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Location-Based B.S.

After researching and interviewing a variety of competitors and customers in the world of location-based attribution and falling down a few fascinating rabbit holes I’ve come to a frustrating realization – most “attribution” in the market today is a big load of B.S.

That being said, it is also clear that a strategic and comprehensive attribution platform could create a HUGE impact for modern brands. The right attribution provider could drive masterfully efficient spend, eliminate redundancies, help deliver more personalized value to customers, and even inform organization-wide innovation.

Yet, most attribution providers AND the marketers using them are stuck using this potentially game-changing tool to look good instead of do good.


This ‘looking vs doing’ conflict sits at the core of why location-based attribution has largely become B.S. and it can be boiled down into a few key causes:

There is no separation of church and state. A vast majority of attribution providers either sell their own media inventory or are owned by massive media providers. Apart from the obvious reporting bias implied by this 'grade your own homework' system - marketers are only getting reports and feedback on a PORTION of their increasingly diverse digital media spending. Mobile audiences at large are hard to consistently observe due to data gaps and inaccuracies while opted-in audiences only make up a tiny sample of the potential audience. Thus, leaving room for doubt as to the actual value from highly targeted, opt-in segments or “premium” location data panels towards a marketer’s broader media performance.

A PDF and pat on the back are all some marketers need. Tactical, short-sighted marketing success metrics have helped create a culture of reporting for appearances instead of impact. As they spend more on the highly targeted, often biased target audiences delivered by media-owned attribution companies, marketers receive a nice report showing incremental lift and estimated ROI. I can’t deny that must feel comforting, look good to bosses, and make the job a whole lot easier, but how much impact does one media partner from one campaign actually deliver to the brand? How do you help optimize an ENTIRE media plan, rather than just one piece of the puzzle? Does the brand really walk away with more knowledge, more sales, and happier customers because of this neat little report?

Attribution is trapped in tactics. The potential value of location-based attribution goes far beyond the industry's current tactical stopping point. Let's take a music festival like Coachella for example, sure incremental lift from ONE targeted audience is a nice to know but what are they really missing? Where are visitors travelling from and which markets aren't they talking to? How can they better organize the festival grounds based on where people move? These types strategic questions are left unanswered by current attribution providers - leaving organizational innovation, more targeted content strategies, and real behavioral insights untouched by the intelligence of customer location data/attribution.

So, how can we as marketers start to look and do good? How does Location-Based Attribution break out of the BS box?

  • Destroying the look vs do conflict and unlocking the full potential of location-based attribution begins with taking a step back from the tunnel-vision of tactics to try and gather the broader, hidden insights into customers and their behaviors that can help the brand as a whole.
  • Demand more than a personal PDF. Marketers must recognize the limitations of transactional, lift-obsessed reporting and demand that their location-based attribution partners become more comprehensive, more strategic, and drive more value than securing a media planners job for another few months.
  • Make attribution more agnostic. There aren’t many in the space offering the comprehensive coverage of media-agnostic attribution. Instead, it seems that attribution mainly comes as an ADD-ON to a media buy not a standalone value for marketers. The ability to measure the effectiveness of the entire digital media mix and gain insights into audiences across channels is the ultimate guide for a more valuable, non-BS attribution model.

Written by: Quinn Hutchings, Brand Strategist, 2.27.2018