Analytics at the marketing / technology interface. What a jam.
On the one side, there are massive time constraints on developers who struggle with super tight deadlines and last minute tweakings. On the other side, you have marketers who are buffeted by super tight deadlines, little time to plan, and tend to follow an anchor-and-adjust mentality. (Don’t we all?).
Much of the frustration within analytics derives from watching both sides of the equation, and actively attempting to collaborate between two groups. I can sum up the fight between the two as:
Marketer: “You go too slow!”
IT: “You tell us about a project at the last minute!”
Marketer: “You’re too slow!!!”
IT: “You don’t know how to make choices!”
Marketer: “You’re too slow!!!”
Analytics: “Guys, why are my tags broken?”
A few thinkers believe that analytics would find a better home within Finance. And perhaps certain aspects of marketing analytics would find a better home in Finance. I don’t really think so at this point. Consider the following:
Finance is transactional. They have clean data, and for the most part, except for creative accounting, they have black and white distinctions. They’ve been able to milk very simple formulas for a very long time.
Marketing is both transactional and attitudinal, and this mirrors much of the Marketing/Technology interface.
When we’re dealing with technologists, we’re dealing with the transactional. And there are very specific ways that data is ordered, counted, and segmented. Those who are more technical tend to have more in common with finance. Look at how much you can milk the visit metric. It’s beautiful.
When we’re dealing with most marketers, we’re dealing with the attitudinal, and in many circumstances, the transactional.
How many people really loved that microsite I spent forever on?
How many people really loved that post?
What percentage of my target is aware of that commercial I put out?
Did it affect the way people think of us?
Did it affect the way people make decisions?
Did it change purchasing behavior?
These are much richer and problematic questions.
It’s the linkage of what a marketer is doing to a system (cause) to the effect of what can be observed in that system. It would be easy except that that system is dynamic and chaotic. And it’s not all purely transactional.
So, yes, to my friends who are technologically oriented, yes, I think we have a long ways to go in solving for the technological issues underlying transactional measurement. And those challenges are by no means easy. (I’m living through that right now. It’s not easy!). And perhaps the linkage between finance and technology, in assessing financial marketing performance, is the sum of all fears for certain marketers. Maybe that fusion needs to happen.
I don’t advocate for all of us going to finance because it leaves the attitudinal on the table.
I think we have an even longer way to go in linking the attitudinal data with transactional data. And those challenges are just as technical as they are human. That is to say, we’re going to have to invent a new schemas for thinking about choice, preference, distribution, price, and social that agree with actual observation. This is where marketing science has gotten it right and economics has gotten it wrong. Economics has become, largely, math and assumptions for the purpose of math. Marketing science has become models and math for the purpose of prediction. Marketing scientists are trying it. Analysts, in pockets around “VOC” or “website satisfaction”, are too.
This is where a certain degree of analytical professionalism is going to have to come in. If analysts really want to rise to this challenge and try it, they’re going to have to accept that two models may both indeed be valid. They’re going to have to accept that two people can be simultaneously equally right, or equally wrong. Or one may have a simpler explanation that is more memorable than another more complex one, yet one is more predictive.
Life at the marketing/technology interface is a lot like a large mass of water trying to flow through a very small aperture. There’s a whole lot of spin and there’s a whole lot of energy expended to just get it jammed through.
There’s a gathering in Toronto this Wednesday. The theme of the night, “Does Anybody Give A Shit About Your Dumb Idea?”, and it is directly at the marketing/technology interface – combining the attitudinal with the transactional. I hope to see you there.