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Meet the Newest Marketing Acronym: What Is UMIA, and Should You Care?

By October 12, 2016 November 15th, 2019 No Comments

This was originally published in MarTech Advisor.

As if marketers don’t already juggle enough acronyms, Forrester Research recently added a new one to the mix: UMIA, or unified marketing impact analytics.

Introduced in an October 2015 research report, UMIA essentially merges two of today’s most relied upon performance measurement models, attribution and marketing mix modeling (MMM). The result is, according to Forrester, “a blend of statistical techniques that assigns business value to each element of the marketing mix at both a strategic and tactical level.” In other words, you get the best of both worlds: top-down, high level, usually offline insights from MMM, and bottom-up, granular, typically digital results from attribution.

Which sounds great – revolutionary, really. A unified view into customer behavior across channels, vendors, creative, timeframes, and more sounds like the performance marketer’s holy grail. But is UMIA actually the next big thing in marketing analytics, or just another analyst acronym destined to fade into the sunset?
In my opinion, it’s a little bit of both.

While the term UMIA may be new, the idea of uniting attribution and MMM is not. As MarTech has grown over the last ten years, vendors that started with one approach or the other quickly learned that their clients needed both. Most retained a core competency in their initial offering, but began expanding their attribution platform with mechanisms that allowed for converged data sharing and results processing. Some vendors do this more successfully than others, and some have maintained or circled back to a best-of-breed approach, but few advanced offerings now deliver straight-up attribution or MMM in the traditional sense.

Forrester has simply applied a name to a category of measurement tools that evolved organically. A Q&A on the topic states that “UMIA builds on existing marketing analytics approaches – marketing mix modeling and advanced attribution – using them together to get a full picture of marketing performance. The tactical insights from the attribution model inform the marketing mix model, enabling marketers more granular control of media spend, while also informing future planning.”

Well, yes. But this explanation suggests a sort of “marketing mix modeling plus,” in which attribution data is simply fed into the machine as one of many inputs, resulting helpfully but narrowly in tactical outcomes like optimized media spend. Attribution certainly does do that. But if UMIA is really the holy grail that Forrester would have us believe, it must be much more than the marriage of previously disconnected algorithms.
Several things need to happen for unified marketing impact analytics to live up to the hype. First, both users and vendors need to adopt the language. The latter has begun, albeit slowly, but it still feels somewhat forced. Vendors want to communicate that they offer something more/better than traditional attribution or MMM, but struggle to communicate that value when customers and prospects are stuck in the old vernacular. Users, for their part, don’t care what we call it. They want a comprehensive view into the performance of their marketing efforts that they can use and afford.

Which begs the second requirement: whatever you call it, holistic marketing measurement must be usable. Forrester dedicates multiple paragraphs to the relatively steep adoption criteria required to adopt UMIA. Unified marketing impact analytics, as it stands, is not for the weak of heart or budget. For the term, and the practice, to see widespread adoption it must feel like something that media practitioners can comfortably implement, that is worth the cost and effort because of the clearly understood and proven impact to the business.

Finally, for UMIA to transition from academic jargon to a legitimate discipline, it must be more than the promise of an algorithmic 1+1=3. True unified marketing analytics must learn from the evolution of early vendors to offer integrated, top-down and bottom-up, intra- and inter-channel, online and offline, internal and external results that capture the entire customer purchase process as it matters today, and a year from now. That’s a tall order, but I believe it’s necessary for the market to move beyond attribution and MMM into a genuinely unified direction.
Should you care about UMIA, and will it be around in a year? Yes, and maybe. The need for holistic marketing performance measurement has never been more pressing, and vendors will continue to build and evolve solutions to fill that niche. The technology will certainly continue to play an increasing role in the MarTech landscape. Will Forrester’s acronym catch on? That remains to be seen.

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