Inside the World of Influencer Marketing with Tagger Media’s Peter Kennedy

This Q&A is an adaptation of a conversation between Coegi’s SVP of Marketing and Innovation, Ryan Green, and Peter Kennedy, the founder and president of influencer marketing company Tagger Media, which was recently acquired by Sprout Social. You can listen to the full episode of the podcast here

Read on to hear Peter’s insights on the startup journey, and how he was able to adapt and build a successful company by focusing on customer needs. ______________________________________________________________________________________________

Ryan: I’m happy to be joined by the founder and CEO of Tagger Media, Pete Kennedy. Thanks for joining us today. I know we have some big news to talk about but would love to hear a little bit about your background, a quick elevator pitch, and resume of how you got here today.

Pete Kennedy: Thanks for having me here. I’ve been doing stuff for a long time, but I’ve always kind of started companies. That’s always been my thing. So I’ve started companies in the independent travel space back in era, I started a medical device company, I started a water sports recreational business, and then obviously most recently started Tagger Media about eight years ago.

Ryan: So, I don’t wanna bury the lead here. Tagger just got acquired by Sprout Social, so congratulations. I’m sure that was quite the process. I’d love to hear, and I’m sure our audience would love to hear a little bit about what happens during an acquisition – how do you know that the company that’s acquiring you is the right fit? What was that process like?

Pete: I think selling a company is harder than actually starting a company. Crazy enough. When they say that the deal changes a hundred times a day, it really does. We talked to Sprout probably in December of 2022 for the first time. They reached out and said, hey, we’re kind of looking at this space. The real conversation happened [in the late spring of 2023], and they came out and we met with their CEO, their president, head of business development, and what we were looking for is an opportunity to win in this space. 

Sprout has 30,000 customers and they’re all doing influencer marketing, ’cause it’s such a major part of the media mix and it’s obviously such an important part of the social space as well. What we were looking for is not only a company that we could scale with in a major way, but also the right cultural fit. This team is absolutely amazing. A lot of people are coming from Salesforce at that company, which is interesting. So they have this growth mentality and we have like maybe 10 sellers around the world. They have like 600. So it’s just this machine that we can jump into which is great, and that the entire team is so excited about Tagger and the ability to sell influencer to all their customers. 

Ryan: Let’s step back a little bit to when you first were kind of coming up with the concept of Tagger. Most businesses, and you’ve started a number of them in various industries, we’re trying to find a problem to solve, right? So what was the problem that you were really looking at and where did you see your ability and your team’s ability to find a unique solution with Tagger?

Pete: It’s so interesting, that ideation stage. There’s like five stages of a startup, right? There’s ideation, there’s launch, there’s validation, there’s growth, and then there’s maturity or exit. Ideation stage is so much fun and there’s two ways that you can really do this: One is, which is the smart way to do it, identify a need, and then create solutions based on that need. Or you can create an idea that you think is interesting that might pertain to a market and then you build that. We actually did both of those things when we started Tagger. 

We first started with this idea, and the idea was we wanted to disrupt the music industry. The music industry spends billions of dollars every year trying to find new artists and then promoting those artists. They do that by having boots on the ground all over the world. They have music bookers, they have doormen at venues who are seeing artists that they think are interesting, sound producers, all these different people. A lot of times they’re able to find these people very early on, but what we did is we said, well, let’s listen to everyone who matters in the music space, primarily on Twitter at the time. If everyone’s talking about “Ryan”, we could predict that “Ryan”’s gonna go somewhere. Not surprising. The most popular people early on are gonna go somewhere and it really had nothing to do with listening, likes, or views, which that market had been somewhat gamified. 

So we created this platform where we just tracked all these people, but we had to create databases of all these musicians. We had to create databases of all these people who were talking about musicians. When we turned on the platform, we found, like Dua Lipa eight years ago, we found Billie Eilish eight years ago. I mean, we found all these amazing artists and go to the music industry, right? To validate this concept and they all said, what do you idiots know about music? I was like, nothing, but listen, we’re doing what you’re doing, but we’re doing a million times a day and they said, we’re not interested. (Now, fast forward, most of those music companies are clients, not to find artists, but to find influencers.) 

Then I went to New York and I took 40 meetings in like a two week time period. And every time I was just pitching a new thing because we had this really interesting platform where we could understand audiences and their propensity, and we could find artists and all these things, but we didn’t know what we had and how it might apply to someone else’s business. Gary Vaynerchuk over at VaynerMedia, “Gary V”, his team heard what we were up to. We got a meeting and they heard about these crazy people running around New York meeting with everyone. Gary and his team were like, listen, we love your data, we love how you can understand audiences, but you need workflow around influencer marketing. 

I asked the most important question: what is influencer marketing? Because I had absolutely no idea. And he said we have 30 people running campaigns for these big brands around the world and we’re really doing it on Excel spreadsheets. So if you can take our workflow, and by the way, they were hiring like a thousand influencers per campaign. Absolutely crazy and they said, if you can take our workflow and put it into a platform, we’ll be your first customer. 

