MarTech Interview with Joanna Catalano, Chief Growth Officer at Piano

Joanna Catalano, Chief Growth Officer at Piano shares her thoughts on the cookie-less future that marketers have to embrace in this quick chat with MarTech Series:


Welcome to this martech chat Joanna, tell us more about Piano and your role there?

Thank you so much for having me! I am chief growth officer at Piano, where we help organizations understand and influence customer behavior by putting the power of insights and logic into the hands of their employees. The Piano Analytics and Activation Platform measures thousands of customer data points and acquires first-party data to more deeply engage users and then serve relevant content and experiences based on their unique behaviors and profiles. Using our powerful end-to-end platform, Piano’s clients have achieved more scale, engagement and revenue by expanding the lifecycle and value of every digital interaction.

I know that growth can mean different things at different organizations; at Piano, my team and I focused on the strategic future of the business. We look at where we are today as a company, where the market is headed and prioritize medium- and long-term revenue potential, like entering new categories or new product development. We then evaluate these opportunities for organic and inorganic growth based on a number of factors, and map out a strategic plan for how we could coordinate multiple resource streams to get there. There’s a substantial opportunity in our industry to build partnerships, so that’s been a focal point for us.

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How do you feel the deprecation of third-party cookies will affect near-term marketing changes? 

The deprecation of third-party cookies is a real paradigm shift happening in the industry. And it’s a welcome shift  — consumers are increasingly suspicious of being tracked around the internet and want more control over their data. Regulators are intervening to protect consumer privacy. As third-party cookies are phased out, the digital marketing and advertising ecosystems are being redesigned around privacy, consent and user control. Encouraging users to engage and volunteer personal data will be essential for marketers moving forward.

Adopting a first-party data strategy can be additive to investment in the current ecosystem — marketers can still use third-party data, cookie-matching and other technologies, as long as they still exist. But in the meantime, known users with zero- and first-party data are even more valuable.

How are you seeing marketers prepare?

While important, unanswered questions about how the ecosystem will evolve remain, now is the time for both marketers and publishers to prepare their businesses to grow advertising and subscription revenue on zero- and first-party data. Fundamentally, marketers and publishers  must determine how their companies will collect, unify and deploy identity to develop more precise segments, activate them and build loyalty.

In what ways do you feel marketers can improve assessment and collection of their own data to create better personalized experiences?

As consumer privacy and consent take centerstage, marketers must be able to to collect and leverage their first-party data and think more strategically about how to use it to create an engaged value exchange with their audiences. A strong identity solution will be key to optimizing this process, so marketers should evaluate their identity solution providers on an ongoing basis to ensure they’re able to support onsite personalization and targeting, content monetization and advertising.

We’ve partnered with a few key players in this space, and I would recommend marketers take a look at:

  • Is the solution in compliance with consumer privacy laws?
  • Does the vendor support value exchange over authenticated vs. unauthenticated, with the knowledge that why authenticated is the goal, it will take time to get there?
  • Does the solution use enriched IDs to support behavioral targeting?
  • How does the vendor integrate with your other tech? Does it provide a single view of your audience and its behavior?
  • Does the solution measure performance to deliver the results you want?

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Despite the rich availability of martech tools today, what are some top challenges you still see advertisers and marketers face?

Even with a variety of martech tools designed to understand user behavior, I’ve seen that the real challenge for many marketers and advertisers is remaining nimble enough to respond to those insights and make data-driven decisions in a timely manner. Collecting data is one thing, and most marketers are adept at this initial step. In fact today, many have almost too much. However, when it comes to using data strategically — for example, mapping out clearly how the data collected, organized and activated is relevant x-functionally, and aligning actions to ultimate business goals — there are still gaps. The digital world is 24/7, so marketers with access to impactful insights and the ability to act on them and respond to user behavior will ultimately perform better.

There is also the very fact that there are so many tools in the market today — disparate tools that keep data siloed don’t help anyone. Rather, having one central technology that can do a lot of the things you need to do as a marketer or publisher to monetize and engage with your audiences is an ideal future state.

A few predictions that you have for the future of martech as a whole?

To my point above, the current state of martech is extremely fragmented, creating a complex infrastructure with a number of solutions that marketers rely on simultaneously. Integration (or lack thereof) between each vendor in a tech stack further complicates things. At Piano, we see a real value in and appetite for an end-to-end platform that solves several use cases at once and works seamlessly. This is what we’ve been working toward actualizing and how we feel we can best be of service to our customers. Marketers want to simplify the tech stack and reduce overall cost of ownership.

From a consumer-facing perspective, the deprecation of third-party cookies is also driving marketers to create a new level of loyalty among their audiences. Marketers will need to create a positive impression among users of their brands’ communications and offerings, and develop a true understanding of what their consumers care about and want in order to receive messages and offer information. The companies that are most successful in building deep relationships with users and large cohorts of known customers will be most successful, regardless of technology.

A few takeaways for marketing leaders with tips to improve targeting practices?

  • Act quickly & test your options: The deprecation of third-party cookies isn’t just coming — it’s here. If you don’t have a strategy to collect zero- and first-party data, act quickly to put a plan in place and test the options available on the market and the consumer response to them. This evaluation is key to determining how best to support your marketing efforts and business goals.
  • Partner up: Even if your team is experienced in harnessing user data, partners with specific expertise and capabilities in the identity space will be invaluable as you navigate the latest shift in the industry.
  • Communicate value: Consumer trust and loyalty  relies largely on the value proposition of the content you’re providing. But it’s not enough to simply create value. Marketing leaders must proactively communicate about the value and benefits of desired user actions, leveraging digital offerings and content as a means of creating this.

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Piano enables the world’s largest media companies and brands to accelerate their subscription, advertising, analytics and personalization initiatives in order to engage, monetize and measure content experiences. Piano works with leading global organizations such as CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, NBC Sports, Insider Inc, The Economist, Gannett, Le Parisien, TechCrunch, Thomson Reuters, Penske Media, MIT Technology Review, The Telegraph and more than 300 other clients. In 2020, Piano was recognized as one of the fastest-growing, innovative technology companies in the world by Red Herring, World Economic Forum and Deloitte and received Product of the Year from the Business Intelligence Group.

Joanna Catalano is chief growth officer at Piano, a global analytics, subscription and personalization platform. The Piano Analytics and Activation Platform measures thousands of customer data points and acquires first-party data to more deeply engage users and then serve relevant content and experiences based on their unique behaviors and profiles. Piano has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing, innovative technology companies in the world by Red Herring, World Economic Forum and Deloitte, received Product of the Year from the Business Intelligence Group and won Data Management Solution of the Year from Data Breakthrough.

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