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Decisions aren’t always made equally.

Hanging a pre-built shelf is a different process than building a custom home library.

Picking out paint colors is different than switching careers to pursue architecture.
Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” dives into this concept and offers a fascinating lens into human decision-making by dividing it into two systems.

System 1 operates swiftly, relying on intuition and quick judgments, albeit prone to biases. In contrast, System 2 is the deliberate, slower thinker that ensures more accurate outcomes but demands significant mental effort.

What’s intriguing is that our preference for System 1 isn’t just about taking the easy road—it’s a survival strategy honed over time to navigate a complex, uncertain world with limited information.

Drawing from this insight, we propose a similar dual-system approach for marketing organizations grappling with the complexities of media attribution. Knowing which channels drive sales is crucial, yet the landscape is cluttered with a myriad of tools—from publisher-provided freebies to high-powered Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM) solutions—each promising to crack the code.

Think of attribution providers like tools in a well-stocked shed—they serve specific purposes. Some are like your trusty multitool, swiftly giving you actionable insights to tweak campaigns on the fly—perfect for adjusting social media spend or swapping ad creatives. Others are more like a precision instrument, meticulously analyzing your entire media strategy, factoring in everything from economic trends to competitive moves, helping you chart your long-term course with confidence.

 

The challenge isn’t just in picking the right tool but in reconciling conflicting desires: accuracy versus cost-effectiveness, speed versus strategic depth. It’s a balancing act marketers know all too well—a bit like trying to sprint and strategize at the same time.

System 1 Tools:

Quick, adaptable, and thrive on leading indicators like website traffic or search volume. Sure, they might sacrifice a bit of precision for speed, but in a fast-paced digital world, having actionable insights at your fingertips can mean the difference between seizing an opportunity and missing out. Plus, they can be relatively inexpensive.

System 2 Tools:

Akin to Marketing Mix Modeling—are slower, more meticulously crafted marketing analytics. They take their time, crunching numbers, and weaving together a comprehensive narrative of your entire marketing universe. They’re the ones you turn to for big-picture decisions, annual planning, and when you need to impress the C-suite with hard data. But as you can imagine, they are also resource intensive, both in terms of time and money. Pick the best one and devote energy to make it work at full power.

For the beginning stages, a nimble System 1 Approach – UTM tags, channel-specific analytics, or quick TV spot analyses – alone may suffice but as your business grows, so do the demands of your marketing strategy.

It’s like upgrading from a toolbox to a workshed as your DIY projects get more ambitious.

Kahneman’s research reminds us that human decision-making isn’t just about being right all the time—it’s about efficiently managing our mental resources. Similarly, in marketing, embracing both the quick-and-dirty and the slow-and-strategic approaches maximizes your resources, time, and investment. It’s about using imperfect but actionable insights to fuel your daily operations, while reserving your analytical firepower for those game-changing strategic moves.

 

By taking a cue from behavioral economics, the field Kahneman pioneered, and integrating the strengths of both System 1 and System 2 tools, marketing teams can navigate the twists and turns of the marketplace with agility and foresight. It’s not just about making decisions—it’s about making the right decisions at the right time, leveraging every tool in your kit to craft a winning strategy in a complex, ever-evolving landscape.

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