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Data matters more than ever — but it’s all about how you activate it

A trophy showing data zeros and ones is painted gold by a man on a ladder.

Illustration by Dave Cole / Getty / The Current

Imagine spending so much time and energy on a massive campaign that ends up not being seen by your core audience — the people most likely to search for and purchase your product. The reality is that in today’s world, with audiences’ attention spans spread across so many channels, it’s never been easier for a brand’s messaging to fall to the wayside, swallowed by the latest scandal on social media or skipped by ad blockers.

That’s why consumer data has never been more important to grow your business. By identifying and reaching your target audience, more meaningful one-to-one connections can take place, boosting brand affinity and revenue.

The stakes have also never been higher to get data strategy right. The marketing landscape continues to evolve with regulatory, policy, and consumer behavioral changes. With all this in mind, let’s explore some ways to effectively activate your data so consumers can discover your brand where they’re spending their time.

Ensuring data hygiene

Before any data can be actionable, companies need to ensure that their data is clean and prepped for onboarding, matching and activation. By applying good hygiene practices to a company’s data, marketers can ensure their assets have the greatest chance of being addressable once onboarded and ensure that they’re maximizing the efficacy of any data-driven strategies, including marketing.

The process of cleaning a company’s data should also be one of unification — that is, bringing together all the disparate sources of customer data within an organization across CRMs, enterprise resource planning, customer data platforms, and other platforms — to establish a single source of consumer truth within a company’s walls. This is particularly important because successful data onboarding should be viewed as more than just a process contributing toward marketing activations. Onboarding and the resulting insights can power more effective initiatives across the entirety of the enterprise, from customer service and product development all the way up to C-suite decision-making. Beginning the onboarding journey with clean data ensures every aspect of the business will be powered by the strongest insights possible.

Start from quality

We know that not all data is created equal, and marketers inherently understand the importance of quality when it comes to the data that powers their efforts and guides their organizations. However, the rise of “big data” over the last decade has contributed to a mindset among many that more is better. In reality, “more is more” and scale of data is nothing if the data is not high quality. That’s why, when looking to clean and then onboard data, marketers need to ensure that they’re maintaining fidelity. To do this, they typically look to partners that are known for their data quality, breadth, and depth.

Now, of course, it’s easy to claim that data is “high quality” and “accurate,” so when considering partners that will ultimately help unite and supplement a company’s own first-party insights, marketers should evaluate not only the company’s claims, but consider validations by unbiased third parties. These third parties can help build confidence and trust in data decisions when forging data partnerships. Again, not all data is created equal and in order to effectively and efficiently reach a target audience, marketers need to place an emphasis on proven, quality data assets.

Rethink and reprioritize addressability

From quality data hygiene and matching to onboarding, the goal is to make audiences addressable — or, said more simply, to enable the marketer to confidently reach that target audience across channels. With the ever-changing landscape of media consumption, addressability means so much more than connecting a company’s offline data into online audiences for targeting. The concept of addressability, and the identity that underpins it, is more robust and also more scrutinized than ever before. It’s about understanding the relationship between individuals and their devices, and how those individuals and devices are part of a broader household, or even how these individuals' preferences and behaviors differ.

This consumer complexity is prevalent regardless of the channel and addressability can also mean different things. Marketers shouldn’t have to sacrifice their ability to reach their target audiences, which means the process of bringing a marketer’s data into an addressable format needs to accommodate a variety of use cases designed to support various channels and environments, both online and offline.

Marketing will continue to evolve, and tactics around targeting and activation will continue to evolve along with it. Regardless of what the future brings, data and consumer identity will remain a critical tool in the marketer toolbox and partners need to bring solutions that help marketers navigate this evolution. One thing is for certain, the foundations of quality and accuracy will remain paramount for any data-driven marketing strategy.

This op-ed represents the views and opinions of the author and not of The Current, a division of The Trade Desk, or The Trade Desk. The appearance of the op-ed on The Current does not constitute an endorsement by The Current or The Trade Desk.