So I moved to New York for a month, and I lived with them to really understand what they actually needed. Instead of just making a spreadsheet on a platform, we wanted to take that workflow to figure out how we can make it easier. My development team’s in Poland, so I was going back and forth during that month. But by the end of the month, we were able to deliver them a product that worked for them. 

Then it was really interesting. We then brought on a couple more clients. So we could have gone big and just raised money and hired all these people, but we didn’t, we slowly got another client and then another client. We focused on agencies because they had the biggest pain points. Just like I did with Vayner, we would get a new client and then I would go sit with them for weeks and just go in their office and I’d watch the bouncing ball: Like, you discover influencers, but why are you discovering those influencers? Is there a strategy? Who’s the strategy person saying we need to go do that? I’d go meet with that person and then we would have to go pay these people. I’m like, well, who pays these people? They’re like, oh, that’s, accounts payable. I go talk to them. I’m like, well, what are your pain points? So it was interesting, within like a year, I would walk into every agency or any brand, and I would know more about their business because I lived with all these different people to really understand what their needs were. That’s really how we did it. So I was able to identify a need based off of them telling us “this is what we need,” then really just going in and understanding everyone else’s needs so that you can build a unified platform that works for both brands and agencies.

Ryan: So, continuing on that, what are some of the ways that influencer and content marketing has changed and how have those changes evolved the way your platform has changed? You talked about having a modular concept for different workflows with different agencies in house brands, et cetera. But the marketplace has changed quite a bit too externally, so what things have you seen change over the years and how has your company reacted to those changes?

Pete: Yeah, definitely. There are multiple different ways it’s changed. First of all, what you get from influencer marketing has changed dramatically, right? 

Back when I started this, it was very much a PR focus where it’s just like, let’s get these mentions out there. It kind of was replacing newspapers, magazines, and traditional PR because that had kind of died off and was really being replaced by influencer marketing. So it was very much awareness building KPIs. But that shift, that allowed money to flow into this space, is when agencies and brands started to look at this more as a paid media execution versus a PR execution, right? So we would go into agencies, especially PR agencies and train them about paid media. 

Really, Vayner was the one who kind of got me on this. I mean, the Chris Aldi who was running their influencer business, he works for us now, but he started Gary’s paid media business. He’s like, no, this is paid media. This is what it is. So, even if you’re paying someone or you’re giving them a free product, you’re giving them something that costs you money, it’s paid, right? So I think that was a big change. 

Then the platforms made it easier to report on these campaigns and measure an influencer campaign the same way we measure your other media mix. That was massive. For Procter and Gamble to put $200 million into this business, they need to be able to measure this the same way we measure their other media mix and that was vital. 

Then a big shift that we’ve seen, especially over the last two years, is we’re not selling our platform to the influencer marketing team. We are now selling to the strategy team, the analytics team, the growth team, the new business teams at agencies, the technology team. All these different teams are using our platform really to get a holistic view of what’s happening socially, right? Social listening is important. Sprout has this amazing social listening platform and they’re listening to everyone in the world. What we do is we fine tune that down to the people who actually matter in terms of moving culture and those are influencers or creators. So having that view is helpful when you create that strategy. 

Then I think the last thing that’s changed dramatically is just, AI and, well, I’m sure we’ll talk about this, but AI has just allowed us to really get a better understanding of what’s happening, being able to ingest billions of bits of data, consolidate that down to really specific things so you can be like, okay, yeah, It’s raining, but how do I make it rain harder? Or how do I make it stop raining? You need a platform like ours to do that.

Ryan: When we think about who, what, when, where, why and we’re talking about AI, I think AI has a lot of potential in the first four, and it’s that fifth one that seems to still be the human element of it. I think that’s almost true in your platform to some degree as well. I know you have why definitely covered there but that’s where the humans are spending most attention. Thinking about the, why the marketers behind the screen are interacting in that area, probably the most, if I were to summarize.

Pete: Well, I think that that is actually where AI comes in the most, to be honest with you. Let’s say that your client manufactures pickup trucks. Well, why are people buying your pickup truck versus someone else? How did those customers — marketers always say the customers actually position your brand. Marketers don’t position the brand, right? The consumer positions the brand, not marketers. So if we can take all the content from influencers about pickup trucks over the last eight months, it’s probably a million pieces of content. I can’t actually go through all that content to pull out nuggets, but I can put that through AI.

What AI will do is they will look at all of that content and they will pick out themes like within two seconds: Towing capabilities, technology, interior comfort, all these different benefits. Then you can then stack rank how your brand fits within each one of those based off of mentions. So if your pickup truck is mentioned the fewest times in terms of towing capability and the few times you were mentioned, you have the worst sentiment. Everyone’s saying your towing capabilities are horrible. You as a marketer was like, I think our towing capability’s amazing. Well, the market doesn’t and the people who move culture are actually saying the opposite of what you think. 

So as a marketer, my strategy now on the why could be, oh, towing capabilities important for this industry because it’s the most talked about benefit with all the benefits of the pickup truck and we’re the worst. We probably need to create a campaign around our towing capabilities. Maybe we need to go back to the product team and say, listen, our towing capability sucks. We need to make it better. But I think AI allows you to filter all this data to understand what are the benefits and where do you stack up along those benefits?

