Marketing Accountability Part 1 – Do you believe in free will?


Through the financial crises it was a big discussion about what marketing could bring to the table to justify itself. The discussions about marketing accountability is much older than that and many argue that marketing – as being a “soft” science compared to finance – is more an art form and therefore impossible to measure. This is also a major reason why marketing compared to the more tangible areas as finance – is a part of the top management group according to a resent Harward Business Review podcast.

There are two parts of the marketing accountability dilemma.

  1. The first, and foremost, is the marketing ROI. How much money does marketing bring to the table? My post about my “hairy” marketing funnel would be a great one to bring to this table since it would generate more money than you spent in the first place. If you cracked this one you have found the killer app of marketing.
  2. The second part is not so often mentioned when discussing marketing accountability, but is the one that really brings value to the marketing department (and therefore the ROI).
    This is forecasting. To be able to answer the question: I have this marketing plan, but what if I change some of the parameters, like the media mix? Will the campaign be more or less effective?

When it comes to the ROI the key problem is of course to find a unified way of measuring the effect of marketing. The sales effect is the easiest part, but what about Brand building activities and their effect on sales?

When it comes to predicting the future of a certain campaign it seams like even many marketers hit their heads in the wall. The main argument against is that predicting human behaviour is impossible. I have discussed this with many others in marketing colleagues and my conclusion is this:

It boils down to on simple question: Do we believe in free will?

If we believe in unconditional free will where every decision made was done in the heat of the moment and not based on any other factors – well of course I would agree that it would be impossible to predict human behaviour.

But that is not true. There is this fascinating article in The Telegraph about why people don’t like modern classical music, because their brains cannot cope.

One of the conclusions is that the brain is a “pattern seeking organ”.

In a Wired Magazine article some years back it was claimed that it would be possible to predict, whit some probability, where a football would be 60 second into the match, when you know the starting point.

By taking into account all factors, like wind, weather, length of the grass, players attribute and previous history, it would be possible to calculate the most likely movement of the ball.

Put these together and then you have it: Because people are likely to follow certain patterns in their daily routine they are predicable. And if you knew the major drivers that influence behaviour,  it would be possible, with a degree of certainty, to predict if they would buy your product or not.

I am a great believer in Marketing Accountability and it worries me that there are strong voices out there who are sceptical when it comes to measuring the effect of Social Medias…

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