5Qs with Resonate CEO Bryan Gernert

Resonate is an audience targeting technology company that specializes in values and attitude analysis data solutions for corporate and political clients. Political campaigns using Resonate technology to connect with voters reported an 81% election rate last year with exceptional voter responsiveness rates. CEO Bryan Gernert spoke with DIGIDAY : DATA about the meaning of engagement and the future of audience targeting.


Q: The term “engagement” has been used and abused to the point of meaninglessness. What is real engagement and what role do accurate metrics play in getting there?


The challenge with the term “engagement” is that most people are misusing the term to describe engagement with the ad. We believe what’s most important is building long-term relationships and engagement between the brand and the consumer.  People’s values directly correlate with their desire to engage with brands that are aligned with their individual ideals.


True engagement happens when brands think carefully and deliberately about how to reach their audience and interact with them in a more meaningful way than traditional online methods can offer. If done properly it deepens convictions about a brand with their consumers.


Q: How are “values” important in consumer analysis and how can something so personal be quantified?


A consumer’s values and beliefs are the why behind what drives their engagement, purchase decisions and brand loyalty. Being able to connect with people based on their values is essential to reaching audiences on a deeper level. This is critical to every part of a marketing campaign, from the message to where people are exposed to the message.  We’re connecting brands with people, not computers. It’s important we don’t forget the fundamentals of marketing by getting lost in all the technology and data clutter in our industry.


Q: What are the core elements of a successful approach to targeting?


The best approach is based on a fundamental premise that you need to ask people what they think and believe to understand the reasons behind their purchase decisions.


Take, for example, a group of moms under the age of 50 who are interested in environmental issues and have children age 10 or younger. This group of Green Moms looks for products and services that help to preserve natural resources and protect the environment for their children and is more connected to valuable causes and charity than the rest of the online population. Due to these values, Green Moms are 37% more likely to buy products made by socially responsible companies and 22% more likely to go out of their way to buy a specific brand or product that shares their position on social issues. We help brands deliver their message based on aligned values with those consumers they want to reach like the Green Moms mentioned here.



Q: What does a successful campaign that incorporates audience targeting require in terms of the approach to data?


A company has to bring the human element to online advertising. We believe that understanding the reasons and values behind why people act, purchase and believe the way they do is far more valuable for brands than making assumptions about what people want based solely in demographics or behavior. Our proprietary data enables us to provide invaluable audience insights that our clients can leverage across channels.


In addition, you can’t lump audiences into any pre-defined categories. We work with our advertisers to reach their very specific audiences based on the individual campaign goals and brand values, and deliver advertising in the best places to reach those audiences online. The power of our solution is that this can be done with a few simple keystrokes and yet get to heart of a very intimately defined audience.  This is a tremendous step forward for brand building online.


Audience targeting should and I believe will continue to evolve, it benefits the consumer and the advertiser.  This being said considerable due care needs to be used with regards to the privacy of individuals. The good news is that certain approaches, like that of Resonate, will not because affected by privacy issues because they are based on opt-in dialogs with consumers. We know the right audience for brands because we ask, instead of simply tracking. Consumer privacy is and will remain a top priority for us as it should for all online advertising companies.


Q: What does targeting really mean in terms of building the brand?


Brand building takes a lot of hard work, care and feeding.  It requires that the brand develops a personality, a presence and defines its core values, almost like a person, in fact very much like a person.  If you think about iconic brands and companies that have done this tremendously well, the brand values are what differentiate a brand from its competitors.  The fact that these things are so critical and that values play such a large role in building long term customer relationships it seems almost incomprehensible to me that the industry has not been more focused on connecting the values of the brand with consumers who share those values.


To truly understand the why behind the what, you have to ask people.  The future of supporting, enhancing and building brands online is very bright, and we look forward to doing our part in delivering the value. Consumer research is the core of our methodology.  We don’t assume, we ask. We conduct ongoing, in-depth consumer surveys that tell us about the qualities that drive consumer purchase decisions. This information is then used to define comprehensive audience profiles and deliver ad campaigns based on each advertiser’s specific goals.


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