New research shows that marketing engagement boils down to affinity over need

A new survey from Epsilon on how consumers view personalized marketing and advertising shows that 60% of consumers engage with marketing because they are “familiar with and like the brand.” In contrast, only 37% said their engagement was driven by a need for what was being advertised. This news can fly in the face of conventional "performance" marketing thinking where everything needs to (measurably) drive a sale in the moment for a specific product or service the brand offers. 

The reality is that marketers need strategies that support building the brand while driving sales. Performance and brand marketing are not mutually exclusive. Every time a marketing campaign engages a consumer, that engagement is also going to impact how the consumer perceives the brand. And it’s that perception that drives sales over time.

Marketing is about a whole lot more than the sale in the moment

Marketers can build relationships with consumers the same way people build relationships with each other. You want to engage with people in conversations that flow naturally in the moment and over time.  

But understandably, there are challenges to practically making that happen: 

  • Marketing—by necessity—requires scale  
  • That scale necessitates communication through channels  
  • Channels have severe limitations to creating real conversations 

In marketing, instead of having all that information in your head—as one person trying to build a relationship with someone else does—it’s siloed across data, teams and technology throughout your organization. There might be a data point about a customer that the customer service team can access, but it’s totally separate from the broader audience information the paid media team uses to re-engage current customers.  

It's easy to chalk it up as the cost of doing business—you’re never going to have all the information at any one point that you might need—but also, do consumers even care or notice these discrepancies? Well, yes, they do: 

  • From the survey, 91% of respondents say they see at least one irrelevant ad or marketing message every single day.  
  • More than three-quarters (76%) say they view brands negatively when they include inaccurate information about them in their marketing message.  

Those marketing “misses” stick with people—and it shouldn’t just be seen as a given. 

Overcome the limitations of channels with person-first marketing 

Building strong connections is all about talking to people like you actually know them—orienting your marketing around the person, not the data, teams or tech first. This means having: 

  • One view, so you can not only unify and cleanse your first-party data, but also gain a single, comprehensive view of the universe of potential buyers for each of your products.  
  • One vision, so you can not only craft a relevant message, but also decide who to engage and when, based on your objectives and the cost of engaging.  
  • One voice, so you can not only deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time, but also deliver a message that’s relevant to each person, and learn from how they react to it to ensure the next message is also relevant.  

Bringing this together is what person-first marketing is all about. In contrast, people-based marketing limits your understanding to just a fragment of the individual as part of the broader group. With person-first marketing, you’re able to understand, engage and learn from conversations with consumers on a 1:1 basis, across channels. 

This strategy requires unification across two larger buckets of business solutions: 

  • Data and technology solutions: These are your CDPs, clean rooms, prospecting tools, etc.—and the data that powers them—it’s everything you need to organize, cleanse and align your data so you have the best understanding of who you’re talking to.  
  • Media and marketing solutions: These are your media activation channels and partners, email marketing, loyalty program, retail media, etc.—all of the ways you may want to activate that comprehensive understanding of each consumer.  

Unifying these buckets allows you to have one consistent view of each person, one vision for how to speak to them based on prior and future context, and one voice across paid and owned channels—that’s person-first marketing.  

Make person-first marketing possible

New technologies make this possible, but they can’t be piecemeal. If marketers employ these new solutions—but more importantly the ideologies around how they come together—they will see a shift in consumer sentiment and growth in their business.  

Ultimately, it’s about creating relationships with consumers that are not just transactional. “Brand” is the context in which all purchases are made, and building relationships not only captures a consumer’s purchase in the moment, but also introduces them to products they didn’t know they wanted.  

We need to stop thinking in terms of “performance” and “brand” marketing individually, and start thinking in terms of effective media—because that will drive both outcomes.