By Jenni Baker, journalist

February 8, 2021 | 6 min read

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2020 has accelerated trends and upended business models. Despite this, savvy marketers haven’t taken their eyes off the prize of discovering the full customer journey. However, with an alphabet soup of privacy changes and regulations, along with the pressures that the pandemic has put on businesses, delivering an ideal customer experience is proving trickier by the day. But, by giving data an equal seat at the marketing table and making first-party data a priority for the long haul, brands have an opportunity to make smart, informed decisions and connect with customers on a deeper human level.

The big rethink: How to win amid a shifting marketing landscape to ensure a happy new normal

The big rethink: How to win amid a shifting marketing landscape to ensure a happy new normal

This was the focus of a recent digital roundtable, hosted by The Drum and LiveRamp, bringing together leading marketers to explore the opportunities in connecting data sources to create effective strategies for making customers feel valued at all stages of the journey.

With IDC predicting that worldwide spending on digital transformation will reach $2.3 trillion in 2023, the past year has “really triggered the need to hurry up and get there”, according to Shavonne Clark, senior manager, marketing at Home Depot Rental. “It’s playing out to be a key brand differentiator and is directly connected to the notion of Big Data; the way in which we acquire it, find it, put it in one place, clean it and make sense of it.”

But data is facing new regulations for third-party data and cookies. As a result, Vihan Sharma, managing director, Europe at LiveRamp believes advertisers will start to understand their own interactions with customers more and value their first party data: “The availability and accuracy of third party data is going to be more complicated and therefore we’ll see more privacy-centric collaboration and interconnectivity between brands in the product ecosystem. The Winterberry Group recently outlined ways to start down the path to data collaboration.”

Giving data an equal seat at the table

Data, which has historically lived in a separate space to media and creativity, has now gained a well deserved seat at the table as a critical tool for unlocking new ways of engaging consumers.

“The groundswell shift has been that data now has an equal seat at the table; creative and media used to drive all conversations and data was this thing about reporting and dashboards,” said Michael Lampert, global marketing data lead, Mondelez. “But in order to have true personalization and the responsibility that comes from gathering data, creative+media+data is the final checkbox that needed to happen.”

The year of emotional connection

2020 forced advertisers to put more emphasis on the human element, but with that comes accountability and a level of respect for consumers, according to Sorin Patilinet, director, communications lab at Mars, giving advertisers an opportunity to “repair the past”.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth in ad blocking and ad skipping, and that was a reflection of actions we, as an industry, did,” said Patilinet. “Ads became annoying as they started coming from everywhere and consumers responded by blocking us. We created KPIs and metrics to try to go away from the problem but this will be the year we face the reality, lean into the consumer and be more vulnerable as marketers; we’re not the centre of the world.”

Nicole Portwood, VP marketing, Mountain Dew (PepsiCo), agreed that 2021 will be “the year of emotional connection” and believes that the value of data lies in how to leverage it to create better customer experiences.

“It ultimately brings most value to brands and enterprises by fully understanding how we use that as a lens and peer through the looking glass to better understand the people we serve - and that, I truly believe, is the ultimate goal of data gathering in the first place,” she said.

Coherence across the customer experience

“Connecting with a consumer in today’s world is extremely important and we need to understand the relevant channels and how we connect them at the right moment,” said LiveRamp’s Sharma. “However, across devices there is no single identity which allows you to connect all the different points. Without this notion of identity resolution, it will be difficult to ensure coherence across the customer experience - and identity will play an important role in how brands communicate relevant messages at the relevant time for their consumers.”

Moving forward, Mondelez’s Lampert said: “There has to be a consistent mindset around value exchange and relevancy. We’re asking a lot of consumers, they’re telling us a lot and we [need to] own that responsibility. If you don’t link relevance, journey and experience through technology and strategy, then you have done nothing.”

“The value of data is practically limitless; it really is all about how we use it and this year we [will] get smarter, more deliberate and emotionally connected to the meaning and potential of that data; building connectivity between what the data tells us and how we use it to get closer to the people who use their hard earned money to buy our products,” concluded Portwood.

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