Today’s CMO Must Redefine Marketing And Identity

Managing the Data” is a column about customer and audience data strategy written by longtime AdExchanger contributor Chris O’Hara.

Today’s consumers are highly demanding. They expect curated movie recommendations from Netflix, one-click restaurant reservations from OpenTable, on-demand limousine service from Uber, limitless housing options from Airbnb and the world of commerce available 24/7 from Amazon Prime.

It’s a great time to be a consumer, but perhaps the worst possible time for the CMO of any other company. Just think: Uber doesn’t own cars. It is a technology company built from the ground up to deliver personalized service at scale to consumers. That’s what today’s marketing is all about.

Only a few short years ago, CMOs had a difficult, but simpler, remit: Build the brand and consumers follow. Absolut vodka was about as undifferentiated a product as anything in the market, but great packaging and a clever ad campaign made it a power brand. It thrived because the world still worked on the principles of “How Brands Grow,” Byron Sharp’s 2010 book.

Sharp posited that a marketer needed two things to succeed: availability in the consumer’s mind and availability of the product at the shelf. Brands like P&G’s Tide control lots of mindshare with mass media budgets, and P&G ensures it is widely available at every supermarket so a consumer can easily choose between it and Wisk at the “moment of truth.”

That system is dying rapidly, as mass media channels become fragmented into thousands of websites, apps, streaming media channels and experiences we don’t even understand yet. As a marketer, you can’t “buy eyeballs” today like you used to. This paradigm is largely responsible for the ever-shrinking average CMO tenure, from 44 months last year to 42 months today.

CMOs must be prepared to insert themselves along steps of a consumer journey that moves from channel to channel, while also having the ability to capture each tiny piece of digital exhaust thrown off by consumers’ gadgets and gizmos to inform understanding of how they engage with a brand.

To make it clear, here’s a chart:

Yesterday’s CMO would “buy eyeballs” with big TV and print campaigns and use subscriber information as a proxy for targeted reach. Today’s CMOs want to own cookies and mobile keys so they can have one-to-one conversations. Yesterday’s CMO looked at the performance at the end of a campaign and optimized for the next one based on results from a survey. Today’s CMOs crave access to real-time performance data so they can optimize at run time. Things couldn’t be more different.

In this new norm, what should CMOs do to ensure they stay ahead of the curve? They must change the way they think about consumer identity and how that impacts their work as marketers. And, they’ve got to redefine the way they think about marketing in general.

Identity Beyond IDs

A few months ago, I wrote that “identity is the new basis of competition” in marketing. That’s still true: You can’t build meaningful cross-channel experiences if you can’t tie people to their devices.

To that end, I recently was invited to an internal town hall with marketers from a large beauty company. The CMO announced that the company had just topped 500 million addressable IDs in its data management platform. Her staff started clapping. Why? Because these weren’t known buyers, just cookies and mobile IDs, but they represented the ability for marketers to connect and build experiences for anonymous people who interacted with their website, mobile app or an ad. That has real, tangible value.

But devices don’t buy things, people do. Just because you have a good device graph with billions of cookies, email addresses and mobile keys doesn’t mean you have a good view of the people behind that information. Identity data must be augmented with data from systems of engagement to formulate a true view of the consumer. Every click, download, article read and video view throws off digital exhaust with scraps of information that machines can use to paint a truer picture of a consumer’s identity. When marketers start valuing all data as a financial asset, they begin the process of turning IDs into people.

Those in the industry can be forgiven for thinking the world revolves around display, social, mobile and video advertising. We’ve gotten really good at delivering personalized digital experiences in real time, and we have a Lumascape full of clever technologies that are moving the needle for brands trying to reach connected consumers. CMOs must think outside the Lumascape and connect these important addressable touch points to mass channels, such as TV, radio and print, to deliver personalized experiences at scale.

More Than Marketing

The problem is that our definition of marketing often misses the concept of touch points that can exist separately from marketing. These touch points can include interactions between salespeople and potential customers, what happens when a product is returned, conversations on community sites and forums where customers talk to each other about a brand and also within the ecommerce experience when a consumer is making a purchase.

These are arguably more valuable interactions with consumers than a digital banner ad or email because these are either people that are existing customers or those about to buy. They’re incredibly valuable to a brand and don’t involve the traditional notion of “marketing” whatsoever.

To be successful, CMOs must expand their definition of identity. “Identity” is more than just an ID. It’s what is formed after capturing every possible insight from every interaction. And “marketing” is not just about cross-channel messaging, it’s about creating great consumer experiences with every touch point that happens, including sales, service, commerce and more.

It’s a great time to be a data-driven marketer.

Follow Chris O’Hara (@chrisohara) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. “Just because you have a good device graph with billions of cookies, email addresses and mobile keys doesn’t mean you have a good view of the people behind that information. Identity data must be augmented with data from systems of engagement to formulate a true view of the consumer.”

    Great article. How are you addressing the problem of identity-less data?

    • Great question, Kyle. None of today’s adtech solutions work to collect truly unstructured data–attributes of signals not attached to some kind of ID. That’s because we work in advertising, where the primary use cases involve reaching people and impacting them with a brand experience of some kind. There are tons of systems that use machine learning to look at things like mammograms and traffic patterns as an example and find interesting correlations/patterns in the signals. DMPs work by collecting keys like cookies, mobile IDs, and device IDs and either deterministically or probabilistically map them to a universal ID, and then match them against other IDs in systems of engagement. So identity is the key point. Curious to understand the use case in marketing with this type of data.