Attribution University

Need education around marketing attribution? We have you covered.

Written by Ron Jacobson
on March 29, 2021

 

 

Watch our CEO Ron Jacobson discuss attribution, brand research, and e-commerce trends in 2021 with Reddit's Ryan Angerami at the Mobile Growth Conference. See below for transcript.

 

Danielle A.:

Hi everybody, and welcome to this session. Today we're going to have a session about More Research And Less Clicks: The Changing Attribution Landscape. And we're going to be hearing from Ryan Angerami, the director of growth partnerships at Reddit. And we're going to be hearing from Ron Jacobson, the CEO of Rockerbox. So make sure during this session that you guys are dropping questions so they can answer them at the end. And Ron and Ryan, I'm going to hand it over to you.

 

Ryan Angerami:

Awesome. Thank you so much, Danielle. Thank you MGS, this is the first time doing virtual. So I appreciate you guys having us all. As Danielle mentioned, my name is Ryan Angerami. I lead our disruptors sales team at Reddit. We're primarily focused on challenger brands. So mobile first, mobile gaming, and the D-to-C space, and we work with Ron quite a bit. Ron, do you want to say a little about yourself?

 

Ron Jacobson:

Yeah. Thanks Ryan. I'm Ron Jacobson, co-founder and CEO of Rockerbox. We're the leading attribution provider for D-to-C brands, a lot of which spend time advertising on Reddit. So I appreciate you inviting me to this Ryan. Excited to chat.

 

Ryan Angerami:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So what we're going to do today is kind of talk about some of the trends that we've witnessed over the last 12 or so months, both of working together, the pandemic overall, how user behaviors have changed, and all these sorts of things. First two things, one, we're going to have a little bit of a five minute preamble to just sort of set the stage of some of the things that we've noticed. And then also I've been told to repeatedly mention, we are going to be taking questions after our own Q&A, so please drop them into the chat and we will do our best to get to them.

But first, if you've been paying attention in the last 12 months and counting, it has been just sort of one never ending challenge after the next. From last year, how to learn how to cut your own hair, to obsessively looking at hand techniques, the great toilet paper wars of April, 2020. It has just been one thing after another that people had to react and adapt to over time.

At Reddit, our specific mission is to bring community and belonging to everyone in the world. So we got to see this firsthand, in the a hundred thousand plus communities that we have, people were coming in to be informed, to make connections, to get distractions from everything that was going on. And while COVID was obviously very top of mind for everybody throughout the year, every single individual has their own unique situation that they're trying to navigate. And one of the interesting things about finding ourselves at home so much, is that you don't have your social circle to rely upon. You don't see your friends in the same way. Maybe you didn't see your family for a really long time. And so online research and these communities really, really proliferated. Obviously COVID was in the news this time, last year, but trying to separate out the political theater was sometimes really difficult.

And if you join the r/COVID-19 subreddits, you were actually months ahead of this information before it hit the news cycles. If you wanted to learn more about how California or New York City or your specific town was actually doing with coronavirus and things that were changing day to day, there is subreddits popping up every single day about the latest information there and people connecting. And then as we found ourselves in shelter in place and people have to learn maybe how to cook for the first time, COVID cookery became a really big focus. And this evolved over time of people connecting.

Reddit saw a huge influx of new users, people learning how to make sourdough bread and this very tasty looking cinnamon babka that's up, people wanting to know what's the best bread maker and doing research within that, people going on virtual Tinder dates in animal crossing, or rekindling old romances with their favorite super Nintendo games and going through and playing there. And then also in r/somethingimade, a little screenshot here, some people apparently became really good at making formal wear and wanted to share it, and all the other hobbies that they were picking up during the quarantine and it still goes on.

And now, if you've been paying attention the last couple of weeks, the power of community has definitely gone to the moon. And this is a really, really exciting time. You have folks coming in doing research, joining communities, trying to make them the best versions of themselves and real world action ends up happening because of it. And so if you're a brand, to take this to the advertising side, which is what all of us in the room we're here for, this is an amazing opportunity to connect with folks.

