In this episode, we speak to Rachael Donnelly, the CMO of Experian Marketing Services, a provider of data and insights to help brands have more meaningful interactions with people. Being able to identify your customers is the first step to data-driven advertising, and as leaders in the evolution of the advertising landscape, Experian Marketing Services can help you identify your customers and the right potential customers, uncover the most appropriate communication channels, develop messages that resonate, and measure the effectiveness of marketing activities and campaigns.
We cover topics including:
- Rachael’s career path from working in nonprofits, advertising technology companies, a global agency, and ultimately to the CMO role for Experian Marketing Services
- Using data to generate customer insights as well as targeting
- Building data strategies in the changing privacy landscape
- Rachael’s advice to current and aspiring CMOs
Learn more about Rachael Donnelly
Learn more about Experian Marketing Services
Learn more about Tapad
Learn more about Plannuh
Recommend a guest for The Next CMO podcast
Produced by PodForte
Kelsey: [00:00:00] Rachel. Thank you so much for joining the next CMO podcast. We're super excited to have you on the show. I'd love to learn a little bit more about you and what you do for Experian marketing services.
Rachael: thanks, Kelsey. It's nice to be here. So yeah, I, my name is Rachel Donna Lee. I am the CMO of Experian marketing services and Experian marketing services is a division or business unit. Experience, most people probably know Experian as the credit services bureau. You probably go there to get your credit score, check out your credit report.
But Experian has a number of business units. One of them is the marketing services.
and that's where we help marketers connect with their consumers and customers in more meaningful ways across different advertising channels. So very excited about.
Peter: Well, this sounds like it's going to be a very appropriate conversation for our listeners. So that's great and thrilled. You could join us here [00:01:00] today. Rachel and I, before we started recording, we're chatting a little bit. And and you mentioned you have a slightly non-traditional path to the COO office, so I'd love to hear the story.
So how, how did you stumble into the COO office?
Rachael: yes. So I actually was never planning on going into marketing. Might be common across the board. Most people don't set out and say I'm going to be a marketer. But I actually started working for a nonprofit outside right out of college. And it was kind of like the Facebook for people that had health challenges.
And I was helping the founder modernize her offering. She had been into 86. Actual letter mailers to people to connect people that had similar health challenges. And we were moving her online and we were starting to build marketing programs with hospitals to build awareness of the program. And it was a really exciting time.
And I, I, I loved building that awareness and that brand and seeing the results come, [00:02:00] come together with actual patients and doing events for our patients and bringing speakers. And after that took some marketing specific courses in a grad program and got my first unpaid internship where I was just working for an ad tech startup.
And it was fun because it was I think I was the fifth employee in New York. And you're doing everything from helping deposit checks to getting your ad campaigns live to helping run reports and pitch a client at any given time. And that, that. Excitement was what kept me going in the marketing space, took a couple of other roles ended up in product marketing, which I was so passionate about because you become almost the CMO of your individual product.
You're responsible for its success, understanding how it works. And then building awareness and taking that to market with your your constituents across the board. So I always find that marketers have to be. Good partners for all aspects of the business, you are touching every piece of the business, whether it's sales or finance or your leadership team, your [00:03:00] product team.
And it's, what's been fun in every role that I've had. That's had a marketing focus and why I continue to love it today. And just it's actually, I joined Experian only six months ago, and it's been an amazing six months, but really taking that, that next jump of my career the. The roles that I had leading up to this have only helped refine my skill set and get me ready to take this on as as a fun challenge.
And I'm so excited to be doing this every day.
Peter: Oh, that's amazing. And it's, it's interesting that even from the very beginning, of course you were involved with. In a very rudimentary way, bringing communities together and targeting people with, with data, the data might've been on paper or sticky notes back then when it started, when you were just bringing them online.
And and it's also really interesting what you were doing, bringing together communities of people who, who share a health concern is a really interesting. Challenge [00:04:00] to, to do it's, it's amazingly powerful for people who have some kind of a disability or a health challenge to find birds of a feather.
But of course, it's really tricky to do because you're dealing with health information. So I'm not sure if that's something you had to sort of grapple with back in the day when you started with.
Rachael: Yeah, there, there was a lot of regulation in terms of health information, what we were collecting and how we were storing that that we had to bring in a partner when we started to move online, to help us with security and making sure that that the data was securely stored. It's, it's definitely a, a unique challenge.
