Marketing Analytics: Attribution Is Not Incrementality

One of the business side effects of the pandemic is that it has put a very sharp light on Marketing budgets. This is a very good thing under all circumstances, but particularly beneficial in times when most companies are not doing so well financially.
There is a sharper focus on Revenue/Profit.
From there, it is a hop, skip, and a jump to, hey, am I getting all the credit I should for the Conversions being driven by my marketing tactics? AKA: Attribution!
Right then and there, your VP of Finance steps in with a, hey, how many of these conversions that you are claiming are ones that we would not have gotten anyway? AKA Incrementality!
Two of the holiest of holy grails in Marketing: Attribution, Incrementality.
Analysts have died in their quests to get to those two answers. So much sand, so little water.
Hence, you can imagine how irritated I was when someone said:

Yes, we know the incrementality of Marketing. We are doing attribution analysis.

You did not just say that.
I’m not so much upset as I’m just disappointed.
Attribution and Incrementality are not the same thing. Chalk and cheese.
Incrementality identifies the Conversions that would not have occurred without various marketing tactics.
Attribution is simply the science (sometimes, wrongly, art) of distributing credit for Conversions.
None of those Conversions might have been incremental. Correction: It is almost always true that a very, very, large percentage of the Conversions driven by your Paid Media efforts are not incremental.
Attribution ≠ Incrementality.
In my newsletter, TMAI Premium, we’ve covered how to solve the immense challenge of identifying the true incrementality delivered by your Marketing budget. (Signup, email me for a link to that newsletter.)
Today, let me unpack the crucial


Digital Attribution's Ladder of Awesomeness: Nine Critical Steps

Culture is a stronger determinant of success with data than anything else. Including data.
[People + Process + Structure] > [Data + Technology]
It seems hard to believe. Yet, it is so fantastically true. At least for now. At least until AGI takes over.
Why is this formula material?
The first part of the equation, for better or for worse, improves in an evolutionary manner. The second part of the equation most frequently improves in a revolutionary manner.
The challenge for Senior Leaders is that revolutions seem a lot more attractive and hence they charge full speed ahead. This results in frustration, derailed careers and a massive amount of money flushed down sad places.
Revolutions in our context, almost always fail. Evolution works. Hence, it is dangerous to overlook the super critical importance of P+P+S.
You want to win big with data, with marketing, with transformative digital yada yada and blah blah, evolve. Do so at the fastest pace you can put in place for transformation of the left-side of the above equation, and use the same pace to evolve the right-side of the above equation.
This will ensure that the people, process and structure will be smart enough to take advantage of the smart and wizbang tech.
Maybe this metaphor will help make this real.
You can’t give a toddler a Harley Davidson motor cycle. The moment your start the motorcycle, the toddler is going to start crying. It is not the mistake of the toddler, she is just a toddler after all. It is not the mistake of the Harley, it is a very cool motorcycle. The mistake is yours.
The toddler needs something to steady her, something she can push, something to exercise her legs to