But one of the things that I think Ron and I see so often is that brands can sometimes be their worst enemy, their own worst enemy. And it's by focusing on the things that 99% of the time, doesn't happen. So this 1.1%, this is the global click-through rate across all social media platforms. Just most people don't click ads, even the highest examples that you can find in your own campaigns. And so when you have people that are coming in, doing all this research, really passionate about a specific topic, are we really focusing on the right thing if we're just concerned about a really, really short click window or last click, same session, instead of all the other things that go into making a decision about what is the best breadmaker for somebody?

And so the last slide before we go into our Q&A is a mutual client of Rockerbox and Reddit called TUSHY. So they are an online D-to-C company. They sell bidets, and they focus on a mix of hitting their DR goals, educating Americans about bidets, and they have some fun obviously, along the way too with their brand. This is an example of a promoted post that runs on Reddit. And what TUSHY ended up doing was having some fun. And they said, "Hey, if this gets to 10,000 up votes, we will create a special Reddit branded bidet for you guys. And we want your best suggestions to rename the little nozzle on the side."

Needless to say, it went off really well. And they got over 15,000 up votes on their first ad, somewhere around 800 or so comments. They made some friends along the way, throughout their silly banter back and forth, and some of the comments are great. So, "This is the best ad I have ever seen. I will consider the helloTUSHY brand in all of my future bidet purchases." "If this really gets made, I'm going to buy one, not going to lie." And of course, "Let the ass blasting commence." So thanks for that, Reddit. But people shared their experience with owning of a bidet, they gave reviews about the TUSHY brand itself, and there's so much rich conversation that was happening here, along with the fun that obviously they were able to have with this renaming idea.

If you're only focused on click windows though, you miss out on all of this. And so Ron, this is going to be our segue into our Q&A. So let me stop sharing here for a second. First question I had for you, why don't people click ads?

 

Ron Jacobson:

Yeah, it's a classic question, Ryan. I think it's funny, I actually kind of view it completely from the opposite perspective. I honestly don't know why we think anybody would click on an ad. Starting with this perspective of, we expect folks to clicks on ads, candidly, makes no sense. I don't click on ads. I don't know really folks who do, short of by accident. And I think if we start from that perspective, expecting it not to occur, it kind of paints a better picture for what we need to do to try to actually understand what's driving ROI, what's working and what's not working.

It's funny, I think this whole idea of even focusing on a click started from Google. And it's interesting, you go to Google, you search something, literally all you're seeing are links. The purpose of Google is to click. Like that's literally all that's there. So yeah, of course folks are going to click on Google and that's why they went to market with a CPC based pricing model and that makes sense. But that's an aberration. 99% of the publishers you go to, the goal is not to click, it's to consume. So to take this idea of the click that kind of was perfect for a Google world and even believe that it should work on other platforms, is kind of asinine, and it sort of like dominated the whole mindset of marketers for decades now. So yeah. I don't know. I think asking that question of, why even think somebody should click, is probably a better place to start Ryan.

 

Ryan Angerami:

Yeah. Yeah. We talked about this a couple of weeks ago, where I shared, we are spending way too much in coffee for our own lives. And it was okay when it was part of my commute, because it was a daily habit. But I have spent probably six hours at this point, researching what's the best coffee maker. And I think I've finally landed on one. I clicked no ads during that entire time, but a lot of research was done that may be hard to attribute. Sort of in your opinion, how undervalued is research for the types of brands that you guys are working with?

 

Ron Jacobson:

Yeah. I think it's huge and I think your story is pretty classically seen inside Rockerbox all the time, across our clients. In fact, they're even going to channels where there could be no click. They're going to channels that doesn't even have a concept of a click, think about linear TV, think about direct mail, think about podcasts. And I'm not saying they're using all of those channels to research, but all those channels are influencing their mindset, and what they're thinking about, and what's even top of mind for them.

So to begin with, folks are spending a lot of time and money, we see this across all of our clients at Rockerbox, on these channels where there shouldn't even be a click. And then to your point, they're spending a lot of time researching. They're spending a lot of time actually looking for what is the right product for me. I do it all the time. I literally bought a yoga mat this week. I spent 30 minutes researching yoga mats, and it was ridiculous for a $15 purchase. But it's kind of the mindset we've gone into these days.