And I think data in general is sensitive. Right? So in that world, I was looking at individual. Challenges that our, our members head. But anytime that you're talking about data, you're talking about personal information and personal information can be the data that you have on your website from fit the websites that you're visiting on your mobile phone.
And there's, there's regulation around all of it and making sure that you have consent and that you're thinking about [00:05:00] the people that that data is based on is really important. When you start to think about marketing strategies across.
Peter: Well, that's a perfect segue opportunity. I think, to start to talk a little bit about what you're doing now, Experian, because. You have access to, I assume a pretty amazing dataset. So describe a little bit about the kind of data that Experian collects directly through your partners, how that all happens and how marketers are using this kind of data.
Rachael: Yeah, So data, their data comes from everywhere, everywhere everywhere that there is a signal there is, is data. That could be. How you are using your phone, that could be how you the places that you're visiting and location-based that could be the shows that you're watching on your your television on either through cable or on connected device.
So there is so much data at anybody's fingertips and the way that we're bringing it together as an consumer. [00:06:00] Compliant privacy first way. And what we're doing is helping marketers use that data, their own first party data, as well as some of this third party data to build more meaningful consumer interactions across the board.
So not just reaching people based on past purchases or things like that. But really helping marketers have more meaningful interactions, build more meaningful messaging strategies. When they're interacting with consumers, both online and.
Peter: Yeah, I was going to ask a little bit about that because I think a lot of us, these days, we tend to focus so much on just data for targeting a message as an example, but there are lots of other applications of data in one of them that you just alluded to is. The idea of understanding your customer as an example, and in something, if you look back to the, the olden times with horses and buggies, when I started getting involved in this stuff, that was the primary use of data was, was really about research and [00:07:00] understanding.
So tell me what kinds of things people are doing today with the kind of data that's available in today's world to try to. Create a better understanding for their, their their current or their prospective customers.
Rachael: So, if we're talking about the data that marketers are using for reaching their con their known customers, as well as prospective customers in the long run, I think the the importance of that data is what you know about your customers. But also maybe what you don't know about your customers or what you don't know about potential customers and using that data to inform your marketing strategy.
Whether it's from a prospecting perspective or an awareness perspective, whatever it is or if it's actually identifying how you can better engage with your customers. and give them better offers. Let's say marketers are using data across the board, whether it's from CPG clients to auto there's just so much that you can be doing to have more meaningful messages with your, with [00:08:00] your audience.
Peter: Yeah. So it's interesting. I was going to ask you a little bit about your own marketing too. So obviously. You're in a position where you market to a bunch of marketers, which is interesting sometimes. So how do you start to think about, and, and apply data to your marketing? Clearly it's not a direct to consumer B2C model, but I'm sure you, you incorporate data into the way that you market.
Rachael: Yeah, I think what's really important. Not just from a targeting and a messaging perspective is using data to inform your marketing strategy in general. So as I said, I've only been with Experian for about six months. And we're really looking at the history of marketing as it's existed within Experian marketing services specifically.
And really trying to learn from the information that we have, the type of people that are coming to the website, what they're looking for what type of content they're engaging with so that we can build a much more informed data driven marketing strategy going forward. We also are bringing together two.[00:09:00]
So we have Experian marketing services and we recently acquired tap at about a year and a half ago. And they exist in very different ecosystems. When you think about the, who they've been serving traditionally tap at is digitally focused. It's core customers are other ad technology platforms, really helping to connect online identity resolution for marketers, where we are.
That Experian marketing services set of customers. It's a lot of traditional brands and they're used to working with a lot of offline data. So bringing those customers together and really understanding how we can start to message to them holistically is is a unique challenge. So being able to look at performance data and customer engagement is, is really important for us as we start to set the foundation for, for our new stress.
Kelsey: So I want to zoom out a little bit here, cause I'm really curious on, you know, over your six months. The biggest changes that you've seen high level overview of some of those marketing [00:10:00] strategies that you are starting to implement or have implemented. So.
Rachael: Yeah. So.
if we want to get high, high level, it's at the highest level of branding, right? So how do we go to market? What do we want to be thinking about? How do we build awareness for this. Value proposition that we now have as a business. And I think That's something that the market has been really excited about and looking to us for updates on, because we, we made the acquisition and, and they're excited about the prospect of the joint product offering.
So at the highest level, we're building awareness and we're starting to connect with our customers in a more holistic way. Some of the super. Tactical things that we're doing at the same time as looking at how do we want to be represented from a website perspective, how do we want to be communicating?
