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


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.

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.

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.

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