Blog post

Framing the Digital Marketing Problem

By Martin Kihn | January 24, 2014 | 0 Comments


Late last year, every digital marketing measurement ninja’s favorite sensei said that he loved two things “a lot”: frameworks and visuals. I refer to Google’s resident analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik, who said the power of frameworks comes from their ability to present a new mental model, combined with the visual’s ability to make the complex simple, like — yes — Occam’s Razor.

Even the humble 2×2 matrix looms with possibility. Think of such four-box stalwarts as the SWOT analysis (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats) or the BCG growth-share matrix (growth rate vs. market share). Entire lines of business have risen and fallen on the foundation of these blocks.

Even Kaushik admits we’re awash in frameworks, most of them time burners. A search for “marketing frameworks” throws back 125 million results in 0.32 seconds. Yet the right one, applied at the right time, can organize a complex marketing problem and shake out just the right idea.

This week, Gartner for Marketing Leaders highlights some of our work on the bedrock of marketing. Julie Hopkins presents a practical matrix for picking marketing tactics based on the purchase journey, channels and formats. Jake Sorofman outlines the contours of our new key initiative around digital marketing operations — one framed around the challenge of organizing and piloting a complex marketing machine.

In my own contributions, I map out approaches to answer two common questions squeaked out by anxious digital marketing execs: (1) Where do I start? and (2) How did I do?

To answer the first one, I focus on the two (yes, two) dimensions of brand positioning and purchase cycle. My research showed that the decision about which digital channels and formats to buy is actually rooted in the strategic position of your brand. Whether you’re a low-cost stalwart like Wal-mart or a high-margin theme park like Abercrombie & Fitch has dramatic implications for the campaign plan. A second dimension is the consumer’s purchase frequency, because it determines how much of your target is actively in market at any moment.

The second question – “How’d I do?” – relates to what used to be called measurement, back when digital marketing itself was a trailer park on the edge of town. Today it’s called analytics and everybody wants a piece. My research shows how a simple visual map of the consumer’s potential journey through your campaign, combined with a basic stimulus-response model, can really open the kimono on your campaign’s true value.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, it’s harder to write a short blog post than a long one. The same principle applies to frameworks: simplicity lurks in the dark heart of complexity, and our challenge is simply to find it.

To return to Avinash Kaushik: “If I can paint a simple picture about something complex, it means I understand it and in turn can explain it to others.”

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