If you’ve ever played poker, you might have heard someone say that you’re playing your opponents’ cards, not your own. Getting a good read on the other players can help you predict their actions, gauge the relative strength of your own hand, and determine how likely you are to win. It forces you to think about things from another person’s perspective, a difficult skill to hone, but one that’s beneficial in negotiation, friendship and other areas of life, too.

When it comes to digital marketing, many strategies are being developed without this critical filter applied. Sure, good media teams pull research on audiences and use insights to determine how best to connect with them. But then we build out complex user journeys and tell tales about moving people through a sales funnel that doesn’t really exist anymore and maybe never did.

We convince ourselves that our targeting will be accurate (it probably won’t), that people will click our ads (they probably won’t), that they’ll visit our landing pages (maybe later) and if they don’t convert on the first try (ha), we’ll just retarget them with another ad and bring them back (fingers crossed). We choose the latest and greatest ad units to engage our audience, letting them tilt their phone to do this or turn on their camera to do that.

There’s just one problem with all of this: no one is asking if the audience would actually do those things.

“Plainly forcing people through a process or journey isn’t possible – mostly people will do things at their own speed and volition. Nudging people is more realistic.” – Tom Roach, Marketing Week

Most brands want to be relevant and it’s easy to get pulled into the theatrics of boardroom and video meetings envisioning a campaign that cuts through the clutter and maybe wins a few awards along the way. It’s a lot less fun being the wet towel outlining why something probably won’t work and offering a more robust strategy reflective of how people actually behave online.

Consumers are more informed than ever, which is driving increased cynicism and skepticism in their relationship with brands. In one recent study, “71 percent of consumers said they have little faith that brands will deliver on their promises, saying they are tired of brands pretending they want to act for the good of society when they are mostly out to generate profits.”

They’re probably not thrilled you followed them to Tik Tok to share one of those weird chopping dance videos. They might not care about your cutesy augmented reality ad unit. Who knows if they even appreciated the story-telling, character arc and brand reveal of the 30, and were actually ok with the 10 second cut down?

While it’s not a poker table, audiences are sharing tells every time they skip on YouTube, choose not to click an ad, or hide one on Facebook. The smart brands are taking note and adapting their strategies, hoodie and sunglasses optional.