Marketing Math is No Joke! 15 Things Your Marketing Team is Muttering Under Their Breath

Marketing math is a thing. See what your marketing team is saying behind your back and why.

By Ivana Taylor

Published on October 25, 2023

In This Article

Have you seen the popular “Corporate Math” meme’s going around? It goes something like this:

  • Corporate math is announcing record profits and then laying off hundreds of employees instead of not paying out the CEOs bonus.
  • Corporate math is expecting 9 people to do the work of 12.
  • Corporate math is making your employees work more than 40 hours a week and then complaining that no one wants to work anymore…

You get it.

And that made me think about “Marketing Math”. If you’ve ever done corporate marketing or marketing for any sized business, you know what I’m talking about.

So I reached out to my expert marketer community and collected 15 “Marketing Math” examples. But what’s really great about these examples is that they also offer some insights.

From Digital Marketing Enthusiasts to Founders, some of these will make you laugh, others will make you cry, but all of them will make you take a good hard look at your marketing.

Let’s dive into these intriguing perspectives to better understand the marketing math that just doesn’t add up.

marketing math a blackboard with a bunch of diagrams on it
Photo by Dan Cristian Pădureț on Unsplash

Marketing can often feel like a complex equation, and we’ve asked fifteen industry professionals to share their most baffling “marketing math” scenarios. From Digital Marketing Enthusiasts to Founders, their insights range from the puzzling misguided influencer spending to the perplexing unrealistic marketing expectations. Dive into these intriguing perspectives to better understand the marketing math that just doesn’t add up.

Throwing cash at an influencer, while your organic campaigns scrounge through sofa cushions for change

man in green jacket sitting beside woman in gray jacket
Photo by Matthew Moloney on Unsplash

To stay “relevant” with younger audiences, a brand redirects a sizable chunk of its budget towards partnering with a top influencer for a single post. The sum spent on this fleeting engagement could’ve funded an entire year’s worth of organic social-media campaigns, community engagement, or even training sessions for the in-house team to better understand and engage with their audience on digital platforms. 

The influencer’s post sees high engagement for a day, but long-term engagement and brand loyalty remain stagnant.

Hugo Molinaro, Digital Marketing Enthusiast, Founder, SmartLinking

Treating affiliate marketing like the plague, when it’s really the golden goose

One marketing math scenario that doesn’t quite add up for me is the reluctance of some CMOs to invest in affiliate marketing despite an average benchmark ROAS of $10. From my perspective, achieving a ROAS of $10 is a significant win, and it demonstrates the effectiveness and profitability of the affiliate marketing channel. 

With such a strong return, I believe there’s a great opportunity to scale affiliate programs and maximize revenue. There needs to be more education and data-driven insights to help CMOs see the untapped potential in affiliate marketing.

Ann Hand, Affiliate Marketing Consultant, The Full Hand

Applauding the last click in the conversion show, while forgetting the rest of the cast

white and gray cordless computer mouse
Photo by Vanja Matijevic on Unsplash

Imagine you’re a business with an awesome online store. A customer finds your store through a Facebook ad, then they receive a catchy email from you, and finally, they make a purchase after clicking on a Google search ad. 

Now, here’s where it gets a bit funky: some folks use what’s called “Last-Click Attribution” and give all the credit for the sale to that last Google ad click. It’s like saying the last runner in a relay race did all the work, ignoring the earlier team members. In reality, it’s often the teamwork of all these different marketing efforts that leads to a sale. Ignoring the Facebook ad and the email newsletter’s role in the journey can make it seem like they didn’t contribute at all. 

So, it’s like trying to figure out who won the relay race by only looking at the last runner. Using a more balanced approach, like multi-touch attribution, would give each part of your marketing strategy the credit it deserves and help you make better decisions. And that’s #MarketingMath.

