Response attribution is one of those pesky details that can get in the way of grand visions. The vision in this case is optimization of enterprise marketing programs, which means ensuring that marketing resources are allocated to the most productive possible uses. This implies a vast, all-knowing marketing management system that identifies all spending options, attaches a value to each and chooses the most effective. It sounds great in theory, and it's even possible to build process models that can simulate the results of different strategies. However, how do you measure the actual results of different choices so you can assess and refine your assumptions? That's where response attribution comes in, and that's when things get ugly.

The problem is that marketing systems are not all-knowing. (You read it here first.) Response attribution is the process of determining which marketing activity caused a customer action. At the most basic philosophical level, causation is always problematic. However, marketing adds its own wrinkles. When individuals are exposed to multiple offers for the same product, which gets credit for the purchase? How should attribution account for exposures that are not tied to a specific individual, such as broadcast television advertising? How can it include the impact of non-marketing interactions such as purchase, product usage and customer service experience? Should it take into account competitive and environmental influences?

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