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The dawn of an opt in culture demands changing marketing models

Marketing models are continuously gearing upwards and onwards to meet where customers gather - online.
The dawn of an opt in culture demands changing marketing models

But as digital marketing strategies have managed to dwarf any other form of marketing over the last few years, its growing sophistication has come alongside a broader march equally sophisticated – toward a growing demand from customers calling on their right to protect their personal information.

This demand for change is something that marketing functions within an organisation cannot ignore. And it is arguably disrupting established digital marketing models. Increasingly, customers will reward brands that make a much-needed mental shift and put the frameworks in place designed to respect and protect the personal information entrusted to the same organisation.

Personal information is premium data exchanged with a trusted organisation. The responsibility of acting with transparency and offering control lies with organisations.

Legislation and education causing a seismic, but positive, shift

In recent years, an expansive list of countries, including South Africa, has shifted their focus to ringfence and define the premium value that personal information protection beholds.

Through increased awareness and education campaigns general consumers are more aware of what their privacy protections rights are. And they are growing more confident that the choice is indeed theirs. This choice hinges largely on whether or not they perceive the value of adding their personal information into the so-called ‘big data marketing machine’. For the general consumer to do so they would need the exchange to be trusted, transparent and clearly defined.

We are unequivocally entering an era where an opt in culture reigns, as opposed to the opt out culture we have experienced up, which gives consumers less control over how their data is processed, stored and shared. And that’s a positive step in the right direction.

But does increasing the awareness of and the demand for data privacy mean that organisations and technology giants, such as Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook, are prevented from connecting to niche and targeted communities when big data analytics become diluted due to tracking opt-outs?

And what does it mean for smaller mom-and-pop shops in a post-pandemic climate that have come to depend on monetising tight marketing budgets into profits with often highly targeted digital-only strategies?

These marketing strategies have been hugely effective to power profitability until now, even more so for large corporations, but most always at a cost to the customer.

Is the rise of the opting in culture eating into the reach of the ‘niche’? Will a more mature view of personal information protection eclipse the right target, at the wrong time and place?

Perhaps the answer lies in defining privacy

Analyst and owner of Mobile Dev Memo Eric Benjamin Seufert is of opinion that the way in which tech giants are defining privacy is in itself is a bit of a puzzling concept. He says most technology providers know this as they are defining opt in language.

Seufert explains Apple’s ‘mic drop’ moment when in June 2020 Apple literally dumped “10,000 puzzle pieces on the floor and walked away”. Apple was the first tech giant to define their commitment to handing over the choice to their users to opt into sharing their data on its platform, as opposed to fumbling through complicated opt out processes.

This left many of its peers with a higher dependency on data for advertising purposes, among them Facebook, unhappy and fearing this shift will decrease their ability to monetise data effectively.

Subsequently, the trend to put control and transparency in the hands of users has mushroomed with more pop-up prompts warning users when an app is tracking their data for advertising purposes, giving users the option to block the app or site from doing so. When a changing culture is driven by consumers, it is hard even for Facebook to try and argue its case for the privacy-invasive status quo to continue its reign.

Early in 2020 Google also made a significant change to remove support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser, which are used to track users across multiple sites to target ads and see how they perform. Google is also expected to follow in Apple’s footsteps with creating its own mobile advertising identifier on Android devices.

An opportune time to invest in control and transparency strategies

Alongside the march toward protecting personal information, organisations have been trying to figure out how to practically communicate with customers and prove to them the value of opting into services, products or content.

For instance, to maintain compliance as well as consumer trust, Harvard Business Review says companies will likely thrive in an opt in culture when they invest in automation and analytics tools that are designed to safeguard customer privacy in-line with relevant legislation in that geographic region, such as the PoPIA in South Africa.

As a consultant being a facilitator inspired by changing landscapes, I can’t help but agree that the opportunities are plentiful. We recommend marketing professionals adapt their way of working to the following strategies to remain relevant and ahead of the curve - all while safeguarding personal information:

  1. Entrenched brand trust

    Consider a commitment towards meaningfully including data privacy as part of the brand’s overall positioning. The end goal of all customer data collection should be to provide an enhanced customer experience leaving customers willing to trust organisations with their data.

    Last year, Forbes revealed the results of a global study showing that consumers are four to six times more likely to purchase, protect and champion purpose-driven brands. We believe the reason why a customer buys into a brand’s story and pledges loyalty is also the same vein that gives life to their motivation to opt in. Marketers should consider packaging solutions with language that would clearly and authentically display this positioning. It is not required to reinvent your privacy policy, but instead use the policy as a guide to the facts to craft your message.

  2. Automation beyond technology
    The more consumers are given the ability to protect and control their data, the more thoughtful brands will have to act in order to abide by an opt-in culture. Yes, it means using technology with built in automated systems to provide control and transparency, but it also goes beyond that. It will stand marketing professionals in good stead to empower themselves with an automated privacy-first response as everyday situations arise.

    To this end, we recommend that marketing professionals adopt an internal ‘privacy playbook’ tailored to their organisational or brand requirements. At its core, this playbook is a collection of frameworks, policies and guidelines that empower marketers and their teams to navigate data protection situations with agility ‘in-the-moment'.

  3. Productised services built on privacy-by-design principles
    We recommend marketers adapt privacy-by-design products such as ready-made database products or digital and social media targeting products where the principles of the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) is already built into the offering, for example.

    Another practical course of action is to revisit contextual advertising. This alternative targeting strategy is making a comeback in a post-cookie world according to recent research in light of privacy regulation worldwide and advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Contextual targeting does not track and target the individual, but rather the environment the user is in. This strategy sees programmatic media buying based on the content on the page or screen through keyword- and topic-based targeting. There are limited conflicts with privacy laws and legislation because brands do not need to know much about the customer.

After the cookie has crumbled

Pending the commencement of legislation, safeguarding of consumer privacy will likely be an existential moment for organisations. The change managed adaptation of organisations as they meet the needs of an opt in culture is best executed when technology and policy clearly define their commitment to value – and protect – personal information.

Brands who will thrive in the post cookie and tracking world will be those that gain trust of their customers by prioritising the best principles of building online relationships, providing complete transparency and control over what personal information they provide, how it is used and with whom it is shared.

Brands will need to formalise this pledge and find inobtrusive ways to earn the trust of their customers and build meaningful relationships in the digital space.

12 Apr 2021 08:57