Ryan: There’s obviously positive use that Tagger has with AI. Another thing that is a benefit to us is being able to sniff out fake followers and bots and things of that nature too. As AI becomes more sophisticated, as there are deeper fakes, things like that, is there a roadmap that Tagger has to help marketers at scale, identify where there’s nefarious content? Where we’re to avoid certain areas so that when we are looking at a plan with 2000 content creators on it, that we’re able to get the 200 out that may be coming from a negative place to make sure that we’re focusing our spend on what’s gonna move the needle and what matters?

Pete: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think that fake followers is definitely something that is important but there’s two things that I think are even more important. 

One, it’s content, right? That’s what we’re also seeing. Like I said, we’re selling into all these different departments, but that influencer content is being used across the entire customer journey. So for example, yeah, you’re gonna run a campaign and it’s gonna be an awareness building campaign, or maybe you’re trying to get conversion. But that customer journey, okay, they’re gonna see that influencer content and then they’re gonna start to see other social media ads about that brand. As you know, you have to see something multiple times before you go buy it. Well, what we know is that influencer content performs 300% better than branded content — on TikTok It’s like 3000% better. Why? Because it’s user generated content and does better than branded content. So now we’re seeing all this influencer content being used in paid media ads and then when you go onto these product pages on an e-commerce site, we’re seeing influencer content because again, it does better than branded content. 

Then when we look at like cart abandonment emails, they’re AB testing that with influencer content, it’s actually converting better. So all the way along this customer journey, what you’re seeing is the influencer content. So yes, if your sole purpose is I just want to go out and buy an influencer, hire their audience essentially, and use that as my conversion, yes, fake followers is super important – but to me it’s like, let’s go find creators who make amazing content. Who creates content that’s authentic to themselves and authentic to their audiences because we, through our affinity data, we can really understand, like, do these audiences care about these things? Then let’s go take that content and use it across our entire e-commerce, our entire customer journey so that we’re getting the most outta that content. So fake followers are becoming a little less. 

Then we’re also looking at more in terms of first party data and saying, well, do certain influencers convert better than other influencers do? When you start to be able to get more and more of that data, then it’s like, Ryan, you might have a hundred thousand followers and maybe 50% of them are fake, but you convert better in healthcare than anyone else. I don’t really care. Now, maybe what that means is instead of paying you based off of your a hundred thousand followers, yeah, I’m gonna pay you based off of you having 50,000 followers, but if I know that your conversion is so high, your followers don’t really matter because I’m paying you based off of what you’re gonna convert from me anyways. Again, not always. There’s multiple ways to think about that and I think fake followers are getting less and less relevant and more about, well, what can we do with this data and what’s our ROI on this campaign as a whole?

Ryan: Switching gears a little bit. Thinking about brands that really do well in the content marketing space, there’s obviously some brands that have built the almost entirety of their marketing function around influencers. I have some brands that don’t spend a dime on influencers and that are performing very well for themselves. 

What are a couple examples that you see of brands that are using creators and influencers appropriately, making it part of their bigger ecosystem, but using that to really drive their brand growth, their conversion growth, their sales, all of it? 

Pete: Companies that do it well are finding influencers that are authentic to their brand category, but whose audiences also care about those things. I think Lululemon’s done a really interesting job of this, because yes, they’re out there promoting all of their clothing, which is great. But they’re also partnering with mental health influencers as well because they know that that’s an important part. So when brands are partnering with influencers to, yes, talk about their products, but more importantly they’re talking about things that matter to their audience. Mental health is something that matters to their audience and they realize that. 

So, back in the day, influencer content used to be polished and beautiful and just everything. And now it’s real because people are looking for social connection and they’re kind of rejecting this social comparison, you know? I think that companies like Lululemon have realized that. You’re gonna see every size model in their content, you’re gonna see them talking about issues, not about working out, but about mental health, things that matter to their consumer. 

Then another company that I think did some interesting stuff was Behr Paint. They create paints and they have a bunch of different colors and they partnered with Emily Zugay and she’s this hilarious influencer that basically takes all of her paints and then she destroys the paint colors and renames them. So she might take like, green or something and call it like, cute green or way more clever than what I’m gonna come up with. But again, it’s kind of rejecting this high gloss social comparison and being real and hilarious. Brands are able now to kind of take the polish off of themselves, I think which is kind of interesting as well. Letting an influencer who, this is what she does, and that’s why she has a big audience, literally kind of like destroy the brand in a way because, you know, that that’s what people are looking for. So I think those are two pretty interesting examples. But, there’s hundreds of brands that are doing a great job of promoting their companies, but really bringing in social issues that matter to their audience, which is gonna be different from a brand next door whose audience is completely different.

Ryan: Very brave of Behr to strip off the gloss, so to speak. I think that leads into my next question: what changes do you predict will come in influencer marketing over the next couple of years? You’ve talked about the change from that curated content to a lot of more unfiltered content brands that are looking to partner with longer term ambassadors. Then just one-off activations with individual influencers as I’m sure you’re looking at how your company’s going to grow with the recent acquisition. Where do you see the marketplace going?

