Baking up a Storm: Planning for a Future Without “Cookie”-Cutter Media Plans
You know things have gotten weird when the phrase “cookies are almost finished” triggers a wave of nausea and dread. Despite my predilection for the baked kind, a personal diet based exclusively on cookies is a poor strategy for long-term health. Market pressures have forced a similar conclusion regarding digital cookies.
The ad apocalypse is not nigh. Data will persist. Our ability to access and take action on it… that is what’s changing. Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoCs) and other alternatives may help evolve the status quo, but relying exclusively on third parties to identify potential customers has never been without risk. It is time we shift our perspective from cookies to layer cakes. Mastering your first-party data is the first step to putting your brand back in control.
First, consult with Legal and ensure your organization has the proper Terms and Conditions in place or is prepared to draft them. Honesty and authenticity are key parts of earning your customers’ business. Don’t risk that trust due to a lack of transparency.
How do you get started curating your own first-party data and designing strategies that facilitate engagement?
1. Catalog and source the ingredients available. Like the contents of any pantry, the variety of data available may be surprising. Data-driven marketing is an exercise in collaboration. Consider what you can:
- Borrow – Other internal departments offer a wealth of information. What do they have that might empower your strategy and activation? What can you offer in exchange to add context or qualifications to their perspectives?
- Build – More likely than not, you’ll discover gaps in what your organization “knows” or actively tracks. How could you design or refine initiatives that generate more engagement, interactions or touchpoints to inform your perspective?
- Buy – Whether through paid media or outright dataset acquisition, what other avenues are available to increase or expand the organization’s first-party data collection?
2. Organize your prep station. Buying a spice rack does not magically populate and arrange the containers. Before you invest in a Data Lake, Data Warehouse, Consumer Data Platform or similar resource, it’s critical to understand what you NEED to collect and how it connects. Technology will make your data more accessible, but it’s on you to first:
- Design an actionable use case for each dataset you plan to incorporate
- Create a “dictionary” for all the dimensions and fields contained
- Establish best practices for joining the data to other datasets, including identification of relevant foreign keys and aggregation requirements (i.e. minimum time interval or geographic designation available)
3. Empower your chefs, inspire your cooks. You need skilled individuals to access, handle and prepare the data, but presenting an insight requires more than technical prowess. Subject matter expertise is crucial to extracting value, even if the individual lacks technical training. Leadership’s intuition can set the menu for your analysts to bring to life. Get the dynamic right, and you’ll find that your analysts in turn can iterate on leadership’s vision quicker than you thought possible.
4. Open your test kitchen. Now you can start layering data in pursuit of the next recipe for success. Your subject matter experts will likely know what combinations should work while your analysts will defer to machine learning and AI to signal the next best concoction. Keep the tests small and assume nothing from the start. Your early learnings may only affirm what you already knew, but they’ll build confidence in your approach and support adding more complexity.
Don’t get caught up in the hype surrounding the technology involved. While the appeal of a silver bullet is understandable, acquiring a platform is no guarantee you can fully activate it. Our experience has shown that transitioning to a first-party future depends more on your organization’s people, processes, and persistence than any specific tools you leverage. We’ve seen efforts progress using “best-in-class” and homespun solutions alike.
Wherever your first-party future may lie, it will be a journey to get there. You’ll progress iteratively: initially you’ll take steps to join data from two departments; then you’ll see an enhanced static dataset that can better inform strategic planning; and finally you’ll have an actionable, dynamic database populated with rich customer profiles updated in real-time as new engagements are observed. Patience will be rewarded, and you may just find that while your “diet” remains tied more than ever before to data, the perspectives you can leverage to interpret it will fuel a culture of learning, and the whole organization will have a personal stake in it.
For more information contact us.