What is the brand that we're going forward with? And so our strategies right now are really around continuing awareness of both brands while we're also doing things that are setting us up for a larger marketing strategy down the line. So re brand research understanding sentiment and [00:11:00] awareness.
Starting to do some market research in, in in the space to really understand how we will be most effective in communicating with our, our audiences going forward. We're also doing digital campaign search. We are starting to run our first SEO campaigns right now. So it's, it's, it's really almost building the process from the ground up, which is a lot of fun.
It's also something that I've in my years, leading up to this role have loved. Kind of the startup non-profit world, as well as coming into bigger organizations that I really like to be able to dig in and, and get my sink my teeth into a big problem and solve it.
Peter: That's great. And they T tell me a little bit about when this acquisition was made. When, when did you guys do the acquisition?
Rachael: The acquisition was in November of 2000 and 20. so right after the.
Peter: a little over a year. Yeah.
Peter: Yeah, well, yeah, in, right in the middle of lots of things going on, obviously. And, and, and it's interesting because, so in, in, [00:12:00] in my history, my last COO role, we did a hundred acquisitions while I was there, which was insane. And I can tell you that our, our brand integration was mixed.
And how we executed that. In some cases, it was really well done. It, we did a lot of work, it was very thoughtful and other cases, we had things that were hanging on forever. And so if have you dug into that yet? It sounds like you're starting to think about sort of the brand evolution in, in what you do.
With now the combination of these things, but w w what any, and are you in now when it comes to sort of moving toward a new integrated brand and brand message for the combined capable.
Rachael: I think we're, we're probably in maybe the second inning. I, when I first started, I had an opinion of how I thought things would maybe shake out and I think everybody has their opinions, right? It's when you're bringing two businesses together, you have their cultures that you're also bringing together and the.
And so [00:13:00] people want to feel that they're bringing the best of both businesses. In our instance, we only had one acquisition that we're bringing together, but everybody wants to bring their best foot forward and they don't want to lose the core of what makes them unique and, and special, especially from the broader business.
So it's not just about the brand names, but it's about the people that are behind the brands and helping to bring them along for the ride. First first couple of months, I had a feeling of what I, I imagine what would happen with the brands. And I was really on a listening tour. So really hearing about what was important for both of the businesses as we started to go on this journey.
And we're now engaging with a couple of agencies and doing the research so that we can have a more data-driven approach. So we're starting to see initial those initial findings from both our qualitative, qualitative and our quantitative. Research studies and that starting to inform, I think the broader collective of how we're going to be going forward.
Probably over the summer will be a little bit long, further down in the process, but it's very much about bringing the business collective business as [00:14:00] one business, one Experian marketing services going forward into the future. And we're really, really excited for the findings and being able to start to implement some of the work that comes out.
Peter: Yeah. And obviously you've got a, a pretty powerful parent brand. And, and you're, you're doing a really good job, of course, with that association, the, the marketing services as part of big experience. And, and there, there has to be a huge amount of equity there. So I, I I'd assume that there, there would be a fair amount of leverage from experience just because it's so so powerful.
And with this, with this, your audience too, especially I think every marketer on the planet should, should know who experience.
Rachael: Yeah, I think when a, when we first kicked off the call, I mentioned most people know experience. right? As the credit services bureau, most. I wouldn't know, especially as consumers that we have a marketing services division. But what's great is when, what we're actually finding when we're starting to talk [00:15:00] to prospects and customers and get their, their feedback is that most people associate us as Experian.
Many, very few people are saying Experian marketing services. So. The, the strength of the parent company is very it's, it's great equity that we have, and the business had really started to invest in the consolidation of the business units underneath it. I think back in 2016 was the first efforts to really relaunch experience and position ourselves as this broader capability set.
And I think they've done a really good job up until this point. So we'll be definitely incorporating that that strategy and that, that. That broader experience. We're all part of Experian mindset when we, when we go to market.
Peter: Absolutely. And I think creating that leverage is, is really important. And, and I suspect you're right, that most people. And up shorthanding it as Experian anyway. So and so w w why not go with it and in at least, you know, [00:16:00] create some, make it easier for your customers to figure out how to communicate with you and how to, and ultimately if they just have.
Different kind of perspective of what Experian does and Experian is now this broad set of services. That, that is really interesting. All right. Well, I'll try not to nerd out too much about this stuff cause I get really excited about it. But I don't want to go too far down that path without. Going down a slightly different path that I wanted to make sure that we touched on as we're chatting out about a little bit earlier.
