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Omnichannel Attribution Conquers the Marketing Channel Hydra

By Rex Briggs | 8.28.18

Many marketers today are fighting an ever more complicated battle against an array of marketing channels that closely resemble the Lernaean Hydra. Conquer one channel and three new ones emerge.


Consider retail as an example. Retail brands will increase their online marketing and advertising spend by some 55 percent over the next five years, according to research from Forrester. Inside that growth however, retail marketers are moving ad dollars away from search and toward newer, fast-growing media like interactive voice — with adoption of smart speakers and other devices poised to grow eightfold by 2022.


The challenge isn’t just in using and managing the experience across the ever-burgeoning litany of channels; it’s also in measuring channel and campaign performance. How can marketers, already struggling to measure the marketing impact of existing options, accurately assess the value of more campaigns across more media?


In theory, the continued growth across digital should be good news for marketers looking to analyze the impact of their advertising and marketing dollars. Ostensibly, digital is easier to measure — painting a theoretical direct line between campaign and purchase. However, digital platforms are making it harder to access their data, tightening access to this information in response to competitive and consumer privacy concerns alike.

In an environment where ROI drives value and budget, how can marketers measure marketing performance accurately?

Some marketers rely on cross-channel attribution (i.e. multitouch attribution), which is a far better option than first-touch or last-touch attribution. Cross-channel attribution appears to be a sound approach, but it often fails to provide reliable attribution across channels. It requires complex prerequisites such as linearity and causality; plus, human bias adds a layer of inaccuracy that limits its usefulness. For accurate attribution, marketers must embrace omnichannel, person-level measurement, which offers much more detailed data across the entire marketing mix and delivers actionable optimization for all tactics.

The best of these unified measurement tools answer questions such as the optimal reach and frequency within and between channels, and which messages are best for which audiences. Product advances are allowing even more granular insights regarding message sequencing, and next-best message decisions based on unique audiences and diverse stages of their purchasing processes. Some solutions include external and environmental factors such as weather, traffic patterns, and more. What’s more, capabilities of today’s solutions create insights in such a timely manner that the deftest marketers can leverage those insights into active campaigns to drive large performance improvements, rather than waiting for weeks or months to see results. They give marketers the ability to connect their brand strength and sales performance measurement holistically.

Bold marketers are conquering the marketing channel hydra by adjusting how they measure marketing performance as the landscape grows more intricate. Here are five changes you can adopt to win the battle against the ever-multiplying hydra:

Understand the interaction effects of your marketing – Stop measuring marketing channels in isolation. Prospects and customers are quite possibly exposed to most, if not all, your marketing efforts. So, you should be measuring the combined impact strategy. TV has an impact on search, email has an impact on social, etc. Missed connections translate to missed opportunities.


Move beyond performance data and measure impact on business results – Find and highlight the connection between your marketing efforts and overall sales, brand strength, and ultimately, shareholder or company value.


Commit to test and learn – Dedicate at least 5 to 10 percent of your marketing budget to testing new channels’ impact on your business results. Compare new channels to a well-established baseline to quickly identify new opportunities that could provide you with a competitive advantage.

Speed decision making – Automate more of your data flow and identify tools that allow you to optimize marketing efforts while campaigns are live in the market.

Balance data and creative – More channels offer more opportunities to reach potential customers at potentially lower costs, and using omnichannel attribution to optimize this is essential—but so is finding the right message for the right customer at the right time. That contextual relevance is what will win the day.


Even as the marketing channel hydra continues to sprout new heads, it’s possible to more accurately optimize the marketing mix than ever before. Many marketers can determine how each channel contributes to overall results; a few marketers can even determine how each channel performs with the others.


Although that omnichannel attribution is difficult — and getting more challenging with every new channel that’s introduced — it’s certainly possible, through the use of attribution tools that account for external factors. It’s this level of granularity that marketers need to gain accurate insight into how to optimize campaigns, improve their marketing performance, and conquer the marketing channel hydra—no matter how menacing it may seem.

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About the Author

Rex Briggs founded Marketing Evolution in 2000 and currently serves as the company’s CEO. Rex is known as one of the world’s leading experts in marketing ROI measurement and optimization technologies. His expertise derives from years of direct experience measuring and improving the performance of a wide range of marketing programs for more than 100 Fortune 500 marketers.