Pete: Yeah, again, I think that you’re gonna see more and more influencer content being used across the entire customer journey. I think that’s gonna be a big shift. Honestly, though, I think AI is gonna be a major addition to the influencer marketing process. Again, it’s not gonna replace anyone’s job, it’s just gonna allow them to be better at what they do. 

So a couple examples would be, just sending out communications with creators, being able to analyze that creator’s content and their voice, and then writing emails to these creators. You have to ask these people to work with your brand and not every creator wants to work with your brand. So being able to create a voice that’s gonna resonate with the creator using AI and be able to do this across a hundred influencers at the same time, is gonna make you way more efficient in your job. So that’s one quick example. 

Another example is just to take all of your content as a brand and look across all these creators instantaneously to find that perfect match of tone and thought and content in order to find those right creators. I also love this idea. AI does a great job of summarizing content. What it doesn’t do a good job of yet is to say, hey, here’s what’s happening in my industry. I have a hundred thousand dollars. How should I spend that? It can’t do that yet. I think in the future it might be able to, because again, it can just summarize data pretty well, but it can’t tell you how to spend your money. 

Ryan: So can I surmise that there may be some changes or enhancements to your platform that artificial intelligence is gonna be able to fuel?

Pete: Oh, we’re already doing it right now. So, I’ve already seen a lot of this. Like I’ve seen all this stuff already on our platform. We’re still developing it and we’ll be launching it over the next month or two, but yeah, it’s just gonna make your life so much easier.

Ryan: Coegi’s going to be a beta tester for that.

Pete: A hundred percent. I mean, there are certain agencies that are thought leaders and you guys are ahead of the curve with most of this stuff. So obviously we always look for partnerships with you guys to help us drive that product development. That’s really where our product development happens, is with you guys, it’s like, what do you guys need? What are you guys thinking about how the market’s going and how can we build based on those needs?

Ryan: Well, we’re excited to see what that looks like both, with the quick wins and those longer ones that’s fresh off the press. I’m really excited to continue to partner with you. 

Pete: Amazing. Thanks, Ryan.


Click here to follow The Loop Marketing Podcast for more marketing insights. 

5 Social Advertising Trends for 2024

Advancements in technology and evolving consumer behavior are continuously shaping the social media landscape, presenting brands with an opportunity to evolve alongside the consumer to meet brand goals.

Users are no longer looking to social platforms as only a way to connect with friends, but rather as a mechanism for shopping, searching, and enjoying entertainment.

So what should your brand focus their social media strategy on? Keep reading to discover our top five social media trends for 2024 and tips on how to effectively incorporate them into your strategy.

Social Media Trend #1: Growth of Influencer Marketing

Investment in influencer marketing is expected to see strong growth in the next few years due to its effectiveness in building trust and authenticity for your brand. In 2024, there will be an increased focus on leveraging short-form UGC videos, testing out generative AI, and mindfully selecting creators that foster a diverse and representative social media community. 

What You Need to Know:

Influencer Marketing Tips:

  • Establish clear goals and measurable KPIs before selecting a content creator. For example, if your influencer marketing goal is to drive increased engagement, select a creator that has a loyal and highly engaged audience.
  • Collaborate with content creators that align with your brand’s tone and have a follower community with interests that match your product or service offering.

To learn more about tap into creators for your marketing strategy, check out Coegi’s guide to influencer marketing

Social Media Trend #2: Paid Subscription Models

Global governments are continuing to hold social platforms accountable for adhering to user privacy regulations. With the increased regulations, social platforms are looking for solutions to maintain an optimal user experience, including offering paid monthly subscriptions for users to opt out of ads. 

What You Need to Know:

Paid Subscription Model Tips:

  • Influencer marketing is going to become important in a paid subscription model since the content will not be categorized as an ad. Use this time to start honing your influencer marketing strategy to learn what works best for your brand.
  • Organic social will be another effective way to reach users in an ad-free environment. Focus your efforts on building your brand’s following across social media platforms and learning what content resonates well with your core audience.
  • While the development of paid subscription models is currently focused on the EU market, other markets may follow. Be sure to keep up-to-date on the latest platform releases.

Social Media Trend #3: Generative AI

AI had a large impact on the marketing industry in 2023 and is expected to continue with increased momentum in 2024 as social platforms continue rolling out AI features. From AI chatbots directly integrated within the platforms to audio generation tools, the way users and marketers engage with social media will be in a constant state of change.

What You Need to Know:

  • Due to strong user engagement with Snapchat’s My AI, the platform is looking for ways to leverage the chatbot to boost advertising.
  • Meta released two Generative AI tools for audio creation – AudioCraft to create audio and music from a text prompt, and Voicebox to assist with editing audio.
  • Meta AI is a virtual assistant – including 28 familiar individuals, such as Snoop Dog and Kendall Jenner, that users can interact with across Meta platforms.