Ricci Masero, Marketing Manager, Intellek

Hiring a Shakespeare for content but entrusting link building to a mime

One of the weirdest scenarios for me is when CMOs have copywriters with a salary of $100K, and at the same time, they are not ready to invest even $5K per month for link building. It makes no sense because backlinks are part of the Google algorithm, and they cannot be built using AI, so their role is likely to only strengthen. 

However, numerous marketing leaders still perceive links as snake oil. We at Restaurantji have a balanced strategy that considers both content and links. With this synergy, we get better results than our competitors.

Elijah Puzhakov, CCO and Project Manager, Restaurantji

Using a rubber ruler to measure success; it stretches nicely to make even the small wins look big

silver and black necklace on yellow textile
Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash

Marketing math can make even the most modest results sound impressive. For example, if you made two sales last month and four this month, you could claim you saw 100% month-over-month growth. Or, if you include retargeting in a marketing campaign, you’ll likely get a bunch of sales that already knew about your product and could have bought anyway. 

Marketing math is often used to justify spending money on marketing activities that may not actually be effective. As Jack Trout, the legendary marketing guru, said, “Marketing is not a battle of products. It’s a battle of perceptions.” Marketers can warp internal perceptions through their manipulation of the data, and it happens more often than you’d think.

Belen Garcia-Saldaña, Marketing Coordinator, Achievable

Asking for feedback and then ignoring it

One marketing math scenario is asking for creative feedback and then ignoring all of it. It makes no sense to me. You’ll see this happen all the time at agencies. 

When a campaign is in the planning stage, managers or creative heads will ask their teams for ideas and feedback. They’ll discuss them at length. They’ll show appreciation and hint that some of them are good enough to be picked. But all of a sudden, you’ll see a rejection stamp on your proposal.

James Owen, Co-Founder and Director, Click Intelligence

Thinking that a 10% increase in marketing budget generate a 10% increase in sales

X% of marketing budget = X% of sales. 

This is a common equation that many companies use to determine their marketing budget. However, this approach fails to take into account the actual impact of marketing on sales. It assumes that for every dollar spent on marketing, there will be an equal increase in sales. In reality, this is rarely the case. 

For example, if a company spends 10% of its budget on marketing, it does not guarantee a 10% increase in sales. Marketing is just one factor that contributes to sales, and its impact can be difficult to measure accurately.

Keith Sant, CMO, Eazy House Sale

Investing thousands in creating campaigns and then cancelling the whole thing

One scenario that doesn’t really make sense to me is canceled projects. You’ll see this happen at almost every marketing agency. We will task a new intern or associate with planning a new campaign. The proposal will be approved, a team will be formed, and the entire campaign will be planned out. They’ll spend weeks on the entire thing. 

In the end, a creative head would like to take a different direction, and they will cancel the entire thing. This is a very common practice in agencies, and a lot of the time, creative heads will put it on the client.

Jessica Shee, Marketing Manager, iBoysoft

Thinking that the more emojis you use, the more successful your post will be

yellow inflatable smiling emoji balloon in focus photography
Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

In the world of marketing, there’s a sometimes-amusing, yet puzzling, phenomenon where people believe that the more emojis they use in a social media post or email, the higher the return on investment (ROI) will be. This is akin to a form of “Marketing Math” where the equation suggests that we directly correlate the number of emojis with success.

However, in reality, the use of emojis in marketing should be strategic and purposeful, aligning with the brand’s message and the target audience. Throwing a barrage of emojis into every piece of content doesn’t automatically translate into a significant increase in ROI. In fact, it can often dilute the message and make the content appear unprofessional or insincere.

Hence, the scenario of equating a surplus of emojis to enhanced ROI is a humorous and somewhat absurd twist on the “Corporate Math” meme. It underscores the need for marketers to focus on meaningful and data-driven strategies.

