Using a data-driven media strategy to elevate your brand

Using a data-driven media strategy to elevate your brand
By Alicia Houselog
Alicia Houselog
Director, Media
Jun 29, 2022
5 MIN. READ
Every brand has a media plan, but not every plan includes a data strategy. Historically, media and analytics teams are siloed, but as the digital landscape continues to evolve, teams need to work together in sharing knowledge and expertise to reach goals and deliver on customer expectations.

Collaborating early drives long-term results

Your campaign will benefit in many ways by incorporating data into your plan and bringing your analytics and media teams together from the start. The first benefit is that what you want to measure will actually be measured. Many companies assume that there’s an ability to gather data after a campaign’s launch, but you need to make sure the right systems are in place to measure KPIs and the impact of a campaign before it begins. While some things are always measured, unique KPIs that can shine a light on your campaign’s success require advance planning.

A strong analytics prowess includes talking to first-party audiences on a one-to-one basis, tailoring messaging and prompting users to engage with the brand. For this reason, the second benefit of having an analytics person at the table from the beginning is that a strategy can be built incorporating such powerful assets. This will move your brand beyond simply driving people towards a single action to build loyalty and a long-term relationship.

Personalizing media without crossing the line

If a brand is making people uncomfortable with its media placements and targeting, the result is poor brand sentiment—which of course negatively impacts lasting loyalty and participation. Creating personalized experiences should be a multifaceted approach with communication frequency caps to ensure customers are not annoyed. Instead, focus on delivering a highly positive value exchange beyond the baseline product or service that motivates people to trade their information in return.

Think about when you take a quiz in exchange for more personalized product recommendations. It not only helps you select a product—or allows the brand to create a product that's just for you—but it also creates zero-party data points in a customer relationship management (CRM) platform to be referenced for future, similar users. Even though the company gains value from it, the interaction is still about the customer’s experience—as long as someone feels like the information they’re giving will result in a better experience and that their collected data will be used later. In this case, the data is seen as transparent rather than encroaching. It gives people the power to choose to opt-out—and while that can make some marketers nervous, people tend to be more lenient about the use of their data when a brand is honest about it.

Engagement requires awareness

Once you’ve decided to bring data into your media plan, how should you start? Keeping brand safety in mind when buying media placements is an important first step to increasing awareness via media. Brands need to be careful not to show up in ways that could taint their reputation down the road—but they also need to acquire with their CRM in mind. Asking users to fill out numerous form fields is overwhelming, so ask for the minimum information needed to tailor communications and keep things feeling relevant.

Even if you’re only asking for a few data points, think about the key differentiators and what leads them to choose one product or service level over another. From there, build out a long-term strategy to create additional values or glean more information. But without a CRM in place, all that data is wasted, which is frustrating for both the marketing and media teams as well as the customers who gave up their data without getting the experiences they expect in return.

Moving forward, much of digital media will center around first-party data strategies. Yet, not enough brands are thinking about the cookie-less future. Instead of planning ahead and getting into first- and zero-party data, many are overly reliant on website retargeting for personalization and data gathering. We’ve heard about the death of the third-party cookie for a long time, and its erasure is perpetually delayed. However, brands that don’t plan now for this inevitability will be left behind. Preemptively aggregating data and utilizing the proper technology with the future in mind keeps you from being forced to catch up at a later date.

But building out the future isn’t an all-or-nothing approach. Instead, think of it in waves: implement a CRM first, then acquire basic information to build a foundation of audience knowledge, and release what value you can based on that data before beginning a new wave of gathering data to create greater, more detailed personalization. Loyalty and participation aren’t created in a single transaction, but the long-term benefits will be larger because they’re built on people who know you and feel good about your brand.

Introduce data together

Due to budget constraints in recent years, many companies have simply invested in their tried-and-true strategies. But in this time of change in digital media, it’s all the more important to return to innovation. That doesn’t mean just throwing money at a paid social post to see what happens—it’s designing testing strategies in a statistically significant way. This will validate ideas around channel usage, messaging, timing, and more, especially as we prepare to drive engagement without the use of cookies.

When so much has shifted, establishing the right strategy can be a tricky thing. Finding a partner who can build an à la carte plan for your specific needs, with the ability to deliver everything end-to-end, can be a game changer for incorporating data into your media strategy and bringing your analytics and media teams together. A partner with the capabilities to build out the overarching strategic road map, conduct a MarTech audit, provide technology recommendations to power personalized communications, and execute on CRM programs and loyalty will take the weight off smaller in-house teams and provide full-spectrum guidance for brands who prefer to do things internally. Trying new things has never been more painless.

ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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Meet the author
  1. Alicia Houselog, Director, Media

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