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Audiences and identity: Navigating the differences | Sponsored Content

This article was contributed by TransUnion.

Marketers have a habit of using “identity” to lump the ideas of identity and audiences together. While there is a connection between the two, they are far from the same thing. 

In this article, we’ll dig into the nuances of each of these concepts, define the roles they play in a comprehensive omnichannel strategy, and describe how marketers can leverage them to drive value in the face of mounting uncertainties in the marketing ecosystem. 

Maps and legends

Identifiers are the digital “tags” that help connect online or offline activity to people or households. Examples include postal addresses, hashed emails, and digital device signals. Identity graphs organize these disparate data points and assign them to persistent records attached to individuals and households. These records are a bit like the coordinates to a coded map. With the right key, you can find your way to different places, but you don’t know anything about their features or characteristics. 

Attributes include raw information about individuals and households—things like online behavior and demographics. In terms of the coded map, attributes describe the characteristics of your destination—the terrain, climate, and notable features. Attributes are crucial to advanced targeting; they let you decide where you want to go with your messaging, but they don't necessarily tell you anything about how to get there. 

Audiences then are groups of households or consumers that share attributes. Audiences gather individual records with desired attributes together for the purpose of planning, activation, and measurement. 

Getting where you want to go

Identity solutions create a complete map by bringing together the identifiers that provide directions to places and the consumer attribute data that describes those places. Missing either of these components can lead to suboptimal results: poor quality attribute data may cause you to think you know something about your target audience when the opposite may be true, leading to delivering irrelevant messaging. And without accurate identifiers, you run the risk of not reaching your target audience at all.  

And without a large-scale, high-fidelity identity solution, all the consumer attribute data in the world won’t do an advertiser much good—without continually cleansing and refreshing your data, your inputs may end up wrong or outdated, with the potential to throw your audience definitions significantly off. To put it another way, with identity only, you may only know the “who,” but not the “what” or “why.”   

Fundamentally, the concepts of identity, attributes, and audiences are all interdependent—strong attribute data is crucial to ensuring that marketers reach their target audiences. And a robust identity solution will activate more consumer data with greater fidelity than a lower-quality solution. 

In this way, identity unlocks the potential of consumer attribute data and vice versa. Combining a quality identity solution with quality consumer data creates quality audiences—the backbone of successful people-based marketing.