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  • Jason Lucey

Attribution, Echoes, and Associations: A Multi-Layered Approach to Marketing Measurement

Marketing is a complex and dynamic field. It requires constant measurement and optimization. But how do you measure the performance of your marketing campaigns and activities across different channels, platforms, and objectives? How do you know which metrics matter most for your business goals? And how do you turn the data into actionable insights?

In this post, we will explore three styles of analysis that can help you measure your marketing efforts more effectively and efficiently:

  • Attribution: This style assigns credit to specific marketing actions or touchpoints that lead to a desired outcome. It works best for direct response marketing with linear customer journeys.

  • "Echoes": This style tracks the indirect and intangible effects of marketing on the marketplace, such as brand awareness, reputation, and interest. It works best for top-of-funnel and above-the-funnel marketing.

  • Associations: This style identifies the behaviors that show a strong relationship to desired business outcomes. It works best for indirect conversion paths and nonlinear marketing activities.

By combining these styles, you can get a comprehensive and holistic view of your marketing impact and uncover new opportunities for improvement.


Attribution

Attribution is what most people think of when they think of marketing tracking. It’s also a common challenge for analysts because it can be difficult. However, Attribution is important to get right for direct response marketing with linear customer journeys. When done well, Attribution can provide critical insights for optimization.

Attribution involves assigning credit to specific marketing actions or touchpoints that lead to a desired outcome, such as a click, a sign-up, a purchase, etc. For example, if a customer clicks on a display ad, then visits your website, then buys your product, you can attribute the sale to the display ad.


Attribution also involves governance to ensure consistency in naming conventions among all the contributors. Inconsistencies can result in confusing or misleading data. For most projects, a fair amount of time is normally budgeted to collaborate with all the contributors and ensure everyone is on the same page regarding naming conventions and how the tracking will be implemented.


Some of the benefits of attribution are:

  • It helps you optimize your marketing mix and budget allocation by showing you direct responses from your channels, campaigns, and creatives.

  • It helps you understand your customer journey and behavior by showing you which touchpoints are most common and engaging.

  • It helps you demonstrate your marketing ROI by showing you how much revenue or profit is directly generated by your marketing efforts. This works best in ecomm and self-service environments.

Best Used With: Links of all kinds, especially media and email.

Common Example: UTM tracking on display ads.


Echoes

“Echoes” are what I call all the other ways that marketing might impact the marketplace that happens outside of the direct response pathway. Echoes track the indirect and intangible effects of marketing on the marketplace, such as brand awareness, reputation, and interest. For example, if a customer reads an article about your new product, then searches for your brand name on Google, then follows you on social media, you can track these Echoes as indicators of interest even though they never clicked on an ad or visited your website.

Tracking Echoes frequently depends on third-party data sources. There are a wide variety of tools in this space that can be used. PR agencies and agencies that run awareness-style campaigns are familiar with this. I wrote a separate blog post about tracking interest beyond awareness that explores these topics more thoroughly.


Some of the benefits of tracking Echoes are:

  • It helps you measure your brand equity and positioning by showing you how much people know about your brand, what they think about it, and how they compare it to your competitors.

  • It helps you identify new opportunities and threats by showing you what topics, trends, and competitors are relevant to your audience and industry.

  • It helps you evaluate your PR and content marketing efforts by showing you how much impact they have on influencing the audience's mindset rather than direct response.

Best Used With: Top-of-funnel and above-the-funnel marketing. PR campaigns. Brand or product launches.

Common Example: Brand mentions in articles written about a product launch.


Associations

When we look for Associations, we are looking for behaviors that show a high degree of relationship to business outcomes. This is more of a data mining exercise than a tracking issue, but it can be extremely informative. Finding behaviors that are closely tied to business outcomes with a high degree of confidence can help marketers understand which actions and touch points are most relevant and should be focused on for optimization. Sometimes the learnings here are surprising and may even indicate that the measurement strategy itself should be adjusted. Finding these metrics that indicate which behaviors are entangled with success, we are able to connect nonlinear marketing activities to business outcomes in reliable and predictive ways.

Associations identify the metrics that show a strong correlation with business outcomes, such as sales, retention, loyalty, etc. For example, if a customer watches a video on your website, then downloads a white paper, then signs up for a free trial, you can find out which of these actions has the strongest association with calling customer service.


Some of the benefits of finding Associations are:

  • It helps you discover hidden patterns and insights in your data by using advanced statistical methods such as regression analysis, cluster analysis, and machine learning.

  • It helps you prioritize your marketing efforts by showing you which behaviors and aspects have the strongest relationship to your business goals.

  • It helps you forecast your future performance by showing you how changes in one metric affect changes in another metric.

  • It can uncover unexpected yet critical insights about your strategic assumptions and measurement strategy.

Best Used With: Indirect conversion paths and online-offline buyer journeys.

Example: A cross-channel campaign that drives interest in in-store purchases.


Putting it together: Contextualization is Key

In truth, all three methods can be used in the same campaign if they are contextualized correctly. This would give the most complete view of performance and surface the most profound insights. Not only are there technical aspects to this, but each of these methodologies have their own style of analysis. Being able to interpret the data and then properly contextualize it is something we specialize in here at DATACRAFT.

Conclusion

Marketing measurement is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Different styles of analysis require different styles of measurement. By taking a multi-layered approach, we can uncover the most important insights to deliver the best impact.


Attribution helps us optimize our direct response marketing with linear customer journeys. Echoes help us measure our brand equity and positioning with top-of-funnel and above-the-funnel marketing. Associations help us discover hidden patterns and insights with indirect conversion paths and nonlinear marketing activities.

By combining these styles, we can get a comprehensive and holistic view of our marketing impact and uncover new opportunities for improvement.


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