What is this attribution stuff anyway?

The first direct marketing piece was written in 1480 by William Caxton in England.  He was trying out this new marketing technique to sell a book that he had printed using his cutting edge technology, the printing press. 

The ad did not cost very much. He already had the printing press, the demand for paper was driving innovation and therefore pushing the price down and he either printed it himself or had one of his apprentices do it, in other words the opportunity cost of printing something else. Even the creative was cheap because among other things William Caxton was an author, so probably penned the copy himself.

History has captured the original in the Bodleian Library, but  has not recorded if it worked. As long as it drove more people into his shop and sold more books, Caxton was happy. 

You can imagine him in the pub telling his mates about this new form of pamphlet that he had created. He had written a nice bit of text, printed it up and then gone on to sell a load of books. You can easily imagine one of his mates asking Caxton to create a printed pamphlet for his candle making business. 

They meet the next day, the friend tells Caxton about how he makes his candles and why they are superior, Caxton writes up a pamphlet, the candle making friend approves the copy and the pamphlets are printed. The candle maker now expects business to come rolling in the same way that Caxton was able to sell more books off the back of his pamphlet. 

Now this completely made up historical account of the second direct marketing campaign could have gone a lot of different ways, but I like happy stories so let’s assume that the candle maker did in fact sell more candles. Is it because of the advert or because of a period of unexpectedly gloomy weather (this is England after all)? 

It is pretty important for the candle maker to know, so he can decide whether to invest in another advert or just pray for gloomy weather. Attribution is simply knowing if a marketing channel or tactic is leading to sales that would not have happened without the advert being in front of a consumer.

In this blog series I will 

  • Explore the ins and outs of attribution

  • Look at the strengths and weaknesses of certain types of models

  • Present an alternative approach which keeps the strengths of the common models and minimises or eliminates the weaknesses

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