Trends & Insights
Marketing mix modeling vs. attribution: What's the right tool for marketers?
March 30, 2023
Jaemoon Lee

As marketers, we often face a multitude of choices when it comes to the tools we use to measure and optimize our campaigns. Two commonly debated methodologies are marketing mix modeling (MMM) and attribution. Each approach has its merits, but they also have distinct differences. In this post, we'll delve into the intricacies of marketing mix modeling and attribution, and discuss the scenarios in which each tool excels.

Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM)

MMM is a top-down approach that leverages historical data to measure the impact of various marketing activities on sales or conversions. Using statistical techniques, MMM evaluates the relationships between marketing activities (like TV, radio, and digital ads) and sales results.

A Holistic View

MMM offers a comprehensive perspective of the entire marketing ecosystem, including online and offline channels. This helps marketers understand the impact of their marketing efforts across multiple channels and identify the most effective strategies for driving growth. By capturing the interaction effects between different channels, MMM can uncover synergies and opportunities that may be overlooked when focusing on individual channels.

Focus on Long-term Effects

MMM emphasizes the long-term effects of marketing activities, capturing their impact over time. This allows marketers to measure how campaigns contribute to growth in the long run, as well as understand the potential for diminishing returns from oversaturated channels. By incorporating the long-term perspective into decision-making, marketers can better allocate resources and optimize their strategies for sustained growth.

Adaptable to External Factors

MMM can be adjusted to account for external factors like seasonality or changes in the competitive landscape. This adaptability makes it a valuable tool for identifying opportunities and optimizing strategies in dynamic market conditions. By regularly updating MMM models with new data, marketers can stay agile and responsive to changing trends.

Limited Granularity and Slower Results

However, MMM has its limitations. One significant drawback is the lack of granularity it provides, as it focuses on aggregated data and does not offer insights at the user or campaign level. Furthermore, MMM relies on historical data, which may not provide immediate feedback for campaign adjustments. This can make it challenging to quickly identify and address underperforming campaigns or capitalize on emerging opportunities.

Wait, there’s an exception! Modern MMM solutions offered by mobile measurement partners, or MMPs, are much more customizable and adaptive to changes. Check out this post to find out more.


Attribution is a bottom-up approach that assigns credit for conversions to specific marketing touchpoints, enabling marketers to understand the effectiveness of individual channels or campaigns. By tracking user-level interactions, attribution models can assign varying levels of credit to each touchpoint, based on their influence in driving conversions.

Granular Insights and Real-time Feedback

Attribution models excel at providing detailed insights at the user and campaign level, allowing for precise optimization of marketing efforts. By understanding which channels and campaigns are driving conversions, marketers can allocate resources more efficiently and maximize the return on their investment. In addition, attribution allows for real-time feedback, enabling marketers to make data-driven decisions on the fly and quickly iterate on their strategies. This agility can be crucial in the fast-paced digital marketing landscape.

Customizable to Business Goals

Marketers can tailor attribution models to align with their unique business goals, helping to optimize ROI and make the most of their marketing budgets. By adjusting attribution models to better reflect the desired outcomes, marketers can ensure their decision-making is aligned with overall objectives and drive more meaningful results.

Scope and Data Issues

Despite the strengths, attribution does have its weaknesses. One of them is its primary focus on digital channels, which may not capture the full impact of offline marketing activities. Furthermore, attribution models often overlook the long-term effects of marketing activities, which can lead to suboptimal decision-making that prioritizes short-term gains over sustainable growth. 

Lastly, attribution relies on accurate tracking, which can be compromised by factors like cookie restrictions, ad blockers, or unreliable identifiers. These data issues can lead to incomplete or biased results, making it challenging to accurately assess the effectiveness of marketing activities.

Which Methodology is Right for You?

The choice between MMM and attribution largely depends on your marketing objectives and the channels you use. For businesses with a diverse marketing mix that includes both online and offline activities, MMM offers a more comprehensive view. On the other hand, if you primarily operate in digital channels and require granular insights for quick optimization, attribution may be a better fit.

In an ideal world, marketers would use both methodologies in tandem. This combined approach allows for a holistic understanding of marketing effectiveness, marrying the long-term insights of MMM with the real-time, granular data provided by attribution. By leveraging both tools, marketers can make informed decisions that drive growth, improve ROI, and ultimately deliver better results.

To sum up, the choice between marketing mix modeling and attribution is not mutually exclusive. By understanding the pros and cons of each methodology, marketers can make informed decisions that lead to success in today's ever-evolving landscape. Balancing the comprehensive perspective of MMM with the detailed, real-time insights of attribution enables marketers to create a robust measurement framework that supports both short-term agility and long-term success.

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Jaemoon Lee
Marketing Team Lead
Jaemoon Lee is Marketing Team Lead at Airbridge.
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