Aim high with your data analysis: don't let cut-backs hold you back

Worried about marketing cuts? A measured response and long-term investment can ensure brands continue to grow through turbulent times and beyond

Jared Harrington, VP, Data and Analytics at Media Culture explains how brands can break through plateaus with holistic brand response measurement.

In the early stages of a business, engaging new customers to convey an advertiser’s offering may require just a few marketing channels. Perhaps the media mix starts with a search and social, followed up with display and video, and eventually mass media. Soon enough, the media mix is composed of 10 or more channels, which continue to expand as budgets increase, new mediums come to market, and consumers diversify their consumption.

So often in these instances, even as the media mix evolves, the approach to measurement remains the same, with each marketing channel or tactic being measured in a silo based on its individual contribution. While each measurement methodology may provide reliable tactical direction, individually, they typically lack consideration of other factors, both internal and external, that contribute to the success of the entire marketing mix.

A business can experience significant growth under these circumstances, but the lack of a holistic measurement model will often lead to a plateau. This plateau is the result of a lack of understanding and visibility into the role that each channel plays throughout the customer journey. The outcome is a marketing mix composed of channels that are focused on short-term, bottom-funnel impact. In short, a disproportionate amount of investment is made at the final, demand-capture stages of the customer journey rather than in introducing the brand and value proposition.

To break through this plateau, a healthy marketing mix requires a balanced investment across demand capture and demand generation stages of the marketing funnel. Achieving this balance requires that the business embrace the concept of brand response marketing and measurement.

What to measure… and how

Brand marketing is often evaluated based on cost per mille (CPM), impression delivery, and reach and frequency, with little to no focus on short-term business metrics. Direct response marketing is evaluated based on immediate measurable impact to business metrics such as website visits, leads, purchases, etc. Bringing both direct and indirect measures of business impact into the measurement fold is the key to understanding their true contribution and continuing to evolve a marketing strategy. 

Thankfully, interest and investment in data science has continued to grow within marketing and, as a result, there are now options to implement a solution capable of measuring the impact of brand response marketing campaigns. Some of these options include use of third-party identity-resolution partners, marketing mix models (MMM), and multi-touch attribution (MTA) models, each of which has its respective strengths and weaknesses. Not unlike a marketing portfolio, the best approach is to utilise the strengths of each to provide an actionable, balanced perspective.

Identity resolution services like Adbrain, Experian, LiveRamp, and Tapad often possess large data sets of identifiers associated with consumers and associated behaviours across the web. This data allows advertisers to identify a customer or prospective customer as they engage with the brand over time, even across various devices. This serves as a powerful resource for both monitoring behaviour and targeting prospective customers.

An MTA model, on the other hand, can ingest all the individual consumer actions or touchpoints leading up to a conversion event. The result is a partial distribution of credit to each touchpoint that’s calculated based on probability (data-driven), or a predetermined distribution (linear, time-decay). This approach allows for deduplication of business metrics across channels and clear line-of-sight into the customer journey.

By comparison, an MMM relies on aggregated datasets instead of individual, cohort-level actions. This approach enables advertisers to test various factors to determine which have a measurable impact on the business over an extended period. This can include internal factors such as marketing, promotions, and brand awareness and sentiment, as well as external factors such as category seasonality, competitor activity, and macroeconomic trends. All are taken into consideration and modelled with business metrics to determine their effect over time. Strengths of this approach include the ability to quantify long-term impact of marketing channels, an understanding of how external factors influence marketing performance, and the ability to simulate different scenarios of marketing investment to determine future strategy. 

Best of both worlds

It's clear that each of these approaches has their own use cases. However, they each have their own drawbacks. For example, an identity resolution service can be limited by scale of the available data pool, MTA models are susceptible to expanding privacy restrictions impacting data collection and tracking, and MMMs designed to capture long-term marketing impact do not provide the granularity and shorter-term insights of identity resolution or MTA models.

The ideal solution is to unify these approaches. Leveraging identity resolution services with a multi-touch attribution model reduces the odds of gaps in the customer journey that will impact contribution distribution. An MMM is not susceptible to cookie expiration or new device awareness and adoption for cookie-less tracking. However, the observations from a well-informed MTA model can be combined with the MMM development to ensure cross-channel effects are considered and alignment exists across the approaches.

The result is a holistic approach that embraces both aggregate and cohort-level behaviour that is considerate of both long-term brand awareness and short-term direct response efforts. When utilised properly, this approach enables the proper allocation of marketing investment across the entire customer journey and becomes the catalyst for consistent progress toward marketing objectives.

These are just a few examples of measurement approaches that are available to marketers looking to evolve their measurement approach. With new approaches becoming available every day, the best option is for each advertiser to evaluate their circumstances and decide the approach best suited to their specific needs on an ongoing basis.

Jared Harrington

VP, Data and Analytics

Media Culture