Staying Worthy of the Customer’s Trust

Consumers are losing confidence in big brands when it comes to their privacy. What’s causing this erosion and what can marketers do about it?

5 min read
Privacy: are big companies doing enough to protect it?
Could­n’t we all use a lit­tle more pri­va­cy?

Are big com­pa­nies doing enough to pro­tect our data?

A recent arti­cle by Angel­List cites a Pew study which sug­gests that only 24% of Amer­i­cans believe they are.

You may think that sto­ries like Face­book’s elec­tion scan­dal with Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca (and sub­se­quent reports) are behind this low esteem in the pub­lic eye. These sto­ries seem com­mon­place when it comes to pri­va­cy.

But I don’t buy it.

Not as the cause for a low pub­lic image about cor­po­rate stew­ard­ship over pri­va­cy. 

Espe­cial­ly in Face­book’s case.

The real rea­son?

If you ask me, it’s failed per­son­al­iza­tion.

Mistaken identities feel like SPAM

Mar­keters ded­i­cate resources and effort to per­son­al­iza­tion because it has been shown to be effec­tive.

In a recent sur­vey, eight out of ten mar­keters saw an uptick in results after per­son­al­iza­tion in their cam­paigns and 73 per­cent of glob­al mar­keters cite a per­son­al­ized cus­tomer expe­ri­ence as a key to suc­cess. This is where seri­ous cus­tomer data comes into play to help seg­ment your buy­ers and tar­get your cus­tomers with bet­ter-per­son­al­ized mar­ket­ing. The more detailed feed­back and nuanced seg­ments, the bet­ter.

Mar­ket­ing tech­niques don’t exist in a vac­u­um. And they aren’t infal­li­ble. You can screw up per­son­al­iza­tion, and when you do it isn’t pret­ty.

In our office we chuck­le at exam­ples of failed per­son­al­iza­tion.

You’ve prob­a­bly received an email with an incom­plete per­son­al­iza­tion token refer­ring to you as “fname” or even the wrong name before.

But more insid­i­ous are emails that nail all my details, but miss in their assump­tions about my beliefs, pref­er­ences, or per­sona.

These miss­es don’t even have the sil­ver lin­ing of being fun­ny and enter­tain­ing. They just tell me that the brand does­n’t get me.

In the worst cas­es, these emails might even be offen­sive if the mis­tak­en beliefs or pref­er­ences are close­ly held, part of my iden­ti­ty, or oth­er­wise very impor­tant to me.

Quot­ing a con­sumer study, the DMN web­site states that con­sumers scan­ning their inbox­es have devel­oped high­ly tuned spam detec­tion abil­i­ties. To them, “e‑mails that are not per­son­al­ly rel­e­vant are Spam.”

Emails that are not per­son­al­ly rel­e­vant are SPAM. @cmo_zen #email­mar­ket­ing #mar­ket­ing­pro­tips #mar­ket­ing Click To Tweet

Relevance equals trust

Tru­ly rel­e­vant mes­sages feel like advice from a friend.

Per­son­al­iza­tion can low­er bar­ri­ers and skep­ti­cism, increas­ing the sig­nal to noise ratio so a gen­uine­ly rel­e­vant mes­sage can land. On-tar­get mes­sag­ing nails both rel­e­vance and per­son­al­iza­tion. When that hap­pens, all the mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, process, and intent for the cus­tomer become invis­i­ble and the recip­i­ent believes that these mes­sages are sent from a source they can trust.

Peo­ple trust oth­ers with sen­si­tive and pri­vate infor­ma­tion all the time.

It can be so use­ful to do it.

And Face­book and oth­ers who are fla­gel­lat­ing them­selves over their poli­cies regard­ing third-par­ty data providers—reducing the val­ue of their prod­uct for both con­sumers and adver­tis­ers along the way—are miss­ing the key insight that their prob­lem is less about secu­ri­ty than it is about mar­ket­ing.

Con­sumers don’t know the dif­fer­ence between the laun­dry list of pri­va­cy and secu­ri­ty mea­sures in place at one com­pa­ny ver­sus anoth­er. But do you know what they do know? They know who they trust.

And trust is gold.

Tribe also = trust

Seth Godin intro­duced us to tribes. Peo­ple who share our beliefs about some impor­tant facet of the world.

Seth Godin deliv­er­ing his TED talk on tribes.

Tribes form around sports teams, pol­i­tics, and brands.

Tribes are the lines we draw cre­at­ing ingroup and out­group psy­cho­log­i­cal frames of ref­er­ence.

Failed per­son­al­iza­tion sig­nals that we aren’t real­ly in the same tribe. It sig­nals that we don’t real­ly share the beliefs that make us feel part of the same ingroup.

And are there­fore left to view the attempt with sus­pi­cion.

For brands, trust isn’t a one and done kind of thing. There are real­ly two parts: gain­ing trust in the first place, and then con­tin­u­ing to inspire trust by keep­ing promis­es, remind­ing of shared beliefs, and deliv­er­ing val­ue.

Addi­tion­al Read­ing: The Essen­tial Guide to Trust in Mar­ket­ing, 30 things you can do to inspire trust.

The Crazy Egg Blog

Critical takeaways

Con­cerns over pri­va­cy, espe­cial­ly with the big tech com­pa­nies like Google and Face­book, are not real­ly about secu­ri­ty. Sure, data breach­es, sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to hack­ers, iden­ti­ty theft and plain old unwant­ed dis­clo­sure of per­son­al infor­ma­tion are real con­cerns and keep­ing the tech top notch is expect­ed. But that isn’t where the heart and soul of pub­lic opin­ion is made or bro­ken.

marketers need to focus on trust

No, it’s about some­thing sim­ple but essen­tial. It’s about trust.

And bad per­son­al­iza­tion is a great way to lose trust. So is send­ing irrel­e­vant con­tent which will be seen as SPAM. The key is to use effec­tive and accu­rate per­son­al­iza­tion (don’t lump cus­tomers togeth­er too glob­al­ly or you’re sure to miss with a bunch of them) and make sure your mes­sage is rel­e­vant so it can nev­er be SPAM.

Beyond rel­e­vance and per­son­al­iza­tion, build a sense of tribe around beliefs you share with your cus­tomers.

Look at one of the worlds great­est brands. What’s Apple’s approach to secu­ri­ty and pri­va­cy? It’s not an inane dis­cus­sion about secu­ri­ty pro­to­cols. It’s about mar­ket­ing a shared belief when it comes to pri­va­cy.

It’s this demon­strat­ed belief that pri­va­cy is impor­tant that get’s Apple labeled as a cham­pi­on of pri­va­cy.

They under­stand that their brand is about trust with­in their tribe.


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P.S. You may also enjoy How to Avoid Being Seen as SPAM by View­ers.


@cmo_zen is a blog of micro med­i­ta­tions for mar­ket­ing lead­ers, designed to help them find clar­i­ty and peace in the mar­ket­ing mael­strom.

Published by Chad Jardine

@chadjardine is the CMO @goreact, an edtech company making game film for the classroom. He teaches graduate finance course @uutah and is the coauthor of Pillars of Inflection: Seven Fundamental Strategies for Explosive Company Growth. He accepts a limited number of consulting engagements each year.