Integrated ≠ Creepy: Translating the Marketing Cool Factor to Protect Our Data-Driven Way of Life

IMW Linda Presentation - Integrated Creepy

In my keynote at our Integrated Marketing Week event in New York today, I tried to translate how modern, integrated, data-driven marketing means something totally different for policy makers than it does for marketers and fundraisers.  In fact, what marketers think is cool, policy people often think is creepy.

We are living at time when consumers enjoy greater benefits from data-driven marketing than ever before…and simultaneously marketers are facing the possible end to that data-driven way of life.  Why?  Because the legislators and regulators that hold the power to steer our industry’s future fundamentally distrust what we do.  What we find amazing, they find alarming.  What we know consumers want, they think threatens consumer privacy.

Consider some of our industry’s latest and greatest buzzwords and catch-phrases and consider how differently marketers and policymakers (informed by the press) translate those concepts…

Let’s start with the merging of online and offline data for CRM retargeting…

  • To a marketer, this is simply the ability to recognize your own customers, and target segments of your CRM database with online ads across the web.
  • But Representative Ed Markey, Chairman of the House Privacy Caucus, thinks “by combining data form numerous offline and online sources, data brokers have developed hidden dossiers on almost every U.S. consumer…raising serious privacy concerns.”

How about abandoned shopping cart trigger emails?

  • To a marketer, this is just a highly successful nurturing technique with conversion rates substantially higher than for standard sale campaigns.
  • But for the New York Times, this is equivalent to trying on a sweater in a department store dressing room and choosing not to buy it, but having a persistent sales clerk pursue you into the street yelling, “Hey, are you sure?”…and receiving a call at your home the next day to check again if you want to complete the purchase.

What about propensity marketing and marketing scores?

  • A marketer knows that this is simply a way to predict future behavior by analyzing past and current behavior, in order to improve the conversations with high value and ready-to-act people.
  • But Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill believes that  “[marketing] information can – and will – be scraped from here, there and everywhere, and then sold to those who are evaluating consumers for jobs, insurance, housing, and other important benefits.”

What does “Integrated Marketing” mean to you?

  • If you’re a marketer, it means the ultimate in customer centricity: Giving customers a more relevant experience by delivering the same message regardless of channel or platform: your website, in a print ad, in your email, and anywhere else you deliver it.
  • If you’re a policymaker, it means Big Brother is monitoring your every online move.

Talk about a massive disconnect.   And the chasm between how marketers and policymakers see the world is widened even further by the ways that integrated, data-driven marketing is characterized in the press and by consumer advocates.

In the spirit of good communications, marketers too must make an effort to understand policy-speak.  Look at just two of powerful people in Washington who have the power to decide what marketers will and won’t be able to do with data in the future.

Senator Jay Rorockefellerckefeller is Chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, which writes the laws that govern what marketers can and cannot do.  He has introduced a bill in Congress called the “Do Not Track Online” Act.  He says that “consumers have a right to decide whether their information can be collected and used online,” and that his bill “offers a simple, straightforward way for people to stop companies from tracking their movements online.”  So let me translate…

Senator Rockefeller’s bill would enable every single consumer to stop the flows of information that power data-driven marketing – and the Internet economy as a whole – with one click of a button.  Forget targeted marketing.  Forget online behavioral advertising.  If this bill were to pass, we would take a giant leap back in time to a world of nothing but “spray and pray” advertising.

brillThen there is FTC Commissioner Julie Brill.  Delivering the keynote address at our own “DMA in DC” conference last March, Commissioner Brill said the FTC wants to work with the industry to find agreement on ways to protect the privacy of consumers and promote a “vibrant, innovative, online marketplace.”  That sounds a lot like “mom and apple pie” doesn’t it?  So let me translate…

What Commissioner Brill really wants is a single web portal that would allow consumers to access and correct information collected by every “data broker” and to opt-out entirely from data collection by those data brokers.  And what does she mean by “data broker”?  Any company that collects, aggregates, analyzes, shares or sells consumer information.  In short, every single one of your companies would have to open up your database, let consumers see and correct (or just change on a whim) every bit of information you had on them, or delete their files entirely.  All of those insights you derive from behavior, retargeting and “big data” – gone with a click.

I know it sounds crazy.  You may think that there couldn’t possibly be this wide of a gap.  However, what Washington has in mind would endanger nothing less than the future of data-driven, integrated marketing.

Luckily, disconnects like this are not new to marketers.  In fact, marketers are GREAT at bridging exactly this kind of disconnect.  You overcome these challenges by translating the importance of what you do to others less familiar with it.  You all are very familiar with – and very skilled at – translating between marketing and sales, marketing and the C-Suite, marketing and IT.  Recently, the news has been particularly full of articles talking about the vital importance – and significant challenges – of collaboration between CMOs and CTOs in order for data-driven marketing to thrive.   And while the CMO/CTO disconnect is getting the most play these days, it should now be clear to you that the Marketer/Policymaker disconnect is just as vital – if not more so – to the future of integrated marketing.

The current regulatory environment is a test of our collective ability to bridge the language gap and improve understanding of the value of data-driven marketing.   We cannot and let these mischaracterizations about data-driven marketing stand.

DMA launched the Data-Driven Marketing Institute (DDMI) with the sole purpose of setting the record straight – among policymakers, consumer advocates and the press – about how data-driven marketing works, the countless ways that it benefits consumers, and the tremendous fuel it provides for economic growth.  We aim to demonstrate to legislators that being pro-data is also being pro-consumer.  Serving as DMA’s own think tank, DDMI is setting the record straight about data-driven marketing this through research, education, and outreach.

Join us.

I urge you all to take the Pledge to join DMA in advancing and protecting responsible data driven marketing.    There’s a role for every one of you to play in what comes next.  The future of data-driven marketing – and your organization – depends on it.

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