Why Identity Requires a Team Approach


The fastest way from point A to point B is a straight line. Whether in a race to the finish or in a race to launch a new marketing campaign, any deviation from your line can cause the few milliseconds of drag that means the difference between winning and, well, not winning.

Like many long-distance sports, succeeding in business is all about incrementality — building a market lead by finding every opportunity to put more distance between you and your competitors. As expectations from consumers rise, along with increasing pressure from new and shiny disruptors, brands are struggling to find marketing opportunities to get a step ahead.

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Customer Centricity is the Key

In the data-driven age, marketing leaders have recognized that a focus on customer centricity is essential to drive growth for their brands. We can all think of brands that are disappearing because they didn’t put the customer first fast enough.

With more data and devices weaved into our lives, and so many new signals that are available and potentially valuable for marketing and advertising, marketers can no longer wait. By identifying and better understanding consumers — the people behind cookies and devices — you can use people-based marketing technology tactics to truly improve their experiences with your brand to increase your competitive advantage.

To activate data for people-based marketing, marketers are recognizing the need to access an identity graph. An ID graph is a database that holds identifiers correlated with individual consumers and households. This graph includes known identifiers, such as client customer IDs and postal or email addresses, that can be matched in a privacy-conscious way with anonymous identifiers such as cookies and device IDs.

In a recent report, the Winterberry Group says, “Marketers (are) leveraging identity in support of diverse use cases, including personalization for the web, mobile, TV, and other traditional media channels, driving, in kind, the convergence of the ‘identity solutions’ landscape with the rest of the marketing data and technology ecosystems.”

Using this graph, marketers can create a more complete representation of a person, unify a broader set of data and interactions with that consumer, and use that understanding to seamlessly interact with people along the entire customer journey.

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Accuracy and Scale are Fundamental

Understanding the critical need for identity to develop a competitive marketing edge, some brands or platforms that have existing technical capabilities and access to a trove of customer data are considering building their own identity graphs. With so much already invested and at their disposal — both in terms of in-house systems, technical expertise, and data — an internal graph could provide more control and transparency than an external graph. However, this over-simplification gravely underestimates the limitations of this approach for two reasons.

First, identity is not something you can get halfway right. When you put customers at the center of everything you do, the value of identity comes in being able to accurately recognize people wherever and whenever you encounter them. Doing that incorrectly for even a handful of customers could damage your brand. Unfortunately, people are not static bits of data — they move, get married, share devices and accounts, clear cookies, and have different email addresses. These dynamic changes make it difficult to maintain a picture of identity that is accurate over the long term.

Second, any single brand or platform would be challenged to develop sufficient scale. Consumers have relationships with a multitude of brands, platforms, and publishers, but each one only has access to a part of the consumer journey. A truly powerful graph requires partnerships with an ecosystem of other data providers that can extend reach and provide the technical connectors and up-to-date mappings to keep all that data current and accurate. It provides companies with multiple sources of customer data that, in turn, complements and validates their own single streams of data.

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Join Forces to Enable Responsible Innovation

The bottom line is, building and maintaining your own identity graph comes with a massive learning curve that requires a major investment of capital and time and that can constrict precious engineering resources. Tying yourself to a product roadmap to achieve the level of quality you need in any reasonable amount of time would potentially be a huge risk and self-inflicted hassle. To succeed in today’s competitive environment, it’s critical to use limited resources responsibly and remain laser-focused on building your core competencies, remaining agile, and creating innovative products and services for your customers.

Instead, keep it simple and leverage someone else’s core competency. Invest in building your own capabilities, applications, and identity rules on top of an existing identity graph. A licensed approach can achieve both accuracy and scale, providing the confidence needed to pursue a customer-centric strategy. It can allow you to communicate completely and accurately with partners for advertising, and translate identity as you see it so that all your channel and media partners (publisher, search, TV, etc.) can recognize the data more easily.

It also offers the extra benefit of mitigated risk. New legislation continues to be introduced worldwide, creating an increasingly complicated regulatory marketing environment. An identity solution provider with expertise in data governance can further support brand safety and accelerate development. After all, when brands are constantly seeking faster speed to value, you need all the help you can get to hurdle the barriers that can stop you from finishing — much less winning — the race.

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