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January 15th, 2018

Why Identity, Not Devices, Should Be the Core of Customer-Obsessed Marketing

*This article was originally published on AdAge.com on Dec. 15, 2017.

Marketing today is filled with more swirl than an extra-large soft serve. The proliferation of platform acronyms (DMP, CDP, DSP … WTF??) makes it difficult to understand what's what.

The key for marketers, however, is to stay objective-driven, look beyond the jargon, and select a platform that serves their specific needs.

For companies looking to improve their understanding of their consumers and how best to serve them, a DMP — or data management platform — is typically the right place to start. Smart marketers use their DMPs as a “central nervous system of customer knowledge,” a point made in a recent Forrester Wave report:

“Customer knowledge is built on customer data. Whether you're a marketer endowed with first-party data, in need of access to it, or looking to third-party data to increase the scale of your campaigns, you should be working with a data management platform that will help make your advertising more targeted and more relevant.”

Most DMPs, however, are simply repositories of digital media data, perhaps overlaid across a device graph. What this means is that they suffer from a glaring blind spot when it comes to intelligence about actual people.

This is a big impediment for marketers who aspire to know, serve and measure real people's real behaviors and needs. To truly live up to modern marketer's aspirations, DMPs need to go one step further: they need to be built not just on cookies or IDs or devices, but also on identity. DMPs without identity at their core make it a lot more difficult to execute on true, customer-centric marketing.

Why an Identity DMP is the Only Real Solution to Customer Intelligence
In marketing terms, identity refers to real data about actual people found across online and offline sources that have been anonymized for privacy. An identity DMP does something not all DMPs do: it resolves fractional profiles, which means it knows, for example, that it's the same person using that particular work and home computer, who browses on Firefox and Chrome, has multiple phone numbers, and is residing at a given address — and maps it to a single, persistent and anonymous ID.

This single ID is continuously corroborated, maintaining a consistent view of their identity across both the offline and online worlds, even as many of those fractional identifiers may shift over time. Most platform vendors do not have access to this breadth of customer data, nor are they able to make it persistent.

Watch out for vendors that say they “do identity,” but only collect signals from online sources or just leverage commodity email/cookie pairings. These are only bits of a person's identity (and often fraudulent/incorrect) and cannot be made whole or persistent.

The optimal DMP is able to look at every customer signal to resolve — or validate — identity and build an accurate, unduplicated set of customer records from which a comprehensive, 360-degree view of the customer can be built.

The identity DMP can then be used to perform advanced audience segmentation. This happens by enriching audience segments with the kind of behavioral, psychographic, intent-based insights necessary to achieve personalized reach and scale. This only works if your DMP has true identity at the core. If the identity component of the audience is incorrect, appending other attributes for insights will be incorrect as well.

How to Determine If a DMP Is Truly Built on Identity
When evaluating your marketing platform, no matter what it's called, these questions can help break through the jargon to understand whether you're working with the right platform for your needs. Many providers say they use identity, but the devil is in the details:

• How comprehensive are the data sources? Online and offline or digital only? If there are only cookie linkages, how extensive are they and what does the platform enable you to do with them? These details make a difference both to the fidelity of the identity and might also limit what a marketer can do with the data.

• Does the DMP do quality scoring? Most deterministic email/cookie linkages are sourced and resold by third-party vendors. This resale market is rife with fraud, so you'll want to know whether a vendor does quality scoring to distinguish the real from the fraudulent linkages and what percentage of linkages get thrown out as a result. For example, at Neustar, we have determined that almost half of deterministic linkages from third-party providers are fake and should be discarded.

• If there is a persistent ID, is it enriched with data that adds meaning to your segmentation? Trusted, persistent identity is key, but without rich behavioral and psychographic data layered in, the DMP isn't helping you create the kind of detailed and personalized segmentation you're likely to want.

• How many hops or handoffs does your data make throughout the process? Remember, the more hoops you make your data jump through, the more you risk losing data fidelity that impacts your reach and scale (not to mention match rates). Look for a DMP that offers end-to-end identity using integrated onboarding to ensure you get the most out of your data.

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