So I think as a marketer, being able to understand that research is happening, trying to find the best ways to measure it, it's super critical. Or else otherwise, you're going to happen to just invest in those channels that drive that final click, we kind of call them bottom feeders at Rockerbox. Yeah. It's a strategy, you can invest there, but you're going to be wasting a lot of your money. So yeah, really important to try to figure out where folks are spending their time and what's actually getting them information that goes into the decision. Not just, what's that final thing that drove that last mile before the purchase.

Ryan Angerami:

Got it. Got it. And so you touched on a little bit of this and I think as we sort of also shared in just that first five minutes, there was a lot of challenges for everyone in the last couple of [inaudible 00:11:39] into the last year. Plus, on your side being a multi-touch attribution solution, what was the biggest challenge you saw in 2020 for D-to-C brands, folks like TUSHY?

 

Ron Jacobson:

Yeah, no. I think the biggest challenge is really just the speed of change that is required. Like literally Ryan, we saw come April, May, everybody pulled back, everybody was scared. There was just a palpable fear across the world that, they might go out of business. They might not have any revenue coming in. So all overnight, our clients were all reaching out to us and asking, "Rockerbox how do I cut my spend? How do I cut my spend?" And that was completely the opposite of what we were hearing pre-COVID. Pre-COVID it was, "I'm testing new channels. I'm testing OTT. I'm testing Reddit. I'm testing all these different places." So I think being able to shift that mindset really, really quickly, it was a super big challenge for our clients, especially given that most of them grew up in that grow, grow, grow kind of environment. So it's a different mindset switch overnight.

And again, that flipped again, I think around June, July, August folks started to realize, people actually are buying, people are researching, people are trying to figure out product. People need things to do at home. We're all kind of bored and spending money as a fun thing to do, I guess. So yeah, that mindset change, and instantly going back to that spend, spend, spend kind of mentality. But that ability to switch really quickly requires good measurement, it requires a good understanding of what's working, what's not working, and it required us spending a lot of time with our clients, which was fun, but definitely challenging.

 

Ryan Angerami:

Yeah. All right. So I know that we asked people for questions, but I'm going to get ahead of this question in case it's already been asked in the Q&A of the chat, because I think it's on a lot of people's minds. For a post IDFA world, potentially a post cookie world, depending on what happens over time. Obviously a lot more regulation, there's a lot more changes happening. Some of it good, some of it bad, some of it very confusing. What happens to an MTA solution post IDFA, post cookie, et cetera?

 

Ron Jacobson:

I could tell you what happens to Rockerbox, it means our inbound lead channel is going crazy the past couple of weeks. We've had more folks reaching out than really ever before. And again, it's kind of similar to when COVID first started, there's like a palpable fear. Folks are just uncertain about the future. And the candid answer, is things are going to change. For certain types of advertisers, it's going to be a lot harder to measure what's going on, particularly folks focused on app install. E-commerce is going to have less of a hit, but for brands that have a longer purchase cycle, yeah, you're going to have a higher proportion of times where you really can't track the same user from a year ago until today. It doesn't mean it's not going to happen all the time, but more often than not, it's going to be hard to track long purchase cycle.

We're already starting to see there are a lot of techniques that folks are using, try to mitigate that. And it's important to actually step back. The cookie change has happened a year ago in Safari, ITP happened two years ago. So I think the smart marketers have been getting ahead of this, trying and do things like leveraging promo codes more interestingly, being really smart and creative around how to capture first party data, how to capture email addresses, how to capture phone numbers, trying to get a direct connection to a customer, post-purchase surveys, all these kind of softer ways to try to attribute your marketing.

But even still, I go back, like let's think of linear TV. You can't know that somebody got served an ad on TV. You know somebody clicked an add on TV. And somehow folks spend a lot of money on TV before the digital even started, and today. And I think that's the mindset we need to go to, that we need to just continue to have the best way to attribute any given channel, recognize some limitations, and recognizing that you're not going to attribute all channels in the same way. And that's okay.

I think something that's strange for me to say as a founder of an attribution company, it's not perfect. It's impossible to be perfect, but that's okay. And we've seen this time and time again at Rockerbox, you can still make really smart marketing decisions with data that's not a hundred percent what you want it to be.

