This is a gratuitous title. I admit it. It implies GDPR conflict, where the reality of my perspective is nothing of the sort. This post is about marketing differently and, in the natural course of that path, avoiding privacy issues entirely.
My core online marketing principles have not changed since 1994. I believe my teams, brands and messages have always taken the high road in terms of authenticity and honesty. Data collection is right there too.
GDPR is a Reaction to Abuses
Today’s privacy issues are very much the reaction to decades of questionable practices. Right, wrong or indifferent, a lot of people feel watched or even stalked from a data standpoint—with every click, visit and keystroke being recorded and potentially used against them. Reality is irrelevant at that point. Perception is everything.
Swiped data is the problem. Ironically, it’s not even all that valuable. But those who are grabbing people’s private data without their knowledge or permission are kind of ruining it for the rest of us. And for what? Some retargeting or some morsels of inferred preferences that are likely inaccurate?
Declared Data is Willingly and Knowingly Given
One of the reasons I’m so passionate about interactivity is that it is intentional and active, rather than unintentional and passive. Insights from unintentional, passive user events are far less reliable and valuable than ones from intentional user interactions. Too much online marketing continues to be unintentional and passive. Even driven by AI, inferred data is only as good as its source. It’s garbage in, garbage out. Doesn’t matter how much intelligence you throw at it.
I spent the last few years evangelizing and leveraging interactive content. Truth is, it was never about the content. It was always about the interactivity and that has been a constant for my since way back in the 90s. When people act intentionally, in their own self interest, they provide marketers with real, reliable insight. All we have to do is ask questions through interactivity and record their answers. That’s it. Pretty simple stuff.
Laziness is Trouble
But, a lot of marketers seem much more willing to invest in swiping, stalking and inferring than in just asking. I believe that’s because stalking can be automated and asking is work. Maybe this post should have been titled ‘why don’t online marketers work?’ Now everyone is screaming at me as they’re working 100 hours a week.
Martech promises tools that reduce work, chew through data and make marketing more efficient. Check. Gotcha. But what if that’s made us, as marketers, unwittingly lazy when it comes to actually making things that purposefully engage with real people solving real problems? We’re skipping step one. We’re buying technology to wade through seas of data to make our targeting and personalization more efficient, but the data we’re feeding in is shit.
Engaging in an Intentional Dialog
Of course marketers are working hard, but they’re not working smart. The single most important thing a digital marketer can do is to engage in a meaningful, intentional dialog with their audience. Solve the ‘garbage in’ problem and then use tools to wade through a sea of quality data collected from an array of intentional interactions. In my experience, that’s why so many tools are seen as a bust. It’s an untenable future.
I love martech and have bought what feels like hundreds of tools—but I always fed those tools good data on the frontend. Yes, it means more thoughtful data strategies. Yes, it means more care, time and design gets invested in the user experience. Yes, it means more talent and work on the frontend. But that’s how marketing actually becomes more efficient.
My gratuitous GDPR title is not a bait and switch. It’s an end around. I’ve built a career on successful, capital efficient marketing programs with low acquisition costs. In every case, those programs were based on descriptive, user-provided data. Have I used passive data? Sure. I use IP address for geolocation. But that’s about it. Let’s watch, stalk and infer less, and ask more. I’m an intentional marketer and as such, GDPR just isn’t a problem. I can even ask for geolocation if I don’t have an IP address.