Google and GDPR Are a Wake Up Call to a Broken Marketing System
As business leaders we like to believe we have our finger on the company’s pulse, leaning on our departmental experts to keep us abreast of any significant events that may affect the bottom-line, without getting bogged down in the minutia.
Up until now, this system seemed to work pretty well. Despite mass studies indicating a steady decline in consumer trust and engagement with brands, profits continued to rise. The internet took both the blame and the credit for these contrasting factors. Smart technology, third-party cookies and real-time-bidding platforms gave us access to consumers like never before. At the same time, when presented with so many alternative options via the internet, it was only natural that brand loyalty would subside. Right?
It was all so simple, and all so wrong, it didn’t all begin with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.
Where did it all go wrong?
The plain and simple truth is that, the empirical approach offered by data driven marketing is difficult for boardrooms to ignore. Ever since the first piece of targeted direct mail hit the first prospects doormat, data driven marketing has been able to offer a bullet proof audit trail starting with cash spent and ending in revenue earned. The data driven marketer’s mantra was as simple as “spend x amount to communicate with y people. Monitor who responded to those communications, in order to attribute a precise amount of spend to a precise amount of income.” So long as profit margins remained strong, many of us were willing to turn a blind eye to a glaringly obvious issue – the major disconnect between our data specialists and our marketing teams.
Few people fully understand how their ‘data footprint’ is used; legislation, and ethics have not kept pace, opting to exploit this fact for commercial gain. It would be naïve to claim that data use has not spiralled out of control.
For more than a decade ‘best practice’ has been little more than a case of covering your back against privacy regulation, while exploiting unprecedented amounts of consumer data to drive sales. In a nutshell, it goes something like this: Bamboozle your audiences with complex T&C’s, track their movements online and then ‘spam’ them with repetitious, boring advertising designed purely with ROI in mind.
I’ve yet to hear of a brief from a brand suggesting that it would like to trick its best audience into allowing access to its data; yet many of the practices of obscure privacy policies and misleading permissioning do just this. Quite frankly placing a cookie on a device to track and report back information about what the device user gets up to is hacking by any other name.
Is it any wonder consumers have become so disengaged?
Our metrics for success have centred around clicks and impressions, prioritising short-term gain over long-term, value driven engagement. Our failure to recognise that personal data, the way It is harvested and used, is an essential element in the consumer-brand relationship, has necessitated the introduction of egregious privacy regulations, such as GDPR, to bring about change.
The big tech companies which control much of this ecosystem have seen this concern as both a threat and an opportunity. By reigning in access to the data which they generate they are addressing concerns but also shifting the balance of control of audience onboarding and attribution away from brands into their ‘walled gardens’. The most significant development has been Googles announcement on 14th January this year. The effect of blocking 3rd party cookies from Chrome means access to 80% of all online data will be under Google’s control and the $300bn digital ecosystem in its current form will no longer work.
When Google announced their ‘privacy first’ cookie blocking initiative it was welcomed by audiences who were suspicious of brands data practices and worn down and disengaged by poor marketing practice. Not a single voice was raised in defence of the ‘one to one data fuelled engagement’ the data industry has been promising to deliver for the past decade.
Why does this matter?
We are only beginning to tap into technology’s ability to improve human wellbeing. The reality is that technology needs data to work, from it’s accessing medical and activity data to pre-empt potential illnesses to understanding consumer interests and suggesting suitable movies. The power of data to enhance our entertainment, access to the right products, health security and so forth is massive but current practices are undermining this ability and driving data into the hands of governments and just a few tech companies.
Technology is a delivery platform that allows brands to interact with audiences in ways traditional media channels can’t replicate. The largest technology delivery platform is the 3bn smart devices which we check, on average, 52 times a day. Developing ‘clever apps’ for Smart devices is a prime opportunity to occupy a ‘corner of someone’s mind’ but a search on the App Store or Google Play suggests that ‘non-tech’ brands haven’t yet realised this opportunity.
The solution is honesty. Brands need to broker a ‘new data deal’ with their audience. It should be based on trust, and respect, using technology (’clever apps’) to deliver on their promise of ‘value’ (engagement) in exchange for data.
Mymyne has the technical infrastructure for ‘data engagement technology’. However, to deliver this product to its fullest potential, we, the methodical ‘math-men’, need to engage with the intuitive, ‘mad-men’. Trust and respect require transparency, which requires communication skills. Value requires creativity and technical expertise to imagine and develop the potential of ‘data engagement technology’. Together we need to imagine the potential, sell the promise and deliver the possible. The promise which underpins the ‘new data deal’ is; Audiences experience clear benefit as a result of the use of their data; Brands benefit from engaged audiences and ongoing conversations; Data use is transparent, explicitly permissioned and easy to control; ROI is determined by engagement, not sales.
Leading from the top
Account men are the gatekeepers to client budgets, but whilst they may pitch a new idea incrementally, so long as it is not a KPI they’re being measured against, they are unlikely to champion a new cause.
To bring about this change, there needs to be a cultural shift, driven from the boardroom and promoted throughout the organisation. Privacy has become a major differentiator for brands. Those that get it right, will win market share and positive brand sentiment; those who don’t will be the subjects of heavy fines and continued disengagement. This is why privacy must take become a boardroom issue and why we need to bring engage the chieftains of both the ‘mad-men’ and ‘math-men’ tribes, challenging them to work together and embrace strategies that put transparency and value front and centre.