consumer Demographics
IBM also presented the results of a survey of 1,700+ CMOs showing a big shift in millennials and digital natives’ (13-19 year-olds) buying criteria and habits. Social (again) played a big role here, but more interestingly…daily deals, flash sales and other emerging models are rapidly changing the rules for younger consumers. Unfortunately for marketers, reaching this demographic continues to be an exercise in trial and error and brands are faced with “building the plane as they fly it”.
Data-Driven Marketing aka “Big Data”
While “big data” continues its journey along the hype curve, this year there was clearly an uptick in discussion about how to utilize the data, big or small. I’m glad to see we’re finally beginning to move beyond defining what big data is and isn’t. For example, there were many discussions – some of which were genuinely visionary – about using data to “understand” and “instrument” the customer journey. Although these were presented in many different archetypes, they seemed to follow a common approach
Marketing Attribution Moves to the Forefront
Not surprisingly, the topic of marketing attribution came up numerous times within the context of understanding and optimizing the customer journey. I was able to speak with a handful of marketing leaders and asked them their view of attribution and its importance within their strategic objectives. Consistently I heard:
Marketing analysts and channel owners say marketing attribution helps determine:
- What marketing touches influence conversions?
- How do I divide credit among those touches?
- How do I optimize my channel?
CMOs and marketing executives think about marketing attribution in terms of:
- Which campaigns are working?
- What is the correct balance?
- How do I optimize my marketing mix?
One CMO in particular really drove this point home for me,
“I’m not here to do attribution, I’m here to grow our brand, engage our customers, and drive the business.”
That comment was a very clear “WHY” moment for me! As it turns out, CMOs need holes and attribution is in effect, a drill bit. There are other ways to make a hole, but for the task at hand, you’d be hard pressed to find a more effective tool. In terms of helping drive value for CMOs, there is a direct association between drill bits and the process of making holes, but in most construction projects that’s not really the end game, is it?
Back to the title: As marketers, we have to be mindful of what attribution insights enable, such as identifying opportunities to improve campaigns and generate improved ROI, and be careful not discuss the analysis itself as the final product. The opportunity to advance marketing through advanced marketing attribution is clear, but the only way to help others understand the value is to create and illustrate the connections between the in-the-moment work and the strategic goals (like growing your brand, engaging your customers and driving business outcomes), and then tell the stories about those who have done it effectively.
If you have any good examples of how marketing attribution has helped directly or indirectly drove improved marketing results, I would love to hear about them.
PS. A shout out to Todd Kelley from ExactTarget who has always been a prolific note taker, thanks for sharing your notes!