The I think our listeners are all grappling with the sort of changing landscape around around data, around third-party cookies, around how they can use data appropriately to. To to, to target, to do research, et cetera, in, in sort of the rules of the new rules of the road, help us understand how, how you think about it in, in how Experian marketing services actually may be able to help.
I think some of these, some of these marketers are trying to think about how to, how to [00:17:00] deal with the new world.
Rachael: Yeah, and I think what's what's unique is that Experian marketing services. Marketing to marketers, but at the end of the day, these marketers are marketing to consumers. So even as B2B engagements that we have with our, with our actual customers they can think about the way that data affects them as a person, right.
And the usage of their data. Over the years, we've seen a number of changes, kind of coming into our landscape where we have kind of the cookie apocalypse, where cookies are going away. We have changes in the way that data is tracked on browsers or in your mobile phone, the most recent iOS updates defaulted from mobile tracking.
So there's also regulations happening things like GDPR CCPA. It, I think the only constant is that we know things are going to always be changing. And so that's why at Experian marketing services specifically, our focus is making sure that we are not is that we are Evaluating all data signals as equally as possible.
We're not throwing all of our hats into one basket. I don't [00:18:00] think that's the right approach for any marketer is you don't want to find yourself. Flat-footed when something changes, change is the only constant that we can be, be sure of. So with the acquisition of tap ed, they've been doing identity resolution for years and they just last beginning of last year, announced their cookie list device graph.
So it's a way for marketers to Resolve identity across digital signals that is not dependent on the cookie. Experian has a wealth of data. That's mostly focused online and we're bringing those assets together so that marketers can continue to have meaningful conversations and market in an effective way to customers across channels, online and off.
But with privacy first and thinking about what we know, what we know is going to be the evolution of data and data signal. And I think that's, what's really important is to ensure that we're helping our marketers navigate that uncertainty in the coming weeks years before.
Peter: So without a cookie, how, [00:19:00] how do you think about sort of federating that data around an identity? Is it some kind of a unique identifier that is unique to to Experian that, that you sort of say, this is, this is likely a person and this person has these zillions of.
Rachael: Yeah, so it's, there's so many different signals that we could be looking at. It could be location. So. Experian has what we call the Louid, which is living unit ID. It's an identifier that we have based on our understanding of people within a household. We can look at things like email. So if we're working with a client that has first party data, because they're people are logging into their website, they have an email, we can connect that with other different identifiers in a privacy compliant way that just allows us to either identify. People that look like that consumer or ways that that consumer might be behaving in other areas. So I think that the important thing is that there are so many different ways that we could do it, whether it's first, second, or third party.
Peter: Well, and in fact, it's, it's a really important point that you just brought up, [00:20:00] Rachel, the idea of sort of augmenting depending enriching. That you have as first party data. And, and obviously if you have first party data for things like emails for consumers, of course and you know, understanding how to enrich that, to understand, to either target again, using your own first party data or or or just understand the customers more is really important.
I suspect that the. Most CMOs should be. Working through their data strategy right now, if they aren't already, they should initiate that because the reality is the landscape, as you mentioned, is shifting around data around how we can use data in a legal and privacy, privacy safe way. And with that mind, I think people really have to understand what, what are they doing?
And in sorting that, was that something you, you ever help clients with help with their overall data [00:21:00] strategy and figure out what they should be doing with their around collecting and appending enriching.
Rachael: Yeah. So I think when it comes down to data, strategies can be massive, right? There, there are so many different aspects of data that you could be looking at from a business perspective. When we talk about customer data, that's, that's something that we, that we can help marketers navigate, especially the continuous change that the industry is having. So it's really important that marketers understand what data they have and understand what they're trying to do with that data. How are they going to be using that data, whether it's for growing their audiences or messaging them more effectively, et cetera. I think that the audience insights that Experian offers is what do we know about what, what do we think we know about.
What do we think we know about what they're interested in? And how do we want to how can we help marketers use that information to have more meaningful interaction on more meaningful message, more meaningful customer journey at the end of the day, with their, with their customers and their prospects to really grow [00:22:00] return on their.
Kelsey: So, I guess, given these changes with privacy and data and all these regulations, how do you see marketing strategies evolving in the next six to 12?
So that's really where the consulting comes in and, and helping understand the data assets that customer brands have on their customers and what they want to do with it in the future, knowing how data is changing. Something that we're seeing a lot of right now is the concept. Safe ways to share information across businesses whether that's from a measurement perspective or whatnot.