 

Ryan Angerami:

So kind of speaking on that, you actually touched on a couple of the things I wanted to ask you next of, so we started out a lot of this chat of like, people do a lot of research and marketers are so focused on clicks and 99% of ads don't get clicked. Right? Are you seeing a big move to things like out of home, or connected TV, or other places where it's impossible to measure a click, the click can actually occur. And I'm just kind of curious of what you're seeing on the D-to-C side there.

 

Ron Jacobson:

Yeah. I'd even abstract it more out, what we're just seeing is a giant flood of folks trying to move as much and as quickly as they can, away from being exclusively relying on Facebook and Google. It's not to say that you can't be successful at Facebook and Google, that you can't grow your business to a good level of revenue, but folks are apprehensive to have so much of their business reliant on those two channels. And I've seen this for years, honestly, that's really what got my business first going. Folks go beyond Facebook, Google, maybe they try Reddit or channels like that, and they don't really know how to track it. And even more, all of a sudden, it's not that you're just in these two channels, you're on two channels plus other social platforms, podcasts, influencers, affiliates, direct mail, out-of-home, OTT. And the combination of all those, and the intersection between all those, is just really, really, really tough. So that's exactly the moment when brands come to Rockerbox and where I think we can first be super valuable and helpful for them.

But yeah, the there's a huge flight of companies to kind of more classic channels. It's funny, I guess we're home all the time now, it makes sense that something like direct mail is really popular. We're home, we check our mail more often. I know I do at least. But we see it with our clients time and time again, like these kind of older school channels, definitely getting a resurgence and they can be very, very positive. But it also fits very much into this whole idea of research. You're getting a piece of mail at home, it gives you information about the brand. You're not clicking on that. You're not being able to track that impression deterministically, but it's definitely important. So yeah, the trend is definitely happening.

 

Ryan Angerami:

Yeah. Just in our own world, we see a lot more clients probably spurred on because of things like IDFA and things like cookies, but just also like the power of like the view and how far that extends. Obviously this changes a lot on the type of purchase you're making. It might be very, very different for downloading an app right then and there, versus like a various expensive coffee machine. But seeing folks who use things like [inaudible 00:18:03], URLs, promo codes, it's definitely become really, really popular on our side. Last question I have for you before we get into just sort of like the Q&A from folks as well, in terms of, 2020 was obviously like very, very shaky and disruptive and some people benefited from it tremendously, that could act fast enough. I know we're relatively early into 2021. Can you say any of the trends that Rockerbox has seen amongst their clients or amongst the consumers?

 

Ron Jacobson:

Well, the first trend is Reddit's having a great month. So congrats to you guys when everything's that's been going on there. Probably one of the best months I've seen in a while.  Macro trends that we're seeing across our clients, I think just speed is moving up, speed of execution, speed of testing, speed of launching new channels, going up, increased fear on everything IDFA related, cookie related. Just in a way, folks are realizing that they had an inability to measure to begin with, and if anything, that might be getting even worse. So that fear of that even worsening measurement internally, is driving a lot of folks to seek solutions. And I think like Rockerbox is a great one that can help out there. But just generally, things are moving faster and they're moving faster than ever before.

You talked about it before, more offline channels, there's a lot more testing. People want to know that when they're testing, when they're spending money, they at least have a strategy. There's nothing worse than spending a hundred grand in some channel and afterwards, your boss asks you how it goes, and you go, "Ah, I don't know." So more and more as clients are testing, they just need help figuring out how to measure it. So all those kinds of trends, just speed, variation of channels. But I'll tell you at a macro level though, their businesses are growing really well. D-to-C is hot as hell. Some of the smartest marketers I know are working there, and they're very creative and they're testing on new things. So it's from Rockerbox's perspective, it's been awesome and fun to work with these sorts of brands.

 

Ryan Angerami:

Awesome. Awesome. Really appreciate it. Danielle, I'm assuming, you're going to be able to emcee maybe some questions that hopefully came in.

 

Danielle A.:

Yeah. So we'll just go ahead and start off with this one. "So for the TUSHY example, obviously great, but aren't there risks with turning on comments, like especially for a platform such as Reddit?"

