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In the age of consumer privacy, relevance wins for advertisers

Kelly Kimura, senior director of product management, Valassis, a Vericast Business

Privacy and the management of user data have become primary considerations among advertisers, consumers and legislators. Brands must secure and responsibly use consumer data — completely changing how the business of advertising will be done going forward. 

The challenge now is how advertisers can best operate in this new world. 

As consumers take more control of their personal information, advertisers may be restricted in how and when they do one-to-one targeting. But that does not mean that brands can never use data for targeting or that they must revert to generic advertising. Rather, brands must treat consumers as people, not merely data points. That means using data in ways that respect people’s choices and preferences. And that makes targeted marketing based on demographics, interests, location and other consumer information just as essential as ever for effective marketing campaigns.

According to a recent Valassis 2021 Consumer Intel Report, more than half of those surveyed have a positive view of brands that send them relevant messages and deals, and during the COVID-19 pandemic nearly 90% indicated an appreciation for brands that delivered relevant and timely information. 

These findings only serve to underscore the importance of relevance, making it one of the best tools marketers have in their efforts to maintain and respect consumer privacy. But what does it look like to engage consumers in a privacy-safe, relevant way? The following sections highlight four practical recommendations.

Find partners with both brains and brawn

The formula for relevance is data-driven insights plus the tactical prowess to execute marketing across the channels that matter. Just getting the data right — ensuring opt-in, using advanced modeling and the like — is only half the battle. Even with a willing and interested audience, they may not want to learn about a brand in their social media feed, but they may be open to a deal in their mailbox. 

Being relevant means being able to identify and understand an audience in a privacy-sensitive way. It also means engaging those people in the ways that resonate with them without losing the power of the data.

That puts identifying strong technology partners at the top of the list. Brands need companies on their side who can take on the twin challenges of intelligence (the brains) and execution (the brawn) to win the hearts and minds of everyone in the audience. This lets advertisers deliver multichannel advertising to a richer ideal prospect pool to grow their businesses.

As the marketplace evolves, the best partners will continue to adapt and innovate their technology to help brands reach and engage today’s omnichannel consumer to drive commerce.

Don’t rely on just one tactic

With consumers taking more control of their data, the industry is poised to see a decrease in precise location data and fewer device signals. Smaller audiences will, in turn, limit the ability to reach consumers at scale to drive performance. Similarly, the digital identifiers used to deliver individualized ad experiences may be limited. For example, mobile device IDs and cookies may soon be off the table, requiring advertisers to look to other means of understanding consumer behavior. 

Changes like these are a constant in ad tech. Instead of fearing them, successful brands embrace them. However, this requires partnering with companies that can easily adapt to these changes and continue to drive performance, all geared to future-proof a brand’s advertising. 

Build on owned and first-party data to scale 

In conversations about consumer privacy, emphasis tends to be put on what is unknown. But a brand is likely to know a lot about their best and most loyal buyers, and much of this information is given to the brand with permission by their customers. 

While brands always want to meet and engage more buyers, that outcome can be a matter of leveraging owned and opted-in first-party data to build predictive look-alike models. One way to do this is to target at the neighborhood level. This natural grouping of consumers enables brands to make reasonable and intelligent assumptions and represents a sustainable method of marketing. And with an integrated marketing platform that gets smarter each time a brand reaches out to their audience, this approach identifies people who have interests similar to their top prospects and reaches them at scale.

However, targeting in this way requires strong partners who can analyze diverse data sources and use proven advanced modeling techniques to go beyond one-to-one targeting to reach people who fit the ideal profile. 

Never underestimate the power of creativity

Being an interesting brand means having a sense of what the audience cares about and speaking to it in a compelling way. That makes creativity an important element of relevance, regardless of whether they’re taking an entertaining or informational approach. Best-in-breed technologies play a crucial role in making this a reality. 

This is ultimately about respecting consumers as people, not just data points. People are more complex than any one dimension of interest or past purchase may suggest. 

Marketing is a lot like being invited to a party. Once a brand is at that party, they need to create, cultivate and curate the contacts made in an engaging, relevant and privacy-compliant manner. But it all starts with making authentic connections with people who have a real interest in what the brand is talking about and then respectfully engaging with them as people first.

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