Marketers lack the confidence to use audience data effectively

However, at least half trust their abilities to measure ROI across digital channels.

rishi-WiCvC9u7OpE-unsplashBy Will Novosedlik

Nielsen has just published its global annual marketing report, and while it did not reveal any ground-breaking surprises, it is a useful snapshot of where marketers’ heads are at, where they’re investing, and what they should be thinking about as they look ahead. It’s also a useful snapshot of what consumers expect and how they are responding to marketer’s brand-building efforts.

The report strongly recommends that marketers prioritize personalization. Apparently, only 26% of global marketers are fully confident in their audience data. That number is slightly higher (30%) in North America. Most respondents (69%) believe first-party data is important for their strategies and campaigns, and even more (78%) believe they have access to quality data to maximize the impact of their media budgets. That said, 36% of marketers claim that data access, identity resolution and landing on actionable insights using that data is extremely difficult.

Based on marketers’ responses to its survey, Nielsen expects a 53% increase in digital spend in 2022, especially for streaming services and connected TV. YouTube alone reached 135 million viewers in December of 2021, while Americans streamed 177 billion minutes of video in January 2022. So when asked about measuring ROI across paid digital channels, marketers said they were most confident with being able to track results on social media, which topped the list for “very or extremely confident” at 64%, followed by online video at 59%, search at 58%, online display at 58%, email at 51% and OTT/connected TV and streaming audio both at 49%. Confidence was also highest for being able to track metrics like sales (64%), brand awareness (61%) and engagement (60%), with full-funnel ROI (54%) and unduplicated reach and frequency (53%) being slightly lower.

While Nielsen’s recommendations prioritize the power of influencers and the importance of brand safety, buried in the report is a nod to customers’ growing demand for purpose-driven environmental and social responsibility and accountability. For instance, 52.3% of consumers said they purchase from brands that support causes they care about. Marketers expressed similar sentiments, with 67% saying DEI is very or extremely important as part of their overall marketing efforts and 68% saying it’s an important part of their CSR strategy. An encouraging data point is from France, where 30% of purpose-driven campaigns were found to have boosted short-term sales by 50%. As any brand strategist worth their salt will tell you, brand promise and purpose are intimately linked.