Precious Abacan, Content Marketer, Softlist

Believing vanity metrics are your golden ticket to sales city, when they are the shiny gatekeepers to a ghost town

In my opinion, one marketing math scenario that makes no sense to me is the obsession with vanity metrics such as sheer follower counts or page views. It’s quite mysterious to comprehend that some people equate these numbers to success. Engagement, conversions, and ROI should measure real success in digital marketing. 

Getting a million followers means nothing if they don’t get converted. The real equation should always focus on the quality of engagement, customer-acquisition costs, and customer-lifetime value. For smart marketers, it’s important to understand that it’s not about quantity, but the quality of interactions and the tangible impact on the bottom line. Vanity metrics are a futile math game.

Fahad Khan, Digital Marketing Manager, Ubuy India

Equating a fat wallet to marketing genius, while the real genius lies in strategic planning

With the idea that a “Bigger Budget = Guaranteed Success,” “Marketing Math” frequently violates common sense. While funds are important, success depends on strategic planning, inventive execution, and market flexibility. Even a hefty budget won’t guarantee success. 

Smaller, strategically sound campaigns can outperform larger ones with more funding. Success in marketing isn’t as straightforward as “More Money In = More Success Out.” It all depends on how efficiently you use your budget to accomplish your objectives.

Matt Magnante, Head of Marketing, Fitness Volt

Wooing new customers while ghosting the loyal ones

black red green and blue device
Photo by Josh Eckstein on Unsplash

One marketing math scenario that truly puzzles me is when businesses focus solely on acquiring new customers while neglecting their existing ones. It’s like pouring all your resources into filling a leaky bucket. The cost of retaining loyal customers is often far less than acquiring new ones, yet some companies seem to ignore this simple equation. It just doesn’t add up to me.

Farhan Advani, Director Marketing, PhotoshopBuzz

Hiking up the price, then slashing it back down and calling it a sale

“Marketing math” is the practice of repricing a product at a higher cost, then slashing it to its original price and declaring it’s “on sale.” This is a tried-and-true marketing strategy designed to trick customers into buying products impulsively by creating the illusion of a sale, even if the product is at the same price as it was. 

A similar scenario that baffles me is when airlines hold a “seat sale” during a double-digit monthly sale. This is because when I book the next day, the supposedly discounted price is sometimes the same as the regular price. It’s just marketing math, I guess.

Aktug Dogan, CEO, Refermate

Expecting a single launch to hit a home run, and ignoring the long game

I’ve been working in marketing for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of crazy things. One that really gets me is when people try to do too many things at once. When you’re trying to launch a new product or service, it’s tempting to want to get every single person on board at once—the more people who know about it, the more likely they are to buy! 

But that’s not always true. And it’s even less true when you’re launching something new. You need time for people to start talking about your product or service and form an opinion about it before they can make any decisions about purchasing or investing time in learning more about it. 

You don’t have the luxury of being able to reach everyone at once—you need to prioritize who you’re going after first so that you can get them on board quickly and efficiently before moving on from there.

Paul Eidner, COO, CarnoSport®

Expecting an overnight success while pinching pennies till they squeal

“Marketing math” is when clients or marketers expect to see results from a marketing campaign overnight. It’s baffling to expect instant results, but even more so to expect that your goal will be reached with just one marketing ad. 

Another “marketing math” scenario is being stingy when spending on a marketing campaign, but expecting to rake in a lot of sales from that ad. Some people are too scared to spend on marketing materials, resulting in a poor-quality marketing ad. They don’t realize that in marketing, as in everything else, you get what you pay for.

Ed Lateef, Founder, Revoltution Labs

Marketing Math is NO JOKE

And there you have it. This is what your marketing team is thinking and saying. Yes, this was done in fun, but there are serious aspects to these important points.

As a small business owner myself, who works with other business owners who don’t have a single penny to waste, I can’t stress enough how important it is to invest your time and energy in THINKING things through.

Don’t just jump into the latest tips and hacks that some experts are touting. Be realistic and be open. Always know that marketing is the fuel that feeds your business fire. Be smart about it.