Digital Vietnam: When analytics go wrong

Spiros Tsaltas

I was a bit bored during the weekend, and so I started watching on Youtube a History Channel documentary which had a reference on the Vietnam War and mistakes made by the American side.

Basically, what the American military did was to use measurements and analytics the wrong way. And, to my eyes, Digital Marketing today is doing the same thing. Allow me to elaborate my point of view, please.

Success Analytics in Vietnam

What made Vietnam interesting (in the documentary) is that all ‘standard’ Military Analytics were pointless. There were no cities/castles/territories to occupy and take away from the enemy – there were no direct engagement battles to count how many times you won or not, etc. So, there were no clear ways for Americans to tell whether they had killed a civilian or not; whether that body belonged to a Southern or Northern Vietnamese or not.

So, all ‘Military Measurements’ were ‘out of the box’ KPIs; and instead of the US Army defining new relevant ones, the Americans took the lazy route of just doing body-count comparisons: i.e. “They killed 10 of us, we killed 1,000 of them”.

Which if you have killed an enemy, it makes sense – you will have one less enemy combatant to fight with. But if you have killed by mistake a civilian or a Southern Vietnamese – something that it is not easily extractable information from your body- count numerals, you will have automatically created 5-10 new enemy combatants.

The mistake here was, despite being extremely intelligent, the US Army chose to base their decisions on proven & easily measured analytics instead of redefining them. And they did so year-in, year-out.

So, measuring something if you don’t understand what you measure or what it’s meaning or real impact is, is a pointless effort.

Digital Analytics Vietnam

This seems to be a Universal Phenomenon – it appears that the Quality of Digital Marketers is ‘rather low’. Yes, it is a new profession; standards are being developed and some High Quality Certifications are slowly being put in place (for example DMI in Ireland, CIM in the UK etc.).

Unfortunately, there are a lot of self-proclaimed Digital Marketers (in Ghana too) whose skills are still being developed. This has 2 ‘side-effects’:

  1. Most Digital Marketers measure what is easy, and not what is of value to their clients and to the Consumers – And a lot of times, like the body-counts in Vietnam, they have no clear insight on the ‘dead bodies’ of your consumers.
  2. Rarely does one find traces of Digital Strategy in any organisation – When I Google for Advanced Digital Strategies, I only find things such as SEO Tricks, AdWords Tips and similar stuff. These are low-level (however useful) techniques and trickery, but they are by no means Digital Strategies; of course, if you don’t fully comprehend the Digital Paradigm, how can you develop any relevant Strategy. Like in Vietnam, the real strategy to win the hearts and trust of your opponents (as in ‘the one opposite to you’)/consumers, is missing.

Golden Tip: Avoid or think twice, please, before you choose to be trained in Digital Marketing by self-proclaimed Digital Marketers, even if it is for free.

Digital Analysis Paralysis

But, in all fairness, there are a few excellent and competent Marketers (I have met a few excellent ones here in Accra – almost all of them work for large established organisations).

And now these Marketers are faced with a new but very grave problem: the sheer volume of data available to them. It makes it hard for them to know where to start.

So, what data should you analyse first so you can optimise your marketing campaign? Should you analyse time on page? Heat-map clicks? Navigation paths? Click-through rates first, or conversion rates? Scroll map data?

Golden Tip: Temporarily ignore all data and think about the question you are trying to answer or the hypothesis / ‘theory’/ idea that you are trying to test. If you clear that in your mind, you will have a better direction/idea about which data-sets you will need to use.

Digital Attribution Understanding

Attribution helps to uncover the value of each platform, ad, keyword or target audience – It basically helps you understand where your digital marketing investment has a result or not, and how successful that platform/media is.

That said, ‘allow me to open your eyes’ with this example:

The most common attribution model is Last Click – it is also the standard that Google Analytics uses. I can click on your ad on Twitter or Pinterest (or any other Social Media in theory) and then I can search on Google and click on your organic link and fill out your contact form. My action’s result is then attributed to Google’s organic search, and Twitter or Pinterest (or whatever Social Media I used) get no credit.

In this example you’re not using the Twitter conversion tracking code on your website, you cannot have an easy way of attributing the value of Twitter (or whatever Social Media I used) or any budget you spend there (Google UMT – Urchin Tracking Module, if you want to know how to technically avoid the issue in this example).

It sounds like the ‘Vietnam body-count’ issue.

The Confusion: Web- and Digital Analytics

It seems that most ‘Digital Marketers’ confuse ‘Digital Analytics’ with the metrics you will get from a tool like Google Analytics: for example, numbers for bounce rate, unique visitors, page load speed, page views per visit, time on site etc.

Sure, Web Analytics provide plenty of insights and data into your website’s performance. But that cannot help you understand the efficiency and impact of a marketing campaign.

Digital Marketing Analytics can provide measurements like traffic, leads, and sales, whether leads become customers etc; it even includes data not only from your website, but also from other sources like email, social media, and online/Digital PR (which is one of HireLoyalty’s areas of expertise). They help Marketers better understand the effectiveness of their marketing, not just the effectiveness of their website.

Digital Marketing Analytics is possibly the only method that allows marketers to identify & track how each of their marketing initiatives (e.g. Email Marketing or Facebook Campaign or some other Social Media marketing action) compares with each other and adjust/refine/optimize their Digital Campaign Strategies.

In Conclusion

Please measure what make sense for your client/organisation and also for the Consumer. Keep always in mind that: the true value of analytics is not to prove the value of marketing to your boss; it is about giving you aid in improving and optimising your marketing performance (on both an individual channel-by-channel basis, as well as an overall, cross-channel one).

And you might need to develop the right and relevant (and even different) digital analytics for all the various platforms & channels that you are using in your marketing campaigns, so that you can get the real insights you need in order to understand the consumers’ marketing performance and make sound marketing, advertising and PR decisions and develop/refine your Digital Strategy.

Through Digital Marketing Analytics, you should be able to determine which channels are most critical for driving sales. And it’s OK to find out that maybe for your organisation at this stage of maturity and at this point in time, Social Media might be just a powerful engagement mechanism but not the source of any sales; at least, in this case, you know how to adjust and improve your Digital Strategy.

Marketing Analytics is all about tying marketing activities to Sales. It’s That Simple!!!

And maybe the only metric that really matters is the one of Digital Engagement.

Thank you and Good Luck,


Spiros Tsaltas

About the Author: Spiros Tsaltas, a former University Professor, is the Principal at HireLoyalty ( – based in Accra, the only Loyalty PR company in West Africa that Consults (How-To), Measures (Test-To) and Trains (Learn-To) in anything relating to Customer Loyalty and Loyalty PR.

As a NED (Non-Executive Director), Spiros is also associated with HIREghana ) and he can be hired via them (+233 50 228 5155).

Spiros welcomes all your comments/ remarks/ feedback /suggestions at Press [at] HireLoyalty can be reached at +233 20 741 3060 or +233 26 835 2026

© 2018 Spiros Tsaltas and © 2018 HireLoyalty 

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