And so clean rooms start to come up in that space. That's something that [00:23:00] a lot of marketers are integrating into their broader enterprise technology strategies through, through different partners. So helping to navigate that space and make sure that either our technology or were there to help connect.
In a privacy compliant way in those environments.
Peter: So for, for our listeners, can you, can you explain a little bit about what a data clean room is and why you would need one?
Rachael: Yeah. Data clean rooms are a you can think about it as a room. That's why they're called the data clean room. Where information is coming from two different parties that they don't want to share. The sensitive information of that data. You can bring together information from two places use the clean room to anonymously connect to that data and then bring that back out to the respective parties.
Not in any sort of unidentifiable way, but it allows that data to be shared privately. It could be any sort of data. It could be really anything. Not just consumer marketing data could be.[00:24:00]
Peter: Yeah. And of course there are a lot of reasons why you might do that. In some cases it's upending purchase data and other ways it's a partnership kind of opportunities. You see a lot of that where two companies may want to. Partner and partner and communicate to their joint customers. They don't want to share their customer list of course.
But it would be useful to understand to understand, can we create a message that we can send to people who are customers of one company's product who's also of the other one or non-customers even as sometimes a useful thing to do. So that, that kind of that, that kind of approach is, is definitely really interesting.
So that's, that's
Rachael: The co marketing is, is definitely.
Peter: Yeah, absolutely. So you're you're half a year in or so in, into this journey. So look ahead in your COO role, what do you think you're going to be working on? A year from now. So you, you, you're going to have fixed all the answered all the [00:25:00] questions around the brand integration that's going on here.
Things are up and running. What, what do you think your agenda is going to look like a year from now? When you're now 18 months into Experian marketing services as this.
Rachael: Yeah, I hope that I'm 18 months in, into the role. We are. We're finally establishing Experian marketing services as a, a leader in the evolution of identity and identity for marketing purposes. So identity, data, and identity resonates. And I think that it will be a really fun time where we can really be tapping into the thought leadership that exists working with our partners and with industry bodies to share the work that we've done in order to to build the product and also to support our marketers in the evolving identity landscape.
So I'm really
Peter: great. It sounds like a,
Peter: was just going to say, it sounds like a, that would be a great place to be in when, when you get there. So that, that is [00:26:00] exciting. So help help our listeners understand. So if they're, if they're early in their journey of sort of getting their arms around a data strategy, is there a simple first step that everyone should take as they try to sort out how to navigate data in, in the next year?
Rachael: Well, it depends on the data. Again, there's so many different types of data. If you are a brand and you are starting to look at data one of the first things I would say is you probably need to make sure you have clean data, data, clean data is the the gold currency of being able to implement any sort of strategy, whether it's business or marketing.
So I think the first thing you had to do is make sure you have clean data because there are a lot of times. Brand's think that they do or companies think that they do and then they can't actually make sense of it. So your strategy is only going to be as good as your data at the, at the end of the day.
Peter: Excellent clean data. That's probably a pretty good place to start. We're believe it or not. We're, we're wrapping up our scheduled time here and we're going to need to, to [00:27:00] finish. And Kelsey will lead us into the, the, our closing question in a second. But before we do that how, how should people how should people find more information about extreme marketing services?
Rachael: sure they can go to experian.com forward slash marketing dash services. And we're right there on the website. You can also learn a little bit more about tap ed if you go to tap.com. So
Peter: Awesome. And we'll put those links in the show notes. So if people didn't write that down or know which direction the slashes are in and dashes and things like that, they can just follow the link in the show notes. That's probably a little easier. Great. Well then with that, I think over to you.
Kelsey: this has been great. And I loved how you touched upon kind of your journey to the CMO role and how it's pretty common that not many people expect to be a CMS. Given that, what advice would you give to those that are, you know, it was fine to be a CMO or currently a CMO to.
Rachael: I think it is. Don't be afraid to ask questions. It's really hard to [00:28:00] market something if you're not entirely sure what it is, either from a technical perspective or a vision perspective, always ask questions. It it'll just help you at the end of the day. That's it'll help you get a seat at the table and it'll make sure that the strategy strategies that you're in with lending are effective and efficient and.
Kelsey: Perfect. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Rachel. We really appreciated it. Make sure to follow the next emo and plan on Twitter and LinkedIn. And if you have any ideas for topics or guests, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great day, everyone. Thank you, Rachel.
Rachael: Thank you.