What’s the Return On Investment on Marketing?

Depends on how soon you want your return. Time is frequently a neglected variable.

Recall that marketing had a schism right around 1920:

  • One man went on to found the branding agency, and found salvation through broadcast radio, and later, TV. 
  • One man founded the first direct advertising agency, and continued to find salvation through direct response and cataloging. 
  • The schism only really came to a head when digital forced it to come to a head.


  • Evidence for a direct causal inference between marketing treatment and marketing conversion is greatest at the point of sale / point of conversion.
  • Any evidence of causality is severely diluted at the branding / awareness level at the earliest portions of the customer funnel / fish / cycle.
  • It follows that direct mail people overestimate their impact, and underestimate the impact of branding.

Remember that:

  • There is a lag between initial treatment, customer acquisition, and return.
  • The longer the lag, the more opportunities for noise and collinearity to creep into your models.
  • Skepticism expands as the time lag expands.

Marketing is a system. Time is a factor in that system. The biggest conflict in brand modelling is how long is that time horizon.

That doesn’t mean that anybody is wrong.

Just be aware that it’s a factor you need to be aware of. And that it’s a good factor.


I’m Christopher Berry.
I tweet about analytics @cjpberry
I write at christopherberry.ca