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How brands can turn data deprecation from pain to gain?

Data as we know it is changing, but brands with robust technology and internal processes in place can still flourish

Data as we know it is in a state of deprecation and renewal — leaving many marketers to wonder what they should do to maintain data access and quality across all media. For many that lack a roadmap, the future consequences feel dire, and yet also intangible. Much of the current discussion around data focuses on two discrete areas: third-party cookies, and people-based identification and targeting, but all types of campaign planning, activation and measurement (think conversion tracking or frequency capping) stand to be affected by the third-party cookie’s demise.

For many brands, doing more with less might seem like the logical response. But the catchall rally cry of “leverage your first-party data” invariably leaves marketers with limited assets out in the cold. The good news is, there is another alternative where any marketer can not only maintain, but gain competitive advantage through a redefined data strategy. All it takes is the creation of new efficiencies around data — both organisational and technology-driven.

Reinvent the (organisation’s) rules

The headlines report that industry mechanics and rescinded access to external data sources are out of anyone’s control, with the exception of Apple and Google. In this context, marketers should instead turn their attention toward internal data sources and processes under their command. Are you doing all you can to advance insight sharing within the organisation across departments? What does a successful cross-functional collaboration and results-sharing process look like for you?

Take this year’s unexpected global Covid-19 pandemic as an example. Brands were forced to rethink their media and creative strategies as customer needs changed overnight. To illustrate this, let’s look at how the pandemic brought marked changes to in-store supermarket shopping habits. Through a variety of consumption signals, we had historically seen peak in-store shopping take place on Sunday and Monday in the latter part of the day, but under Covid-19, this shook out to about midday on Tuesday and Wednesday, as people sought to avoid crowds and found themselves with more flexibility in their work-from-home schedules. Isolating just this shift in timing insight, brands could redefine when, how and where they communicated to customers before they entered the aisle.

Taking a step back, now is the time to understand what signals you received during the pandemic shakeup and how well such transformations actually worked. How quickly were pandemic lockdown learnings shared? Were there internal silos that disconnected data sharing between planning and activation teams? So often we find that siloing business intelligence tools from activation teams leaves analytics leaders with powerful insights but no action to take, and media buying teams with decisions to make, but lacking the data to base them on.

This extends to brands with or without robust first-party data: it’s about access to high-quality, cross-media data sources — the flexibility to zag while others zig — and the ability to adapt and pivot quickly. This much is certainly true: your results will be considerably enhanced by the right organisational setup to feed them. That means putting the technology in place to bring fluidity and flexibility to diverse teams’ use of and access to data.

Data as we know it is changing. But brands with robust technology and internal processes in place can still flourish. For some, as unlikely as it might have sounded even a year ago, the sunsetting of the third-party cookie will mean new opportunities to move faster and drive even stronger results.

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