Generative AI Tips:

  • Generative AI is going to elevate the importance of brand’s maintaining authenticity. As deepfakes and AI assistants circulate across social platforms, users will look to brands to be a source of truth and familiarity.
  • Create internal guidelines and policies for the usage of AI to ensure it is being used ethically and responsibly.
  • Read our article – Do’s and Don’ts of Using Generative AI for Creative – for more information on how to effectively use AI.

Social Media Trend #4: Social Platforms Utilized as a Search Engine

Social media platforms continue to serve a dual purpose, namely among younger users, to connect and engage with friends and to utilize as a search engine for finding products and services. This shift in consumer behavior should be accounted for when planning your marketing strategy.

What You Need to Know:

Social Search Tips:

Social Media Trend #5: AR/VR Advancements

Gone are the days of one-dimensional internet usage as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology advancements are spurring an “immersive internet.” Users are seeking a more engaging experience across the web and social platforms, giving brands an opportunity to better meet their audiences’ needs and preferences.

What You Need to Know: 

AR/VR Tips:

  • Leverage Pinterest Try on product pins to enable users to virtually try on products wherever they are, increasing engagement and attention.
  • Meta augmented reality ads create an engaging and unique experience where users test out products and interact with your brand.
  • It’s important to keep your brand’s product catalog on social platforms updated so users can virtually engage with your brand and build affinity.

If you want to discuss how to apply these trends and tips to your marketing strategy in 2024, reach out to schedule a discovery call with the team at Coegi.

MediaPost – Why All Marketing Should Be Niche

There are very few institutions in American life (besides maybe Taylor Swift) that are truly ubiquitous today — not sports, higher education, the Supreme Court, or even beer.  Mass appeal is still possible, but there are strong headwinds to this approach.

In this article from MediaPost, Coegi’s SVP of Marketing and Innovation, Ryan Green, discusses why brands should ditch the mass messaging and turn their focus on niche audiences in today’s landscape.

Using Multicultural Influencers to Drive Vaccine Consideration for Moderna


Moderna was seeking to drive preference for their COVID-19 booster with multicultural consumers by using authentic, relevant creator-driven storytelling. 


lift in vaccine consideration

lift in vaccine discussion intent

paid engagement rate compared to 1.86% industry benchmark


Moderna’s marketing goal was to drive preference for COVID-19 bivalent booster by leveraging their positioning as the disruptive innovation leader in the space. They wanted to establish an enduring preference for their branded products by: 

  • Educating multicultural consumers
  • Growing urgency and 
  • Increasing uptake of the new COVID-19 booster vaccination

To establish this trust, Moderna needed to provide authenticity in its delivery when communicating with its multicultural audiences. We felt this would be best accomplished through influencer marketing


A key opportunity identified by the Coegi team was that 15.1M people within target DMAs primarily spoke Spanish. To deliver an authentic message, our aim was to support Spanish speakers’ health journeys while driving business impact for the pharmaceutical tech brand. We focused on utilizing booster messaging that was not only in Spanish, but content that was more culturally relevant. 

In order to speak to a Spanish speaking audience, we needed to learn about them in more detail. We started this process by leveraging data technology and intelligence platform, Resonate. Coegi placed an audience learning pixel across digital placements to learn about the Spanish speaking audience and their online behaviors. 

We collaborated with Moderna to identify the top US DMAs by vaccine data in combination with the highest indexing DMAs for Spanish speakers. In doing so, we were able to blend a demographic and geographic targeting strategy in an effort to build trust and affinity with a Spanish speaking audience. 

Coegi carried out a rigorous process to identify a varied mix of macro to micro influencers to generate authentic stories. These influencers were diverse – ranging from health content focused, healthcare workers to the average, lifestyle influencer.  But all were unified by sharing a value of preventative health and translating why vaccination against Covid-19 is important to them. Throughout the campaign, our team partnered with 13 influencers and delivered content to 15M Spanish-speaking individuals across the country.

We asked each creator to generate three pieces of content that authentically communicated the power and benefits of Moderna’s COVID-19 bivalent vaccine booster. Focusing on compliance while building the highest level of interest, relatability, and trust, we requested that the messaging of each piece answered these three questions:

  • Why is COVID-19 still relevant?
  • Why get vaccinated or boosted?
  • Why trust this brand’s product?


Our influencer content performed well through multiple measurement perspectives. The content outperformed influencer benchmarks with some of our influencer content going viral – one piece of content earned a total reach of 414,000 which exceeded the influencer’s follower count by 2,000%. 

Coegi also leveraged a post-campaign brand lift study to measure more advanced impact learnings. According to the study, our influencer content delivered a 28% lift in vaccine consideration and a 88% lift in discussion intent, outperforming the Kantar benchmark by 4x. 

Organic Influencer Content

  • 1,447,404 Impressions
  • 732,297 Reach
  • 13,686 Engagements 
  • 6.36% Engagement Rate

Paid Influencer Content

  • 16,942,764 Impressions
  • 13,185,622 Reach 
  • 1,617,533 Post Engagements
  • 7.56% Engagement Rate vs 1.86% industry benchmark 
  • 2.28% Estimated Ad Recall Lift 
  • $5.25 Average CPM vs $8.75 industry benchmark

Key Learnings

We attribute a lot of our success to the authentic and real content created by our partnered influencers. The healthcare and pharmaceutical vertical poses many challenges. But with our focus on producing genuine, authentic messages for the Spanish speaking audience in the United States, we were able to provide engaging content in a form this audience could relate with.  

