Marketing magic, metrics, and analytics

Marketing magic, metrics, and analytics

What’s the common theme between Penn and Teller, David Copperfield, and Derren Brown? They’re all modern magicians, or more specifically, illusionists.

Throughout the ages, there seems to have always been a consistent fascination with illusion and understandably so. However, no matter how complex the trick seems – whether it’s walking on water or making the Statue of Liberty disappear – there’s usually a simple solution.

Equally, this simplicity is often accompanied by misdirection, a deception tactic used by the illusionist to focus the audience towards a specific element and to distract attention away from something else in order to achieve the desired successful outcome.

This is something I think parallels the often-murky, number-driven, metrics side of digital marketing, where the components of measurement are sometimes given to misdirection – although not always purposefully.

Misdirected metric attention

Despite the much-lauded buzzwords around data, analytics, and attribution, it seems that attention is still somewhat failing to be directed towards the important drivers of what actually makes measurement possible.

Recently, it was reported that nearly a fifth of marketers find that one of the biggest barriers preventing them from having an effective online measurement strategy is alack of understanding” and “not knowing what to measure”, as well as a quarter of marketers also citing there is a “lack of strategy” when it comes to successful online measurement.

Equally, this returns to the concept of simplicity underpinning something that may appear complex – and in marketing terms, often falls back to the basic differences between metrics and analytics. This was actually a direct question I was recently asked, and is certainly something worth considering in order to prevent numerical misdirection during marcomms activity.

So, what is the difference? (And why you should care!)

In both a theoretical and practical sense, metrics and analytics are generally fuelled by the same data sources, which entwine the two and, I suspect, is the root cause of the confusion sometimes seen against their independent roles.

In simple terms, once a marketing objective has been set and the appropriate data sources identified to support this, metrics are generally used for performance measurement, whereas analytics typically provide contextual insight and understanding as part of the process.

Metrics are numerical information points, pre-established as part of a marketing strategy in order to assess the success – or failure – of marketing activity. What form they specifically take is virtually endless, but as the leadership coach, Mike Myatt, suggests, there are 5 core categories, crossing both financial and non-financial dimensions:

1. Static historical measurements
2. Quantitative return measurements
3. Qualitative return measurements
4. Quantitative performance measurements
5. Qualitative performance measurements.

Although all are different, the common element is the use of data and this is where the lines between metrics and analytics are often blurred, especially as the real value in metrics is seen when they’re using data to feed into decision-making processes.

In a marketing sense, this is most commonly seen in the use of KPIs, where reporting metrics are used to inform a range of initiatives, from optimisation through to budget allocation. But this is a fairly linear approach when deployed as a marketing measurement process – and is when analytics comes to the forefront.

Analytics = advantage

Let’s take a fairly standard marketing scenario such as an online fashion retailer. Assuming that they have a reasonable dashboard set up to collect and aggregate the relevant data sources, (which in itself, is another article entirely), it’s reasonable to suggest that there’s visibility on metrics such as website traffic sources and volume, content/product engagement, revenue generated, and the associated ROI.

However, as static numerical information, this can only tell us so much. Analytics helps provides the answers to the many questions that metrics create:

– Are there time vs. channel patterns in traffic sources?
– Are there proportions of site traffic from a specific location that have higher conversion rates?
– Which content is providing deeper levels of engagement?
– Are particular products seeing high checkout abandonment – and what can be done to fix this?

With analytics, greater understanding can be developed around the metrics being measured, by providing insight and context, which in turn, can be used to optimise marketing activity further and develop measurement elements and techniques.

No magic in measurement

Returning back to the concept of illusion, as with any magic trick, what may appear effortlessly simple (yet impossible) on the surface, often has much more detailed, logical workings.

And the same is true when thinking about how marketing efforts can be measured: There’s a lot to distract marketers on a daily basis and even hard metrics themselves can be misdirection.

However, the correct use of analytics to add a secondary insight to the workings of measurement can generally be powerful enough to help see through even the most perplexing results and understand why the numbers are how they are.


Santoku Partners is program managing a new university-accredited 11 week digital marketing certificate at UTS in Sydney, Australia running regularly throughout 2014 – Receive a 10% discount through Firebrand Talent.


Award-winning Australian recruitment agency, Firebrand Talent, ignites the careers of digital, marketing, creative, communications, advertising, & media talent. If you are looking for your next career move, check out the jobs we currently have on in Sydney & Melbourne.

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