By Scott Howe
Glancing at any recent business publication, one may quickly infer that a strong decision-making ability is often identified as the fundamental characteristic of a good business leader. Especially in times of uncertainty, the ability to be decisive and set clear priorities to drive the best outcome for one's team, organization, and customers is a highly sought-after leadership skill.
Not surprisingly, the type of decisions facing CMOs and other marketing leaders has only become more challenging in an increasingly digital and data-driven world, as responsibilities expand to include diverse aspects of digital innovation, customer experience, and more. To expedite action, choices are sometimes reduced to a trade-off between option A and option B. Such oversimplification usually comes at a cost.
How False Dichotomies Are Created
The glamour of Madison Avenue advertising agencies has waned, but the modern aura of technology has made the marketer's role much more multifaceted. Performance and brand now both fall under marketing, as does ownership of customer relationships and a dynamic customer journey. Therefore, marketers are not only required to develop creative content and strategies but also to understand the advertising and marketing technologies on which those strategies will run. In the modern age, marketers are working closely with legal and privacy teams to adhere to technical and ethical requirements on behalf of the customer, which builds both trust and brand value.
Such complexity and the sheer breadth of the current job description can often present choices between two apparently contradictory objectives. In the pursuit of decisiveness, what may be overlooked is that, in reality, both objectives — performance and brand — are viable.
Simplicity or Flexibility?
Gone are the days of relying on reach and frequency and checking the ratings for the latest 60-second ad based on demographics. While marketers still must find new ways to drive conversion among increasingly demanding customers and demonstrate effective engagement and clear attribution across offline and online channels, digital and data have been evening out the playing field, lowering
To simplify matters, many marketers are choosing to work almost exclusively with premium digital publishers to reach and measure audiences customized to their specifications. Funneling marketing dollars and first-party data to social and search partners means guaranteed reporting and efficiency that doesn't overly tax analytics teams or complicate measurement. Of course, this consolidation comes with sacrifices.
In following this singular approach, marketers are giving up the flexibility of a more sophisticated, diverse media plan that allows advertisers to reach broader audiences where they spend most of their time, and the agility to optimize budgets across platforms at the audience level. For example, as the streaming video landscape grows and TV viewership becomes more fragmented, marketers should be more flexible with their market dollars and learn to reach people where they can deliver the best outcomes — in digital, TV, in-app, in-store, and elsewhere in the channel multiverse.
Without the ability to execute strategies that are both flexible and simple, marketers are missing out on an opportunity to learn about and engage their customers in the real world — to be where audiences actually are and optimize across platforms, or even to understand which digital campaigns are successfully driving offline sales. By using an identity strategy to translate and connect data and create a more holistic view of the customer, marketers can embrace audience-based activation and measurement across every channel, better preparing their teams for the future.
Utility or Privacy?
Data is the backbone of great customer experiences. With a growing awareness of technological capabilities, many people are rightly concerned about protecting personal data. Recognizing the link between trust and brand strength, marketers have often become the de facto advocates for consumer protections within their organizations. Some may have even considered forgoing the use of data-driven advertising altogether, sacrificing performance rather than participating in systemic (and necessary) reform.
However, regardless of the improvements in contextual advertising and other modeling strategies, addressable advertising — whether activated with premium publishers or by leveraging persistent identity across the ecosystem — will continue to be a more efficient and effective use of marketing investment, and consequently continue to attract the lion's share of dollars.
Fortunately, many more publishers are moving toward developing their own authenticated inventories — which encourages consumer participation — and offering brands an alternative solution to maintain and even improve their campaign results, even programmatically.
Brands that consider themselves customer centric and advocates for consumer protections should recognize the benefits of utilizing permissioned data over proxies. This allows marketers to continue benefiting from addressability and creating more relevant experiences while upholding their commitment to ethical data use. With the focus now on building trusted relationships with consumers and providing more transparency into how data is collected and used, publishers and advertisers can preserve access to valuable audience data and activate at scale in a way that meets and exceeds current privacy standards around the globe.
Control or Collaboration?
Another common business truism is that brands operate in an increasingly global marketplace. As a result, many industries have become more interdependent and hypercompetitive, including retail, CPG, travel, and hospitality, to name a few. To combat disruption and integrate the value chain, many collaborative partnerships have emerged among peers (and sometimes even rivals) both inside and outside of companies.
In the past, a company's "control" of its CRM data — in particular, transfer and delivery of the data — would require a high level of trust to play an important role in any joint data-related activity between businesses. However, the traditional ways of building trust for transfer and delivery of data may no longer be required to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. With next-generation technology that protects data, restricts its movement, and governs access and usage, trust in this scenario becomes a more ironclad result of using the right combination of privacy-enhancing technologies in tandem with legal security mechanisms, rather than relying more heavily on the latter two. When data owners have clear control and can retain ownership and possession at all times, more becomes possible.
In retail, for example, e-commerce often exists entirely separate from in-store operations. Imagine what insights merchandisers could glean if they were allowed to analyze transactions and other pertinent data across both online and offline activity. Staunch competitiveness, even among divisions, has long been a barrier to collaboration, but no longer.
By using a secure safe haven for data collaboration, transaction and media data can be brought in from outside a company or division's own systems — from their partner network — and used to develop valuable business insights to grow customer intelligence. Even within highly regulated industries, marketers can safely collaborate to illuminate more of the customer journey and measure marketing activities more effectively.
Technology Can Make It all Possible
Experienced leaders know that decisiveness does not always require sacrifice. The right technologies can help their teams work smarter and break longstanding compromises so they can select paths that truly elevate the business, find partners that understand how to maximize the value from data, and transform customer experience into a competitive advantage.
With so much existing opportunity available to today's marketing executives, anything less should be considered unacceptable.
About Author: Scott Howe is the CEO of LiveRamp, a partner in the ANA Thought Leadership Program. Y