To learn more, check out Coegi’s guide to influencer marketing

Marketing Data Strategy Q&A – Why Most Marketers Get It Wrong

A strong marketing data strategy is the foundation of any digital media plan, but most marketers miss the mark when developing an effective one for their brand. In this episode of The Loop Marketing Podcast, you’ll hear from Coegi’s Executive Vice President of Operations and Analytics, Katie Kluba, and Director of Digital Operations, Julia Wold, as they discuss data strategy, and why most marketers get it wrong. 

You’ll learn:

  • How to apply upfront data-driven work to inform marketing strategies
  • The importance of data restraint and why “more” is not better and 
  • The keys to giving the client the data story they need to hear

The following is an edited transcript of the podcast. Click here to listen to the full episode on your favorite streaming platform.

Q: What are some things that marketers should be doing in the upfront work to make their marketing strategy have stronger buy-in and have a better opportunity to truly be successful?

Katie: Yes, for sure. This is such a good topic to be discussing. I want to start at the beginning. So, first and foremost, it is really important to find a true digital partner. A true digital partner is a partner who’s going to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear, and then you need to find a digital partner that is also comprehensive.

What I mean by that is they need to have a proven track record of success, but they also need to possess the technical prowess, if you will, to support data collection methodologies and the media tracking requirements that will be needed to create data decisioning. So once you call Coegi – we do all of that – so once you find your digital partner, what marketers should do to set themselves up for success is first and foremost, be crystal clear on what they are trying to accomplish with the campaign initiatives.

From there, you can start creating a measurement plan or framework, if you will, and the objective here is to tie the digital media performance back to what the marketer is trying to accomplish. I’m going to give you just a few tips about this measurement plan. Keep it simple and straightforward. Over complicating measurement is not a recipe for success. 

And then I would say, remember that the power of data decisioning is based on the reliability of the data. So junk in, junk out, meaning make it meaningful. 

And I would say lastly, and this is very important, you should separate the media optimizations or performance from any larger picture media effectiveness that you’re trying to measure. Measurement is not a one size fits all approach and campaign performance should be separated from the measuring the impact of the media to the brand objectives, business objectives that may be offline.

Q: Can you talk about what it takes to define campaign performance and where the waters sometimes get muddied for marketers in evaluating success?

Katie: Absolutely. You will see that a brand will be running an awareness campaign to drive awareness of potentially a new product or service that they have brought to market. And what ends up happening is the brand marketer and the digital partner will often come up with some media performance metric. So something that’s attainable in the platform, a click-through rate, an impression, a reach, a cost per click, and they will use that as a proxy, if you will, to the brand loyalty, the brand effectiveness. 

Was the media that was put in the market, did it hit the mark? Did the audience resonate with that brand? 

Do they remember or recall what the brand message was all about? 

Those two things are very different. So your media effectiveness should be a separate study. You can do branding surveys, there are many, many things that you can do, market research and other things. But you should not confuse performance based metrics to business initiatives. All can be measured, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to happen in one study.

Q: What are some ways that you have gone about figuring out the right methodology to evaluate campaign performance and business objectives for our brands, especially when there are so many measurement partners to consider?

Julia: Yeah, so going off of what Katie said, it’s first imperative to identify what you’re trying to achieve, identify the best methodology that’s going to get you there. So if you are trying to have an impact on perception, thinking through that, likely a survey based perception. A panel-based study is going to be your best bet in terms of proving out performance beyond media metrics with reach, completion rate, all that. Once you can identify the methodology that best fits your client’s end goals, then you can align to a provider that’s going to meet those goals. Like we said, there are so many providers out there that tout similar capabilities. So it’s really important to compare vendors and get a holistic view of the entire ecosystem because some vendors could be piggybacking off of other vendors’ data to improve and fuel their own methodology.

So getting a holistic view of the ecosystem is important. And then when you are pitching that solution to your client and you’ve come up with your provider that you’re looking to leverage, you have more of a talk track to show the work behind your recommendation. Also, forging meaningful relationships with these different partners, it really helps to solidify your approach and show the client that your recommendation carries some weight. 

And then lastly, like Katie said, too, success of a campaign is a multifactor approach. You’re looking at success from a media perspective, looking at its success from a business perspective, and then also making sure that you and the client really align all the way down from initial planning to a final readout that this was the plan that we chose all along the way. There are instances where sometimes clients can say, well, I wish we were measuring that. Unfortunately, switching measurement mid campaign is very difficult. And then you’re never going to be able to prove your success because you’re constantly chasing another lead and not focusing on what your core set was. So having a solidified approach early on is really going to help you prove out your value.

Q: What are some ways that marketers can avoid confirmation bias and use truly data-driven processes to ensure they’re collectively moving toward the brand’s goals?

