"IS" is the best scenario since it is the most precise. However, the issue with "IS" is that it will not include all possible scenarios and thus, will not subsequently normalize all people. The issue with "CONTAINS" is that it may qualify people who should not have been qualified.
For example, neither of your campaigns will normalize "U.S.A". What I would do is look for all possible values that should be normalized and then use the "IS" filter and list every single one of them:
change data value: United States of America
When you discover a spelling or abbreviation that did not qualify, add it to the smart list so it qualifies in the future.
Thank you for the quick reply! I think I will go with "IS" and just continue to add to the scenarios.
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Frankly the lack of wildcard matching, let alone true regular expression matching, makes doing this within Marketo Smart Lists pretty useless IMO. For example, you need a regex like U[ .]*S[ .]*A[ .]* to just match the real-world permutations of the abbrevation USA.
If you watch my blog posts, you'll soon see a way to do this kind of thing by via real-time lookups in a Google Sheet.