• Consumer privacy concerns demand that brands treat them as people, not merely data points.

• Relevant targeting and content may be the best tool marketers have in their efforts to maintain and respect consumer privacy.

• Tactical diversity and message creativity go a long way in being relevant and engaging.

Privacy and the management of user data have become primary considerations among advertisers, consumers and legislators. Brands not only must secure, but they must also responsibly use, consumer data — completely changing how the business of advertising will be done going forward.

The challenge now is how advertisers can best operate in this new world.

As consumers take more control of their personal information, advertisers may be restricted in how and when they do one-to-one targeting. But that does not mean that brands can never use data or must only generically advertise. Rather, they have to treat consumers as people, not merely data points. That means brands must use data in ways that respect consumer choices and preferences. And that makes targeted marketing based on demographics, interests, location or other consumer information just as essential as ever for effective marketing campaigns.

Relevance still wins

Consumers have always appreciated relevant advertising — that’s not a new development with the demand for privacy. And recent research only serves to underscore the importance of relevance which found that more than half of consumers have a positive view of brands that send them relevant messages and deals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 90% of consumers surveyed indicated an appreciation for brands that delivered relevant and timely information.

So, relevance may be the best tool marketers have in their efforts to maintain and respect consumer privacy. But what does it look like to engage consumers in a privacy-safe but relevant way? Here are four practical recommendations:

1. Find partners with both brains and brawn

The formula for relevance is data-driven insights plus the tactical prowess to execute marketing across the channels that matter. Just getting the data right — ensuring opt-in, using advanced modeling, and the like — is only half the battle. Even if you have a willing and interested audience, they may not want to learn about your brand in their social media feed. But they may be very open to a deal in their mailbox.

Being relevant means being able to identify and understand your audience in a privacy-sensitive way. But it also means engaging those right people in the ways — email, display ads, mobile devices, connected TV, direct mail, etc. — that resonate with them without losing the power of your data.

That puts getting the right martech partners at the top of your list. You need companies on your side who can take on the twin challenges of intelligence (the brains) and execution (the brawn) to win the hearts and minds of everyone in your audience.

This lets advertisers deliver multichannel advertising to a richer ideal prospect pool to grow their businesses.

As the marketplace evolves, the best partners will continue to adapt and innovate their technology to help brands reach and engage today’s omnichannel consumer to drive commerce.

2. Don’t put all your marketing into one technique

With consumers taking more control of their data, the industry is likely poised to see a decrease in precise location data and fewer device signals. Smaller audiences will, in turn, limit the ability to reach consumers at scale to drive performance. Similarly, the digital identifiers used to deliver individualized ad experiences may be limited. For example, mobile device IDs and cookies may soon be off the table, requiring advertisers to look to other means of understanding consumer behavior.

Changes like these are a constant in ad tech. Instead of fearing these changes, embrace them!

That will require partnering with companies that can easily adapt to these changes and continue to drive performance. The right partners should put you out front in the data and privacy revolution—and on the side of the consumer.

3. Build on what you know to get the scale you need

In conversations about consumer privacy, so much emphasis tends to be put on what you don’t or can’t know. But you likely know a lot about your best and most loyal buyers — and much of it was given to you — with permission — by your customers.

You certainly want to meet and engage more buyers. But that can be a matter of leveraging your owned and opted-in first-party data to build predictive look-alike models. One of the best ways to do this is targeting at the neighborhood level. This natural grouping of consumers enables you to make reasonable and intelligent assumptions and can be your most sustainable method of marketing. And with an integrated marketing platform that gets smarter each time you reach out to your audience, you can identify people who have interests similar to your top prospects … and you can reach them at scale.

But this will require good partners who can analyze diverse data sources and use proven advanced modeling techniques to go beyond one-to-one targeting to reach people who fit your ideal profile.

4. Never underestimate the power of creativity

Being an interesting brand simply means having a sense of what your audience cares about and speaking to it in a compelling way. That makes creativity an important element of relevance, regardless of whether you’re taking an entertaining or informational approach. Best-in-breed technologies play a crucial role in making this a reality.

This is ultimately about respecting consumers as people, not just data points. As people, we’re more complex than any one dimension of interest or past purchase may suggest. For example, the Valassis Consumer Graph combines compelling insights about in-store visits, past purchases, coupon redemptions and a host of other data points to help you identify larger segments — locally, regionally or across the country — of qualified consumers likely to be in the market for certain products or categories.

Marketing is a lot like being invited to a party. Once your brand is at that party, you need to create, cultivate and curate the contacts you make in an engaging, relevant, and — yes — privacy-compliant manner. But it all starts with making authentic connections with people who have a real interest in what you’re talking about and then respectfully engaging with them as people first.

Kelly Kimura is senior director of product management at Vericast where he oversees the award-winning Consumer Graph. In addition to product management, his background includes product and business planning with large companies, including Microsoft and Ford Motor Company, as well as several software startups. Kelly has held multiple leadership roles and led sales team restructuring through two acquisitions including as chief of staff to the business unit general manager at Oracle where he oversaw all operations and planning across worldwide sales, marketing, engineering, services, and business unit reporting.