Attribution Is Killing Your Strategy

The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Insider.

Marketers who over-index on grabbing the quick dollar versus investing in building their brand are doing themselves a disservice. Brands too often commit a fatal blunder by focusing too intensely on a return on advertising spend (ROAS) model for all media dollars, which looks at value from only low-funnel efforts.

Don’t get me wrong: you absolutely should measure your ROI from digital marketing and have a large majority of your budget tied to performance efforts, but marketing goes far beyond attributing every incoming dollar.

Digital marketing has no single solution. By ignoring the need for building brand and consumer mindshare through a full-funnel approach, a brand will never extend market share adequately and create brand affinity among its TAM (total addressable market). To drive long-term growth and success, marketers must invest in brand equity by claiming a prominent presence in customers’ minds.



But what exactly does building brand and mindshare encompass? It starts with delivering compelling messages through media like video pre-roll and programmatic display (a celebrity endorsement and a Super Bowl ad don’t hurt either). Favorably associating brand positioning and differentiation at a national level often can grow the market overall and have an accelerated impact on future customer acquisition.

For instance, my colleagues have found that a well-run programmatic display campaign dramatically improves the performance of an accompanying paid search campaign. Additionally, running programmatic display campaigns have led to an increase of 15% to 20% in direct and organic traffic.

By focusing less on strictly ROAS, marketers will turn heads, and consumers will start searching for their brand. You can gain new customers without depending exclusively on an expensive pay-per-lead model.

Look at this as renting versus buying. Renting -- focusing solely on ROAS -- may lead to better ROI in the short term, but you will never get ahead of your pay-per-lead model. Buying -- focusing more on a holistic approach -- may be more costly in the short term, but investing in your business’ brand will prove to be the smarter financial choice in the long term, as customers will begin to seek it out.

For example, a national homebuilding company has executed this type of strategy by investing 51% of its digital budget into programmatic display, 21% into paid social, 18% into paid search, and 10% into video. It has seen astronomical lifts in direct traffic and brand recognition among in-market consumers because they have become top of mind in key geographic markets.

By investing in its brand (buying, not renting)it has less reliance on paid search (renting, not buying) than competitors.

Enlarging the marketing funnel and the volume of new prospects as opposed to simply exhausting a limited number of low-funnel customers will prove a much more viable strategy for long-term growth.

No shortcuts exist for guiding the customer’s journey and building the right brand experience. It's comparable to proposing on the first date: The answer will always be "no!"  By diversifying a budget across all forms of digital channels across the spectrum, a marketer can effectively build brand and market share while lowering the overall acquisition cost.

As an experienced marketer, if your instinct tells you something, go for it, even if you can’t measure an immediate ROAS. Don’t let attribution kill your strategy.

2 comments about "Attribution Is Killing Your Strategy".
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  1. John Leeman from True Customer Group, July 1, 2022 at 1:49 p.m.

    In principle I agree that overly focusing on short-term/bottom funnel digital MTA ROAS can result in emptying the immediate funnel and not building share from new prospects BUT MTA is not the only form of attribution and the others (MMM and Unified MMM+MTA) each provide visibility into the many drivers of sales throughout the funnel.

  2. Marcelo Salup from Iffective LLC, July 5, 2022 at 7:58 a.m.

    MIA from all of this is speaking to consumers, ex-consumers and non-consumers. The buying vs renting metaphor is simplistic. Too simplistic. The real similitude here is a Formula 1 race. If an engineer tries to fine tune the car only from telemetry readings he/she is not going to get anywhere as close to perfection or as fast as when he/she speaks to the driver. The driver is not a robot, but is a close as you can get to the real world. Attribution models that only focus on the mechanistic view of the reaction are comfy, fuzzy, warm lazy models that ultimately fail when they do not understand how customers actually make decisions.

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