Maybe it’s a person out of context — someone you know from the gym or your career, but in this context you’re drawing a blank. Maybe you’re typically really good with faces but bad with names, like I am?
How many times have you engaged that person in conversation, maintaining the charade that you can remember whom you were speaking with and chatting about “how things are going,” but then walked away still not knowing who it was?
You leave that conversation with the feeling she knew you couldn't remember her name, and you feel horrible about it.
Two hours later, you remember and you email that person to make it sound like you knew whom you were speaking with all along. Or worse yet, you see her again a few days later on the train home and you still can't recall her name or how you know her, but now you’re engaged in a repeat conversation with the same uneasy feeling?
You’re certain she knows you can’t remember her, but both of you are too polite to say anything. That’s no way to build a relationship. In this situation, a very common one, both sides are left feeling badly.
The ability to identify and recognize a person, attaching a face to a name and a background to that person, is an inherently important skill. And a successful brand has to employ these same skills, capable of identifying an audience, recognizing whether these are current customers, prospective customers, or someone who may never be a customer, and personalizing their engagement with the brand. Being able to do so is crucial, especially as we head toward a true omnichannel ecosystem.
Today consumers use an average of four devices. On each device they have any number of apps and channels they access regularly. Identifying and recognizing someone across all these channels is no small task. Some companies use things like device graphs or ID graphs; others, cross-device, or omni-device tools.
Regardless what “proprietary” tool they are using, marketers need to partner with companies to enable this to happen. No single channel can provide this for you and no marketer can stitch it together themselves. We operate in a world of open Web and walled gardens. No single walled garden can provide you a solution because consumers don't limit themselves to only accessing content from within that walled garden. The most ardent Google supporter still accesses Facebook or some other closed platform, and vice versa. It's human nature to float around and access content from wherever you want.
The promise of omnichannel and the delivery of identity is even more important as television platforms become connected to a digital ecosystem. TV is still the most important vehicle for advertisers, and the ability to deliver personalized commercial messages here will deliver triple the expectations that marketers have for the Web. The commercial format, while skipped by a portion of the audience, is still the single most effective and important ad vehicle we have to work with in the U.S. Personalization and measurement in TV will deliver a fully comprehensive strategy for marketers -- and I for one cannot wait to see this take shape.
Identity -- at least anonymous, probabilistic, yet highly accurate identity -- is the key, and you need to be working with companies that can help you achieve this goal. Do your homework and ask about things like data quality, accuracy and cross-channel/cross-device match rates. Look to understand the numbers behind the platforms and realize that we're at an early stage, so the numbers may surprise you when you dive into them.
If you don’t take the step towards identity, you’ll be relegated to a life of walking down the street, bumping into people who know you and whom you simply can’t recognize. That’s a lonely way to navigate the world -- and it’s a lonely way for a brand to navigate digital media channels.