For years brands have been chasing the holy grail of marketing: delivering the right message to the right consumer at the right time. We’ve seen this desire evolve through:

  • Search marketing, with brands buying keywords that connect them with people interested in a relevant product
  • Social media where brands narrowed their audience and focused on affinities
  • Personalisation, as we’ve seen it take shape most recently, with brands creating dynamic content to more effectively connect with individuals based on recognized behaviours and interests

The incentive to personalise is for obvious reasons, with econsultancy reporting that 39% of brands see “major uplifts” in performance when using the tactic. But the critical component to success is data. In short, what do you know about the individual that will help guide the creation of multiple content options? The more you know, the more on target a message can be. Fuelling this trend has been the proliferation of 3rd party data that effectively allows brands to tap into insights about consumers based on their activities across a wide range of channels and touch-points.

But after many data breaches and scandals, today’s consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with privacy, and many of the large data owners are reacting and increasing privacy control.

Apple for example will introduce “Sign in with Apple” as the next evolution in privacy. Google spoke at length about privacy at their IO conference, announcing many new additions to Chrome and other products. And when Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at F8 this year, he announced that Facebook would be shifting their strategy from Facebook as a townhall to Facebook as a private living room.

So how can marketers succeed in both protecting consumers and personalizing content?

First, let’s be clear, nothing is changing tomorrow. In our short-termist world, where next quarters performance is the only thing that matters, the lack of definition in what might change is precisely what makes it difficult for brands to take action and prepare themselves. If however, we stop focusing on next quarter and instead consider what is likely to occur in a few years’ time, it becomes easier to take decisive steps. Following the privacy trend, we can assume that access to third party data will be reduced either by regulation or technical restrictions. Either way, the impact will be similar. So, without knowing the details, here are three things brands can do to maintain their ability to personalize marketing and succeed with data-driven creativity:

1. Have a first-party data strategy

Increased regulation around how data is captured and used makes it essential for brands to look beyond third party data. To keep pace and continue to benefit from the effectiveness of data-driven strategies, brands must take control of their data supply chain. This is not to say that third party data will not maintain a role in communications, but rather, forward looking brands must prioritize the development a first party data strategy and greater self-sufficiency.

2. Put experience at the core of everything you do

Brands that deliver on their promise across touch-points are seen as true to their promise, and hence can become more attractive and stickier than competitors. While that should be reason enough to be experience focused, the added benefit is that experience encourages interaction across multiple touch-points allowing you to capture more first party data about consumers preferences, thereby enabling improved re-marketing. One example to learn from is Sephora. Their Facebook Messenger “Virtual Artist” experience allows consumers to test different lipstick colours and eye effects without ever needing to visit the store. This provides consumers with an easy way to engage on their own terms, buy with greater confidence, all while telling Sephora more about what they are interested in.

3. Strive for balance between creative effectiveness and data driven efficiency

Over the past decade, we’ve seen brands focus on efficiency through their MarTech spend as well as the fact that media budget increases have dramatically outpaced creative budgets – which have mostly remained flat or decreased. While efficiency is critical, research published by Binet and Field tells us that creatively awarded campaigns deliver the greatest share of market growth.

The point is simple: it’s time that brands stop thinking that dynamic banner ads blasted to everyone is enough. Just using programmatic and dynamic technologies does not mean that they will be effective if the content and experience is not creatively driven.

When done right, data-driven creativity can deliver both effectiveness and efficiency. Consider Snickers Hungerithm as an example of work that helped to drive significant sales by looking at data to not only drive efficiency but to connect with consumers in creative and memorable ways.

In summary, while it is still unclear how privacy regulations and technologies will evolve, by simply focusing on the fact that there will likely be greater restriction around 3rd party data, without worrying about the details, actions that can be taken today and which will almost certainly yield benefit come into focus. It’s time that brands look further forward and prepare themselves as we move towards marketing future.

Justin Peyton is a member of IAB SEA+India’s Regional Board and Chief Transformation and Strategy Officer APAC, Wunderman Thompson. This article was originally published on Campaign.