Attribution, Response And Audience Management

Attribution in the online space is a practice that is so overused, and so misunderstood.  The very simple goal of attribution is to weight the various stimuli influencing a purchase or desired interaction to help inform how you spend your marketing dollars.     Attribution was online display advertising’s attempt to justify blind advertising and targeting practices. It was also a good way for agencies to try to justify media spend activities, but rarely told a variable story. The problem was, too many in the business got hung up on last-click attribution, since there were so many coordinated and uncoordinated activities happening on the site.  

The challenge with adding email to the view of attribution is that it skews all attribution models, since it has a longitudinal impact on engagement -- and doing an attribution exercise for a specific time period doesn’t accurately reflect the real influence on a purchase of a stream of emails that serve different functions.

It’s challenging to do an attribution exercise on email marketing, since it has many different values to a business outside of driving a click or driving to a website.  The email database evolved from a method of mass communications to mass personalization to the goal of 1:1 engagement marketing.   The challenge with this thinking is that the industry puts too much emphasis on response-driven results rather than how a mix of media influence buying decisions and in-market timing.  

Audience management has become a popular term over the last few years.  It’s a means for the display-advertising world to associate anonymous consumer media experiences with a brand as viewed through a relative index or segment.  But audience management is trending to be much more that what it is today. 

 An audience could be women, men, an age band, an income band, could be sports enthusiasts, or any combination of thousands of descriptors.   This is nothing new for the CRM space. But knowing a customer, doesn’t mean you have a complete view of that consumer.  What’s different is, very few marketers project what they know about a consumer with what is known about the consumer in both the online and CRM worlds.

 The next generation of audience management, response management and attribution will blend these worlds to inform targeting and advertising, CRM and engagement marketing, social marketing.   This is going to be so vital to our industry as mobile permeates the consumer buying process. Search will change, email marketing will change, display advertising will change, and mobile advertising, mobile apps and social will all collide. 

As these worlds collide, analytics will begin to make sense.  Performance will equal the sum of brand experience, reach, response, and conversion.   It will just operate much faster than it does today.  

The amount of behavioral information that we’ll be capable of processing, consuming and analyzing will dwarf that of a few years ago.   The degree to which we can associate this information with “in-market” activities will accelerate dramatically.    Real optimization will not be iterations to be tested, it will be models that self-improve with each new piece of data added.

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2 comments about "Attribution, Response And Audience Management".
  1. Arthur Einstein from Loyalty Builders , August 13, 2012 at 2:36 p.m.
    David, Thanks for this post. I've read it twice an conclude that you believe the notion of "attribution" is as nutty as my friends and I do. The idea that a transaction can be linked to the most recent marketing message a person receives seems to me the product of fevered minds wondering to do with all the data they've been able to collect. It ignores almost everything we've learned about selling in the past 150 years.
  2. Bob Frady from Zeeto Media , August 14, 2012 at 7:46 p.m.
    The problem is, the email industry hasn't really put forth a good way to measure the value of the email channel. The response is usually "shut off your email for a day/week/month and see what happens"...which really isn't very helpful. Email's role in attribution is also not clearly understood. If - by sending email - does it spur search activity? If so, by how much? How are offline buyers affected by the emails they receive? Until the email industry comes forward with better answers to questions like this, attribution is going to continually be on client's minds.