For measuring success, marketing professionals need to turn to football managers!

For measuring success, marketing professionals need to turn to football managers!

As the dust settles on the impact of Apple's ATT privacy policy, it is evident that last-click and pixel/cookie-based tracking and attribution are becoming extinct.

Having anticipated this 4-5 years ago, this brings back memories of the times when I've had many fruitful discussions about the consequence of GDPR rollout with key marketing and digital leaders. I had translated my measurement vision on this complex subject with a relatable analogy explaining why we, marketing professionals, need to think and operate like a Football Manager. Since the ATT 2021 announcement, this analogy is now more than ever relevant and still valid for a cookieless world.

Let's imagine that you are a Football Manager and each player in your team is a marketing activation channel i.e. social media, print magazines, billboards, search, influencer marketing, email marketing, etc.

Who do you imagine is scoring the goals (business KPIs)?

Of course, it's the strikers/forward-attacking players i.e. search, organic and email/CRM-related channels. This shouldn't be a surprise as it is their role to do so.

Imagining a team composed of only strikers/forward-attacking players should be seen as something very strange. Yet, this is what every company now does and claims it's their new data-driven strategy.

The real underlying question is: why are they doing this? Why assemble a team with only strikers?

This is because we were counting which players are scoring goals and how many goals they scored. These goal-scorers are then incentivised accordingly while the others are not. This was an easy route for the marketing and sales team to get financed by the money-printing machine.

Alternatively, we should have rather focused on which team composition delivers the most goals cost-effectively.

[I highly recommend you to watch "Moneyball" starring Brad Pitt showcasing how a baseball team exactly did that - focusing on how to win the game vs who takes them across the finish line]

When we change the optics (asking different questions), it becomes clear that it doesn't matter who scored the goals. Instead, it is more valuable to know which team is more likely to succeed.

Marketing/Media Mix Modeling (MMM) concepts and techniques have been around for decades and allow us to identify which team composition is effective.

Imagine a "Star" player is brought in the midfield during a game. We may suddenly see that the gameplay and dynamics have changed despite a scenario where this "Star" player never touched the ball. Their presence on the field is enough to make an impact on the goal-scoring opportunities. These "Star" players can be celebrity/KOL partnerships, event marketing or content on influential media publishing houses.

To add even more measurement complexity, imagine each player (especially the strikers) is monitoring and reporting the goals on their own. This is how we ended up debating for hours on who scored the goals (since everyone claims that the goal was scored because of their contribution alone). Simply put, there were no referees on the field (no unified, holistic agreement on who scored the goals). This is what happens when we follow different platforms' cookie-based attribution.

With the fallout of Apple's ATT and other similar policies, I'm extremely glad that we are moving away from these abominable marketing attribution practices to a better measurement framework - asking the right, high-level questions that truly matter.

No solutions are being provided by the media/marketing industry. It's a wide-open, wild west. Tech companies are starting to step in, to fill the gaps by adopting MMM concepts (check out Facebook's Robyn - an open-source MMM code). We, the marketing community, need to seize the moment to reset and redefine the new standards of measurement.

So, let's tackle marketing activations with the lens of a Football Manager. No two games are the same. This means a specific team strategy has to be deployed for every situation. Each player in the team has a purpose and a role.

Design the team that passes the ball to the “Fox in the box”.

*team = marketing/media mix | ball = potential customer | Fox in the box = goal-scorers