Attribution Is Hazy at Best Without a Marketing Data Taxonomy

By Moira Freeman | 4.24.18

The many ways to reach and engage consumers available today should be like rays of sunshine that illuminate consumers’ motivations. Instead, the glare from all those touchpoints and interactions makes it increasingly difficult to discover the tactics and audiences behind your best-performing marketing.


To get the insights you need as a multichannel marketer, grab the marketing equivalent of Ray-Bans and sunscreen: multi-touch attribution and data taxonomy.


For multi-touch attribution to be accurate it must account for every touchpoint along the cross-channel, multi-device consumer journey. But information gathered from this type of measurement isn’t enough on its own, especially if it’s not properly organized. To make the most of multi-touch attribution and harness the data-driven insights that sophisticated marketing demands, marketers need to lay down the necessary foundation of building a taxonomy.


What is taxonomy, exactly?

In marketing, taxonomy refers to the hierarchical classifications and naming conventions for different elements of your marketing known as “touchpoint dimensions.” Each touchpoint may include more than a dozen dimensions, such as placement, publisher, ad size, creative, and more. Taxonomies standardize data inputs and outputs to and from a multi-touch attribution solution and ensure that the analyses, insights, and recommendations it produces translate directly to a brand’s unique jargon and business goals.


In other words, setting up a taxonomy helps marketers categorize their data, so they can use it to maximize effectiveness. Every marketing organization needs its own unique taxonomy because each brand has different lines of business, specialized channel teams, and campaign objectives. The best taxonomies are those that align with an organization’s specific structure and vocabulary, because then they’ll deliver insights in a way that marketers can immediately use to better their campaigns and increase their ROI.


Why is a taxonomy essential?

Online, consumers leave digital footprints that show who they are, what they like, and how they behave. This “addressable” trail of information has enabled a new generation of people-based marketing that gives marketers the ability to orchestrate meaningful experiences across channels and devices.


By defining a universal taxonomy, marketers can begin to translate disparate data into actionable intelligence. It enables them to better analyze the impact of each channel and tactic, so they can react to changes in performance and make more effective optimization decisions.


Without a standard taxonomy — and with the rate at which data is accelerating — marketers will struggle with the time- and resource-intensive task of manually breaking down and re-aggregating data, leaving little time or energy to shape it into a story that’s meaningful to the business.


Build a taxonomy by tier 

Marketers may want to measure performance by region, product, or channel based on their organization’s unique goals. As such, taxonomies should be structured in a way that best meets the reporting needs of the business. For instance, brands that allocate their marketing and media budget by channel may choose to view their data through a channel lens—placing “channel” at the top tier of their taxonomy, with the names of each channel appearing at a lower tier. A parent company with multiple brands, on the other hand, might choose “lines of business” as their top tier, so they can understand each brand’s performance, at a high level.


Not all dimensions exist across each channel in a marketing mix, making it imperative to retain as much similarity as possible to preserve the flexibility of analyzing performance across uniform views. Marketers can and should leverage a standardized taxonomy to normalize these channel differences and provide the objective perspective required for cross-channel optimization.


Deliver results

As sunny as the outlook on today’s digital marketing may be, marketing is no day at the beach. To cut through the haze of channel and interactions, marketers need to become savvier about data and analytics. By understanding how taxonomy works and carefully managing the taxonomy development process, they will quickly find themselves on the road to more effective marketing, and more meaningful business results.

Defining and using a marketing data taxonomy is one of the foundational elements of a marketer as citizen data scientist — someone who can derive insights from cross-channel, multi-device data. Read more...

About the Author

Visual IQ Product Marketing Manager Moira Freeman manages the go-to-market process for product releases, ensuring that product enhancements are communicated effectively to internal teams, current customers, and prospects through training and collateral.

You can find Moira on LinkedIn.