Julia: So, there’s a couple things that you can do. It really starts with the strategy upfront. I know once media is up and running, you are going to get more of those media-based metrics in terms of performance. But you can also leverage tools along the way. So, perhaps prior to setting up your campaign, you launched a study to understand, “okay, this is who we think we’re going to target. What are they saying from a respondent perspective? And is the focus of how we approach targeting going to measure up?” There’s also ways that you could think to tag your media to get a readout from an audience perspective. So we have tools like The Trade Desk where we can put in an audience profile and then see other audiences that index highly with that. And so that can confirm or deny what you’re looking at. But like you said, bias exists everywhere and it can be really challenging. So as a marketer, you really need to put yourself in the shoes of all of these different individuals and of who you’re trying to reach and think holistically, but then also you as a test and learn approach to say, “okay, I thought it was going to go this way, maybe it didn’t.” And you know, being wrong isn’t bad either. it’s just now you understand what you’re not gonna do in the future and how to pivot.

Katie: Julia, you’re spot on. Test and learn is the way to go. Test and learn is the way to go, whether you’re pivoting mid-flight or you’re creating a test design for measurement pre-campaign launch. But what you want to be careful of is when you set up any test that you are not putting your thumb on the read or the test design to support what you think the test is going to read out. So I would say bias is really easy to avoid, but it is often not avoided. I have found that the most successful marketers are the ones that listen to the experts, which is their digital partner and put some faith that the digital partner has the expertise in the measurement of the ecosystem, that a well thought out test design will tease out without any bias, without any type one or type two errors, whether or not your hypothesis proves true or false.

Julia: That’s a really good point, Katie. I just want to interject too, when you do work with a smaller independent agency like Coegi, we are a little bit more agile and more flexible in the relationship standing and you know, we’re not held to the silos of some of the holding companies that they put in place just for their job function. So what we’re really looking to do is to give you the best approach rather than what’s the easiest approach or what’s the approach that fits into the job function that I’m currently doing.

Q: A large number of marketers have that tendency to overcomplicate data, especially when we’re translating that into reporting for brands. What steps should we be taking as marketers to get the most out of our data and truly and intelligently inform marketing strategies in business goals at large?

Julia:  I feel like maybe a broken record at this point because I’m always like, “think about it up front, think about it upfront,” but it definitely needs to be thought of upfront. So the way that we approach setting up campaigns is really thinking through what is the end goal that you have in mind and then working backwards. So, establishing that groundwork. If you know, for instance, your client is really interested in understanding how different geographies within their media buy are performing, then let’s focus on that and really drive that in. And focus less on – who cares about device type, who cares about you know, time of day? Those are all important and those all happen in the background, but you don’t need to pull out every single insight in the hopes that something sticks.

So, really focus on the one element that you know your client bought into and that you know you can set up a campaign where it flows from the DSP or the platform directly into analytics and then ties to maybe your advanced measurement goals. Something that I was just working on for a client recently and we were really focused as an agency on the audience. It was for a client that sold a product and we thought that the audience was so important to say this audience engaged more than this audience, but at the end of the day, all the end client cared about was like, what product of my product lines should I promote more of? Where do I need the people in store to start pushing more of based on what the consumer demand is? So if we had maybe just listened a little bit more to our client we could have helped to really craft our reporting insights to be based on what product is really driving and all of that audience stuff that we find so important is still important. But we’re just trying to complement what they’re looking for versus trying to recreate the wheel.

Katie: We, as marketers, have a lot of information about advanced measurement that includes bridging the gap between the online and offline point of sale world. There are measurement providers out there that are very powerful. The point Julia was making about listening to our clients is critical because you might have someone saying “well, what about that clickthrough rate? What about that time on site? Or what about the cost per acquisition in this particular case?” It may have been some sort of online event, right? So all of that is interesting when you’re trying to maximize and squeeze every penny out of your online marketing dollar to get your brand in front of the relevant audience, consumer base that you’re trying to reach. Very important. But at the end of the day, what the client wanted to understand is, of all of the products that I have, what are the ones that the offline world should be pushing, right? The display should be set up such that, that’s the product that is eye level. So that is a perfect example of how bias comes into a measurement framework. What you’re saying versus what you really need are two different things. So it is important to continue to have conversations, to tease all these things out. Open mind, come to it with an open mind, blank slate.

Julia: Yeah, and I don’t think many clients are going to be super black and white on what they’re looking for. So it is an evolution of like really listening intently to off the cuff comments that they might make when you’re doing reporting. And then that’s where you have the opportunity to pivot. And maybe it’s not even a pivot of your strategy, it’s just a pivot of the way that you’re going to read out your strategy and speak to the client.

Q: What are some steps that we should be taking to ensure that the data that we are translating back to the client is truly speaking the same language and helping the brand be empowered, not just causing greater confusion or going down a rabbit hole leading to nowhere?

