Consumers are often blind to the alarming volume of personal data at the disposal of digital behemoths such as Facebook and Google, but for those that are aware, the feeling is generally one of discomfort. A recent report by KPMG International found that “unwanted marketing” was the most cited reason for consumers to feel uneasy at corporations keeping a record of their personal data and history. Renowned marketing professor Byron Sharp wrote in his magnum opus “How Brands Grow” that:
If the majority of consumers find the use of personal data to be creepy, marketers should be looking to avoid disseminating concrete evidence that they have bucket loads of data on just about everybody in the form of marketing campaigns. If more than half of consumers find the use of personalised information in marketing and advertising to be unsettling, including it in a campaign is unlikely to bear fruit in the long term.
The Problem With Big Data
The fact that data is so readily available should not be a call-to-arms for marketers to conjure marketing campaign that are personalised to the extreme. In his book Taming The Big Data Tidal Wave, Bill Franks wrote about how consumer data is often misused:
The process of strategising implores the marketer to discern the end goal of its communications and work forwards rather than shoehorning its fad-driven plan into the overall aims of the process.
Statistics supporting “mass personalisation” show that the majority of consumers are not comfortable with receiving offers and services in exchange for their personal data. Marketers must remember that although stunts involving personalisation will sometimes work from a PR perspective, they do so because it focuses on the technology rather than the consumer. It is important to consider that marketing traditionally beds its roots in direct returns and bases campaigns on ROI and that to run campaigns solely based on creating a positive impression of the brand is to delve too deep into the world of PR. Unless such an activity can be shown to have a direct impact on revenue, marketers should steer well clear.
Similarly, to use consumer data in such an intimate manner reflects on the company rather than the consumer’s perception of the brand. With so many averse to large corporations brandishing their information like their own personal play-thing, it seems unwise to use big data as a means to peddle a brand’s relatability, especially if it cannot be shown to positively benefit the brand where it matters.
Positive Examples Of Consumer Data in Marketing Campaigns
Spotify ran a clever OOH campaign which used its consumers’ data to provide quirky facts and statistics about the music listening trends and minutiae that had occurred over the past 12 months.
The way in which Spotify chose to generalise the data at its disposal showed a shrewd understanding of how comfortable its users are with their data being processed by a large company. What was important about the underlying message of the campaign is that it tapped into one of Spotify’s USPs in that it made reference to how everyone uses the platform differently and it is entirely customisable.
Last year Starbucks announced plans to use its data on customer preferences and tastes to present its customers with personalised offers and recommendations. What separated this plan from others is that it came with the intention of driving sales, and furthermore it was to be rolled out using the Starbucks app. The latter of these points is important as by forgoing an official “opt-in” it does not look to target consumers who aren’t already invested in the brand.
Both of these campaigns work well in principle because they target a niche demographic of consumers and look to nudge users towards generating more revenue. Using consumer data should be more generally applicable as a part of the retention cycle rather than attracting new customers.
Part of the issue with using consumer data is that it often comes out in the form of personalisation and it preaches to be about connecting with consumers on a one-to-one basis. In reality most consumers aren’t interested in this type of relationship and will be put off by adverts that use their personal information. While data is useful for marketers to have at their disposal with regards to creating new communications, it should not be seen as a shortcut to “connect” with consumers and must be saved for campaigns of genuine value and impact.
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