Identity management is the practice of adopting a “living record” that persists across CRM, advertising tactics and measurement.  Depending on your starting point, whether you manage a website, mobile app, or media mix model, your definition and utility for identity can be very different. At the Neustar Connect conference in New York, Neustar’s VP and GM of Identity, Krishna Chettayar, asked Scott Hagedorn, CEO of Hearts & Science, to address where brands should start—and how they should proceed—when it comes to identity.

Hagedorn talked about the underlying components of marketing as a “substrate,” an ever-yielding substance that underlies other processes taking place. Processes like marketing campaigns, for example. Hagedorn specifically called out identity as a special substrate that marketers historically get wrong, focusing on one or two dimensions, to the detriment of the full identity picture.

Chettayar began the interview asking the kind of opening questions any identity-focused marketer would ask about:

  • Deterministic or probabilistic?
  • Household or individual? 
  • What about datasets that are valuable, but not at the census level and have to be projected out to additional households?

The answer, according to Hagedorn, is that marketers have to get better at managing a mix of identity, because of where customers consume content, and the data available to measure.

“You are either marketing at mass, or [marketing for] mass precision,” said Hagedorn. “We have to live in the reality where they both exist.  Often times data sets don’t match up. You are moving between household and individual and it’s tricky to line up with a level of fidelity.”

Essentially, marketers are going to encounter multiple forms of identity regardless of their goals. Hagedorn further explained that, despite all of the options, identity has to start with mobile identity. As we move past the household to a personally connected device, we are still grappling with managing the fingerprint of mobile identity -- which disappears fast. That is where a more persistent, underlying substrate of identity comes into play, Hagedorn said:

“The future of advertising is about having the most persistent form of identity, enriching it with CRM, and using technology to orchestrate the media, creative and delivery and map it all back to measure lift.”

Two distinct benefits of this approach are improved measurement insights, and better control of people-based marketing. For measurement, observing a larger swath of customer IDs that started as CRM and also ended up in a conversion file is a capability all marketers strive for. The second benefit Hagedorn mentioned is clarity around which IDs have become oversaturated. Showing your most loyal customers fantastic creative after they’ve already purchased is “like dry wall, it’s not worth doing,” Hagedorn said.  At the end of the day, many brands are looking to legacy tactics to grow.  A better view of identity across your marketing helps answer where the audience is, who isn’t able to be reached, and provides a data-driven approach to hitting your goals.

A marketer reading this might say to themselves: “I understand the benefits of people-based marketing.  But where do I start?” Hagedorn says the market is just now catching up to the reality that even the persistent ID solutions that power connection have bias.  For example, exclusively looking at mobile IDs may only capture a portion of your audience.   

This means marketers have to be prescriptive when selecting an identity associated with whom they target, expose and measure.  There are many choices on how identity is matched to an audience, whether it’s one or multiple data points. Is it a persistent location, an authentication event like a financial login, or a mobile ID? Marketers will do well to understand how accurately the audience was linked to a customer list, and how recently.  For Hagedorn, that’s just doing your homework.

If one thing is clear, it’s that the changing substrate of identity isn’t going away. Marketers will benefit from having a clear starting point, and then closely evaluating an end-to-end view of their customers. As brands take more control over their data by implementing data management platforms, it takes diligent homework to make the most out of the multi-layered complexity of how that identity gets used to best results.