Katie: You recall I said at the top of this podcast to keep it simple, be clear and keep it simple. That resonates with measurement, period. If you do nothing else but do that, you’ll be miles ahead of what is too often just checking the box scenario. In our industry, if you were good at Excel, you became an analyst. But that doesn’t mean that you can tie business objectives back to media optimizations and media buying. So I would say first and foremost, do not overcomplicate your performance story.

Remember, more is not better necessarily, it’s just more. 

Secondly, observations are observations. You should be able to read, interpret, the data in front of you. Then, based off of what you’re looking at, your recommendation should be what you’re going to do or what you have done, so the result of what you have done or what you’re going to do based on what you’re looking at to get the media buy – the performance – which is different than the media impact, but to get the performance to where it needs to be. So we’re effective and efficient driving every penny, nickel, squeezing that out, driving the KPI for the client. It sounds redundant, it’s literally foundational to any measurement strategies. Do not overcomplicate it, keep it simple. That’s what I would say.

Q: What predictions do you all have in terms of what changes are going to be needed to keep measurement as informative as it is today, going into two or three or even 10 years down the line?

Katie: So first of all, everyone’s in the same boat. No one should panic. We’re all in the same boat, so we will not really know the true impact until the deprecation of the cookie occurs. We can project what we think is going to happen, and what we think is going to happen is that there’s going to be less focused targeting. Right now the industry is such, we collect so much information about users who engage with the media and also engage on brands’ websites that we can create segments of how they consume that media and actions they take thereof. So there will be less ability to create those segments. However, as I said, we’re all in the same boat, so there will not be really one advantage for one marketer versus another. Outside of a few things that are going on that I think marketers should be doing immediately – and if they’re not, they need to start – there are a few identity grids that have been developed when the news came out that the cookie was going to be deleted. These identity grids are going to allow the marketers to continue to target and create segments of audiences just as they do today. So, they need to speak with their digital partner and make sure they’re opting into these identity grids.

Julia: Yeah, and I’ll just kind of piggyback off of that. Something that we’ve done as an operations department here at Coegi to help prepare these marketers for this is just to get a better understanding of the fact there are a ton of data providers out there in the ecosystem, and while we’re not talking about the marketer’s first party data they do likely want to tap into somebody else’s third party data because as we know, first-party data and zero-party data is finite. In order to scale you’re going to need other opportunities, so it’s really important for us to know who our data providers are, what their collection methodology is, how they are planning for a cookie list future, how they’re already overcoming the privacy laws of GDPR, CCPA the Pepitas of Canada.

And just getting that foundational knowledge – I feel like foundation is another key word for this podcast – but getting that knowledge of how things are being collected there. It’ll give you a lot more peace of mind in understanding that you’re reaching people with ethical third-party data sources. Additionally from our approach too is to think about using your first-party data as it is now, you have the opportunity still with cookies to layer on and see where your audience indexes with other third-party sources so you can start to create a persona of who your current customer is and make sure that you just start to collect that stuff now so that it’s useful for the future. So for instance, say you don’t have a first-party list, but now you know, I can create a persona based on people and maybe they like to engage on this type of content, including a contextual element to your next media buy is going to be a great way to test out how it performs. That way you can still have what a cookie is able to give you today and you have that comparative tool.

Additionally, a lot of what I’m seeing in the marketplace and where I’m seeing a lot of people are leaning, are toward more of those PMP and even programmatic guaranteed buys. And I almost feel like we as marketers are slightly going back to what things looked like 10 years ago from a buying standpoint because we know that we can trust that certain publisher and it’s all about kind of that relationship building again, whereas we got a little loosey goosey taking whatever was available to us. Now we’re just becoming more intentional with the way that we’re building our campaigns and really focusing on quality.

I will say that ever since I’ve been here at Coegi for six years, quality has always been something that we’ve focused on and it’s just being more and more elevated as we continue to evolve. So I feel like our company has been really set up well for navigating this new landscape.

Katie: Yeah, that’s a really good point, Julia. Extending your first-party and zero-party audiences leveraging third-party data providers is going to be key. The direct deals are going to be key. Contextually relevant buys are going to be key. I do want to add that we’re really talking more about the programmatic ecosystem and the impact is going to be felt primarily there. We still have a lot of user profile information within the social sphere, so your addressability there will still be pretty focused.

Q: Lastly, what do you feel is the most common mistake that marketers are making today in their use of data and how it is informing marketing strategies?

Katie: Well, I’m going to be honest, number one. The most common mistake I see is marketers just don’t use data. So there’s a couple reasons why they don’t, even if they think they’re using data, they’re probably not using it correctly. I’m not trying to upset my brand friends, but interpreting the data correctly is important to make data decisions, right? Data informed decisions. And I would say the other area or reason why most marketers do not use data, is they don’t know where to get the data. And so that’s where I would say the two areas are probably the biggest components of why we have bias. Can we go back to that question? Why do we have bias in our measurement and which leaks into our strategy? The digital ecosystem is so measurable and if there is some trust given to the integrity of the data, which has to be pur purposeful and the measurement plan that is tied to the strategy, if there’s some trust given there in connectivity, what you’re going to get out of that is a really solid circular feedback loop of data decisioning. And I think your campaigns are going to do very, very well for your brand.

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