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Although some have termed 2016 the year of attribution, many marketers (and their bosses) still aren't clear on exactly what attribution is. The concept is simple: You attribute credit and value where they are due.

And in today's analytics-driven, multichannel world, we all want to know not only whether what we're doing is working but also where, when, with whom, and how well.

But drill down a level, and most marketers are unclear which measurement approaches are right for their business:

  • Do I need high-level insights around budget planning, or tactical insights to optimize in a channel?
  • What can I get out of my existing tools, like site-side analytics?
  • When do I need something specific?
  • What's the difference between all the solutions that claim to offer attribution, and which one makes sense for me?

To answer those questions, marketers need a clear understanding of their options. That starts with defining two of the most common approaches to marketing measurement: marketing mix modeling (MMM)—used interchangeably with media mix modeling—and attribution.

Both MMM and attribution are sophisticated models for measuring cross-channel marketing activities, but they work in different ways, for different reasons.

Marketing Mix Modeling and Attribution Defined

Search for the "technical" definitions of MMM and attribution, and you won't get very far in deducing their differences. Gartner defines marketing mix modeling as "analytical solutions that help marketers to understand and simulate the effect of advertising, and to optimize tactics and the delivery medium."

Gartner's glossary doesn't offer a definition for attribution, but its friends at Forrester define it like this: "The practice of using advanced statistical approaches to allocate proportional credit to marketing communications and media activity across all channels, which ultimately leads to the desired customer action."

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image of Trevor Testwuide

Trevor Testwuide is president and a co-founder of Conversion Logic, a cross-channel attribution platform. He has 15+ years' experience in enterprise sales, business development, and scaling advertising and technology companies.

LinkedIn: Trevor Testwuide

Twitter: @TTestwuide