Identity Is Not A Strategy

There’s a quote that gets thrown around and misattributed all the time that says, “Hope is not a strategy.”  In the digital media and advertising business the word “identity” gets thrown around even more, so to paraphrase this oft-used cliché, I’ll say: Identity is not a strategy.

Many companies in data and analytics are hanging their hats on identity and the promise of connecting people across multiple platforms in an effort to further deliver “people-based marketing,” which might be the buzziest buzzword of 2018.

The core concept is solid, but identity connection is at best one area of tactical requirement to implement a true strategic effort.  A strategy for people-based marketing requires scale in recognizing the people you are trying to identify, accuracy across all the channels where your audience might be, and  integrations to activate that audience.

Scale in recognition of the audience is difficult to achieve.  You as a marketer need to be capable of identifying whether the person you’re engaged with is a prospect, a customer, or not your audience at all — and you need to be able to do so the first time you see them.



Many providers in the space cannot tell you any of this information until the second time they come across that user, because they rely too heavily on your first-party data.  You need third-party data to create a wide enough reach in a recency-driven manner.  

Your provider may say they provide identity solutions across open web and walled gardens — but if you dig deeper you can find parameters about how and when they can utilize that data which influences match rates and scale and you will find they can’t identify the audience until the second, or even third time, they come across them.  You want a partner with global scale across all these important channels and you want it available to you, as a marketer, the first time you engage a user in a digital channel.  

Accuracy comes into discussion here as well.  You want to understand a potential partner’s scale across not only the open web, and not only the walled gardens, but also across mobile and other digital platforms like connected TV.  These last two platforms are arguably more important than any other, and therefore are where you should be starting your conversation.

You also need to ask about the integrations for delivering audiences once you have leveraged identity.  You might be able to recognize a potential customer, but what data can you append to that user and activate across the delivery channels?  How can you turn that understanding of your audience into an actionable insight?  Can you do so on all the platforms that matter? If you can’t activate it, then it’s utterly useless to you.

The final thing to think about is whether the partner you choose understands your business. Too often you come across companies who are selling you their solution and trying to fit your problem into their solution.  You want a partner aligned with your needs.   The people you work with should speak your language, using your terminology rather than using “data speak.”  These are the kinds of companies that broadcast a tech solution rather than a customer-centric benefit or outcome.  

So the next time you read about identity, remember that identity is not a strategy.  It is one tool in the toolbox—  and you need a full toolbox to create the right solution for your marketing needs.

2 comments about "Identity Is Not A Strategy".
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  1. Jessica Paviluk from Throtle, August 9, 2017 at 4:06 p.m.

    Cory - We couldn’t agree more with this article. Identity is not a strategy, but rather an integral part of an organization’s overall data centric DNA when it comes to people-based marketing. Brands should not only look to scale when it comes to identity, but also understand the significance of accuracy. Accuracy is equally important across all the channels where your audience might be, and all platform integrations. If a provider of identity is not willing to provide the data for that identity behind the device or cookie, I’d be wary of the quality and accuracy of that “identity”. Lastly, if you have comfort in the identity, then having access to that persistent individual or household must be part of the solution. A persistent ID is a utility that is essential to measure ROI, effectiveness, and attribution.

  2. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics, August 10, 2017 at 2:53 p.m.

    sounds great in theory. Waiting to see if the granular data is as good as we think. How good are we at identifying buyers of any category or product?  Why to Experian and Axciom data look so different for simple things like identifying HH with kids. 

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