Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Drunk Thinking

A policeman finds a drunk crawling around on the street one night, frantically searching for something at the base of a lamp post. He approaches cautiously and inquires as to the man’s strange behavior.

“I lost my watch”, says the drunk.

“Here, under this streetlight?” asks the policeman.

“No, over by that building 50 yards that way” he points.

“So why are you looking over here?” the policeman asks quizzically.

“Because this is where the light is. I can’t see anything in the dark over there.”

Drunk logic.

The same sort of logic underlying the methods many are taking to understand the impact of their social and digital marketing efforts. Looking for answers where the data is. Sometimes because this is the ONLY data we think we may have (although in practice most companies have much broader access to reasonable data than they think they have). More often, the scope of analysis is restricted to just our own area of personal responsibility. The thinking seems to be that we should just analyze the things we are responsible for so as not to get stuck in the endless politics of the rest of the organization.

I realize that it is pretty difficult to do attribution analysis without data. And of course one of the many wonderful aspects of digital marketing tactics is, well, they produce tons of data. So why shouldn’t we look for answers in the digital arena? We can use test/learn experiments; pre-post analysis; and multivariate testing to optimize our digital impact. All of which can provide great insights.

But if the questions relate to the impact of the digital/social tactics on OVERALL results, then we need to analyze the digital elements in concert with the rest of the marketing mix. If we’re only looking at the digital data to understand digital marketing impact, we are ignoring the interplay between the digital and non-digital elements of the mix and drawing conclusions that are unlikely to represent reality. Worse, we may be drawing conclusions that will reinforce inefficiencies or bad habits. And in the process, we actually REINFORCE the political obstacles that exist between groups within the organization. We present OUR analysis; they present THEIRS; and the cycle of gridlock continues.

If you’re responsible for digital/social marketing within a broader marketing organization, you may stand to gain MORE resources when you analyze the digital contributions in the broader context of other offline tactics. The investment in time or money you make in gathering the offline tactical data and including it in your analysis framework may be repaid many times over in the form of more budget dollars, more influence, and more autonomy. On the flip side, NOT making the effort is likely to either limit the magnitude or impact of your analysis OR, worse yet, diminish your credibility in the eyes of the key decision-makers.

No one wants to be the drunk under the lamp post when the police come by.


Pat LaPointe is Executive Vice President at MarketShare, and Managing Editor of MarketingNPV Journal, the most widely read journal of marketing measurement, available online FREE at www.MarketingNPV.com.

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