 

Ryan Angerami:

Yes and no, I actually I sort of say it depends on what you're trying to do. So for TUSHY, it was a really interesting example. They can have a lot of fun with their brand and they leaned into that. Right? So they got so many hundreds of comments and they had a very, very specific prompt that they were asking of folks. I think where you can sort of educate people, where you can have fun with people, where you can try to consult people on other things that they might be interested in, there's an opportunity for that kind of no matter who you are and no matter how strict your own brand sort of image is. Right? We see this with like financial companies, obviously, doing a lot of education right now around investing and all these other things.

So I think it depends on what you're trying to do. If you're just sort of going out there without any idea and leaving comments on, yeah, you're not going to get the greatest of conversations. But I think if you're asking folks something specific, you're messaging to the right people and something that also is benefiting them, I think it can be really, really impactful.

 

Ron Jacobson:

Yeah. I'll say TUSHY's a Rockerbox customer and overall, a great company you should check it out. But I think to your point Danielle, or whoever asked the question, you need to take some risks. If you keep doing the old tried and true techniques, you're not going to get any opportunity there. The arbitrage opportunity's kind of been removed from the channels that are known to work. But you need to be creative. You need to move fast. As I was telling Ryan before, the big thing I'm seeing so far in '21, is you just need to be adaptable and move really, really quickly. And all of our D-to-C brands at Rockerbox are doing that. And yeah, I think testing out something that is creative, that's fun, that will get a community involved, is an awesome thing to do. And is there a risk there? A hundred percent, but I think the bigger risk is not taking those sorts of gambles.

 

Danielle A.:

Yeah. I agree. You'll definitely have people talking about it one way or another. So that's always a good thing, I guess. Another question for you guys, "So what advice do you give brands wanting to build affinity through online communities?"

 

Ryan Angerami:

Ooh, I don't know if we have three minutes to encapsulate all of this. This could probably take a couple of hours. On the Reddit specific example, I'll kind of use my own like little coffee analogy of, I spent a tremendous amount of time on Reddit, on Google, and YouTube, researching coffee makers. And man, for what I would have loved for somebody to be in like the r/espresso community and have done an objective analysis on like what they're offering. Right? I think it depends on what it is that you're trying to do. Entering into a community just to sort of be a billboard on the side of the highway and scream at people, "Buy my product," no one wants that.

Yes, you're a marketer, but you're a human being too. Think about what's actually adding value to somebody. And I think entering into these communities, like enter in as if you're actually a participant and can help the community grow. And if that's educational purposes, if that's sharing something that you feel really passionate about, answering comments as well just as an actual user, I think that goes a really, really long way of building that trust. And that's what so much of these communities are built on. It's not just the passion, but it's also like the trust, of being able to go in there and knowing that you're getting objectively, good advice, and that good content rises to the top ,and bad content gets downloaded to the bottom.

 

Ron Jacobson:

I agree with that. I think it's at end of the day, it's having something to say. It's having something to say you actually think is meaningful, having something to say that you think actually provides value to people. Yeah. Everybody wants to talk, but few people actually say things that matter. So if you take the time to actually think and make sure what you're saying would benefit folks, people will gravitate to that. And we see that with our clients, all day long.

 

Danielle A.:

Yeah. I completely agree. That was a great session guys. Obviously there's a bunch of controversial things that everybody could talk about. 2020 was obviously a hard year, which you guys have said over and over again. And so it's kind of nice to have that little TUSHY to kind of soften the blow, and anything else that people can kind of get a laugh out of, or just have something to talk about that's different than the pandemic that's going on. Even now, we get to be mask-less. That's another thing that people could talk about. But thank you guys so much for this session today. This has been great. If anybody else has questions for you guys, is there any way that they could reach out?

 

Ron Jacobson:

For me, ron@rockerbox.com. Email, happy to chat.

 

Danielle A.:

Perfect.

 

Ryan Angerami:

Yeah, I would say ryan.angerami@reddit.com or on LinkedIn as well.

 

Danielle A.:

Okay, great. So thank you guys again for this, and thank you to Reddit and Rockerbox for being sponsors of this conference.

 

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