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Marketing Attribution: What is it, why is it so important and what are the different approaches?



Marketing attribution is the process of identifying and assigning credit to the marketing activity that contribute to a desired outcome or conversion, such as a sale, lead, or customer engagement.


Without it, you are pretty much flying blind! Every decision you make in relation to marketing strategy, allocation of resources and attempts to optimise, will be fundamentally flawed, resulting in wasted investment and lost opportunity.


The overall aim marketing attribution is to gain insights into which marketing efforts or touchpoints are most influential in driving conversions or achieving specific marketing objectives. By attributing value or credit to different touchpoints, marketers can assess the effectiveness of their marketing strategies, allocate resources more efficiently, and optimise their campaigns.


These touchpoints can include various marketing channels, such as digital advertising, social media, email marketing, content marketing, search engine marketing, offline advertising, and more.


The benefits of marketing attribution can be summarised as:


  1. Resource Allocation: Marketing attribution helps businesses determine where to allocate their marketing resources effectively. By identifying the touchpoints or channels that have the most significant impact on driving conversions or sales, marketers can allocate their budgets and efforts accordingly.

  2. Campaign Optimisation: Attribution allows marketers to evaluate and optimise their marketing campaigns. By understanding which touchpoints contribute the most to desired outcomes, marketers can identify successful strategies and tactics.

  3. Data-Driven Decision Making: Attribution provides data-driven insights into the effectiveness of different marketing activities. It helps reduce guesswork and enhances decision-making accuracy, leading to more effective marketing strategies and tactics.

  4. Customer Journey Understanding: Attribution helps marketers gain a deeper understanding of the customer journey. By analysing the various touchpoints and interactions that lead to conversions or sales, businesses can identify patterns, preferences, and pain points in the customer journey. This knowledge can be used to improve customer experience, optimize marketing messaging, and enhance overall customer engagement and satisfaction.

  5. ROI Calculation: Marketing attribution provides insights into the ROI of different marketing activities. By attributing value to each touchpoint, marketers can calculate the return on investment for individual campaigns, channels, or strategies. This information is valuable in assessing the effectiveness of marketing expenditures and making informed decisions on resource allocation and budget optimization.


There are several types of marketing attribution models that marketers use to understand the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. Here are some commonly used types:


  1. Last Touch Attribution: This model attributes all the credit for a conversion or sale to the last touchpoint that a customer interacted with before taking the desired action. It assumes that the final touchpoint was the most influential in the customer's decision-making process.

  2. First Touch Attribution: In contrast to last touch attribution, this model attributes all the credit to the first touchpoint that initiated a customer's interaction with the marketing campaign or brand. It assumes that the initial touchpoint had the most significant impact on capturing the customer's attention and interest.

  3. Linear Attribution: This model assigns equal credit to all touchpoints throughout the customer journey. It assumes that each touchpoint had an equal impact on driving the conversion or sale, regardless of its position in the customer journey.

  4. Time Decay Attribution: This model assigns more credit to touchpoints that occur closer to the time of conversion. It assumes that touchpoints that happened closer to the conversion had a more immediate and influential effect on the customer's decision.

  5. Position-Based Attribution: Also known as U-shaped attribution, this model assigns more credit to the first and last touchpoints in the customer journey, with the assumption that these touchpoints played crucial roles in attracting the customer's attention and closing the sale.

  6. Algorithmic Attribution: Algorithmic attribution models utilise advanced statistical or machine learning algorithms to determine the credit allocation for each touchpoint. These models consider various factors, such as customer behaviour, interaction sequences, and contextual information, to assess the relative influence of each touchpoint accurately


Due to the ever-increasing complexity of our marketing campaigns and customer journeys, we are seeing a rapid increase in the number of organisations using AI and machine learning algorithms to help support measurement and provide campaign recommendations. Most recently the term Generative Attribution has been used to describe highly sophisticated models that ingest vast volumes of campaign data, customer information and market data, to model the interaction between channels and generate in-depth recommendations, proven to drive significant gains in ROAS.


It's important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all attribution model, and the choice of attribution model depends on the specific goals, available data, and business context. Furthermore, the cost of developing the different types of attribution models can vary significantly. For example, for brands running a limited number of channels and perhaps using lead generation partners, a simple first-touch model may initially be sufficient to gauge performance and remunerate partners. Whereas for brands using more channels with increased complexity, they should ideally be using a more sophisticated approaches to realise meaningful benefits.


In summary, it's only through developing an accurate understanding the impact of different marketing touchpoints that businesses can enhance their marketing efforts and achieve better results.


Nuru Group

Nuru Group is an insight-lead marketing consultancy. We help brands to measure and optimise their existing marketing activity and then go on to explore new and engaging ad formats and marketing initiatives.


If you would like any further information, please contact Clive Rumsey on clive.rumsey@nurugroup.co.uk


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