Data has long empowered connections between consumers and the brands trying to reach them. Of course, the key is creatively acting on the insights from consumer interests and intent data. But the value of data — both personally for consumers and commercially for brands — puts the onus on brands to secure and responsibly use consumer data.
For any brands not already on board with fulfilling this responsibility, recent moves within Big Tech are forcing the issue. Apple’s iOS 14 update released last fall allows consumers to control how their location and Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) are tracked; apps must also get user consent before tracking IDFA across websites and other apps. And Google Chrome will no longer support third-party cookies.
The shift is being felt on a legislative level, too. Last November, California voters approved the California Privacy Rights Act, which fortifies the consumer privacy protections already established in the California Consumer Privacy Act. The new law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023, introduces the concept of “sensitive personal information” and adds consumer rights concerning “do not share” language.
Of course, these changes have direct implications for how digital advertising gets done. Due to increased consumer control over their data, brands likely will be significantly restricted in their ability to do 1-to-1 targeting.
However, the question is not whether privacy concerns and regulations should exist; that’s a foregone conclusion. The best brands accept these new standards — or even shape the standards to be closer to what consumers want — and market within the new privacy-respecting parameters.
At this point, the lingering question is how brands can best operate within a more privacy-aware world. After all, the need for targeted marketing based on demographics, interests, location, or other consumer information remains vital for effective and efficient marketing.
Cultivate an Interested Audience
Both the shifts in legislation and the more user-friendly data-gathering practices of brands point in the same direction: Consumers should — and now do — have greater control over what happens to their personal information.
But control of one’s information does not necessarily equate to never wanting to see any advertising under any circumstances. Consumers still appreciate being introduced to new products, experiences, and brands. They would just prefer to be willing participants in the process.
That happens best when brands act with consumers’ interests in mind.
Suppose you force everyone at a dinner party to listen to a story you think they need to hear. It would likely be met with resistance — and you shouldn’t expect to be invited back. On the other hand, you could perhaps assume that those who engage with you in some light banter might be open to hearing the tale. It follows that brand-consumer interactions must take cues from how, when, and whether consumers engage. With apologies to “Field of Dreams,” if they want it, they will come. Otherwise, brands need to read the room and act accordingly.
It also happens best when brands are interesting. Certainly, that means having a sense of what your audience cares about and speaking to that in a compelling way. That is why creativity and relevance matters, regardless of whether you’re taking an entertaining or informational approach.
Best-in-breed technologies play a crucial role in making this a reality.
For example, the Valassis Consumer Graph™ aggregates observed behaviors such as in-store visits, purchases, and coupon redemptions to create segments of qualified consumers that are likely to be in the market for certain products or categories.
These insights are like being invited to a party. Once brands are at that party, they need to create, cultivate, and curate contacts in a privacy-compliant manner. But it all starts with connecting with consumers who have a real interest in the subject matter and then respectfully engaging with them in a relevant manner.
Develop Meaningful, Long-term Relationships
According to Valassis research, 90% of consumers favored brands that sent them timely and relevant information during the pandemic. The desire for privacy shouldn’t be interpreted as a request for silence from brands; those interactions should instead focus on the terms “timely” and “relevant.”
Consumers are concerned about brands using personal information in unhelpful ways. Some of that is mitigated by focusing on engaged and relevant consumer segments, but better brands use those initial engagements to cultivate long-term relationships.
It is within the context of an ongoing and mutually beneficial relationship that marketing has the opportunity to go from interruption to relevant advice and help. Just like your personal relationships, feedback and responses give you information about the other party — campaigns and marketing engagement are best when they aren’t a dead end.
Once again, advertising technology can play a pivotal role in turning previously “unknown” audiences into a curated collection of buyers you can come to know.
Valassis’ Illumis™ platform does this, bringing together media execution and consumer intelligence to automatically see, analyze, and respond to consumer engagement. The results that Illumis users have seen include positive upticks in multiple marketing areas, such as an almost 4-to-1 bump in incremental ad spend return. Ultimately, it pays to pay attention to and deliver on what consumers want.
The value of marketing data and the demand for consumer privacy will continue to be a dual challenge that brands will have to contend with for the foreseeable future. The good news is that marketing technology does indeed exist. The brands that succeed amid these challenges will be those that expertly leverage this technology in pursuit of their awareness, engagement, and conversion goals.
Want to dig in a little deeper on how to do effective marketing in a privacy-sensitive world? Valassis’ vice president of product management offers four ways to balance these seemingly competing goals in “New Consumer Privacy: 4 Ways to Maintain Digital Ad Performance.”
Matthew Tilley is a senior director of marketing for Valassis and leads content marketing for the company. He has more than 20 years of experience in digital advertising and consumer promotions to develop, communicate, and distribute ideas to make modern marketers more effective.