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.

4 thoughts on “Analytics at the Marketing/Technology Interface

  1. Jim Novo says:

    Couple things.

    The suggestion that web analysts should report to Finance is about governance not work product. Any analyst (of any kind) that reports to the people whose work s/he is analyzing is under pressure, tangible or intangible, to distort the results.

    Analysts who report to Finance do not have to leave interacting with Marketing people (of all stripes) behind, but they are more likely to report on marketing activities in an honest way.

    Better than Finance would be setting up a Center of Excellence for Analytics reporting directly to the CEO, but most companies will never make it there…

    Marketing may be both transactional and attitudinal, but neither is worth anything unless money is made. Just because it is difficult to measure the monetary value of attitudinal doesn’t mean it cannot be done.

    The fact is there are Marketers who *choose* to live in the world of “difficult to measure”, often because that’s the only place they have lived and they get comfortable there. That’s fine as long as management believes attitudinal can’t be tied to monetary value.

    Looks like those days might be over:

    Someday we will get to a place where the position is “if it’s not measurable, it can’t be effective”, which is the correct default.

    Unfortunately, many folks – which surprisingly includes a huge number of “new school” marketers who don’t need to be tied to the old models from the 60’s – claim the opposite.

    I find this astonishing – the very people who claim the “web is different” insist on using broken models of marketing measurement from the days when there was no other choice.

    There is now a choice, but many people are intentionally choosing the “road less accountable”.

    Human nature, I guess.

    Or, lack of access to high quality educational materials.

    Or, too much exposure to “marketing meme of the moment”.

    All Marketing is Measurable, if one chooses to measure it before it is executed. In fact, rather than classifying marketing either as transactional or attitudinal, a more accurate classification might be by Marketer personality type, e.g. “wants accountability” or “does not want accountability”.

  2. Right, Jim.

    I agree with the assumptions that analysts don’t have to leave marketing behind entirely, the value of attitudinal linking to money, the erosion of the acceptance of pure attitudinal measurement as an indicator of success.

    To expand on ‘wants accountability’ or ‘does not want accountability’: some marketers fundamentally want standardization so long as they retain the freedom and flexibility to select convenient reasoning.

    We all want to look good, and it’s human nature to want to sit on that fence.

    I’d say that some marketers are absolutely correct in that we have yet to find a model, with face validity, assessing the longer run impact of brand spending. The neglect of such measures may actually be the root cause of APGAR-esque over-optimization on the short run values.

    I don’t agree with it. But I think there’s a pretty wicked problem here.

  3. Jim Novo says:

    Proctor & Gamble is very good at measuring the impact of Brand spending, so it’s possible. The question often becomes whether one can afford to measure something properly, e.g. whether the cost of proper measurement would exceed the value Marketing generated.

    Also, just because something “works” from a marketing perspective does not also mean it is the most efficient choice to achieve the same effect.

    Back to the scale issue, I’m afraid.

    If you really want Awareness because **you know that’s what drives purchase decisions at the supermarket** – and you in fact sell products in the supermarket – buy Awareness.

    Buying Awareness for the sake of gaining Awareness, across any business model or media, does not constitute revenue linkage or an accountable Marketing system. At what point is Awareness saturated, for example?

    Marketers can and should try new things, say perhaps with 10% of the budget. Then zero impact is OK, because the rest of the budget is carrying the overall accountability. It’s OK to “believe” something works / is the right thing to do without proof – then no proof is in fact needed.

    It’s a completely different thing to say an approach “works” because you can prove it using poorly constructed models or justify it with Brand speak like “at least we generated Awareness” – which is meaningless unless you know Awareness turns into revenue.

    Marketing history is full of examples where Awareness did not turn into revenue.

    Certainly plenty to discuss at the gathering!

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