Marketing journalist Morag Cuddeford-Jones thinks marketers’ data addiction is getting out of hand, we think she has a point..


I don’t often ‘like’ stuff on social media that relates to work. For one, I like to pretend I have a work/life balance and that social media is in the ‘life’ bit. And two, by Christ there’s a lot of crap out there that people will still insist on sharing. The worst offenders, I find, tend to be on LinkedIn, humblebragging their ‘I rescued a homeless guy to work in my restaurant/did 8,000 sit-ups before breakfast of Soylent at 5 am/introduced a friend to the power of affirmation’ nonsense. You know who you are. Shudder.

But there was a tweet today that I just couldn’t resist retweeting. It was a pic thread of Star Trek: The Next Generation android character, Data’ (the inimitable Brent Spiner), in various poses. These shots from the show illustrated the data canon i.e. Personal Data, Social Data, Anonymous Data, etc. You get my drift. You can find the whole cackle-worthy thread here.

That tweet was picked up by far more people than just marketing nerds like me. Data (info, not cyborg) has become such a vital part of daily life, its relevance is understood even by ‘civilians’. We have broken the fourth wall. They see into our magic, behind the Wizard of Oz’s curtain. Customers know what data does, they know marketers need it and they want to know what we’re doing with it. And what we’re not doing with it. And why.

We need to wrench that curtain shut again.

Hang on, I hear you say. Are you suggesting we cancel transparency? Go back to the good old, bad old days of obfuscation, scraping information, to hell with permissions and dodgy targeting?

Not at all.

Right now, we’ve got two things going on that are going wrong. First, we need to realize that the customer couldn’t care less about the minutiae of what we do with their data. Don’t mistake that for not caring about their data – they do, fiercely. But the endless emails, pop-ups and such that bang on ‘we use your data to deliver hyper-targeted, hugely relevant offers just for you’ really don’t rev their engine.

And second, we need to question how much value we’re really driving through that hyper-targeted, super-relevant, follow-you-everywhere you go communications. Most of it is just downright creepy.

Since GDPR, the internet has become poxy with permissions. You can’t go onto a site without tripping over checkboxes, tabs, buttons, and options. Do you agree that we might use your personal information at some point in the future? Would you agree to your browsing history, or perhaps just your IP? What about your address, do you mind awfully if we know where you live? I DON’T CARE. I ONLY WANTED TO SEE A GIF OF KEANU REEVES KILLING BAD GUYS WITH A PENCIL. (John Wick 3 – in theaters now)

The first thing we need to do, other than comply with regulation, is get out of the customer’s way.

The second thing is the hyper-targeting problem. Data is great. We can do a lot with data. Yes, we can make a pretty good stab at knowing what you really, really want using data. We can also get it horribly wrong. But data is a drug. And marketers are chasing ever bigger highs. It wasn’t enough just to deliver a good experience. Now, it’s got to be great. It’s got to be hyper-personalized, real-time, predictive and on and on. I wonder if marketers are chasing that data dragon so hard, they’re losing sight of what happened when it was good.

Because what does the customer really want? They want stuff to work. They don’t necessarily want some Minority Report-esque experience where things turn up on their doorstep before they even realized they wanted them. They just want to get back to the right webpage in a couple of clicks. They want to pick up where they left off with customer services. They want to browse and noodle around without always being redirected back to the last page they bought loo roll.

We started out by using data to understand the customer journey. The logical step was to use it to tie together the various strands, platforms, places, and interactions customers have with us. Using data intelligently was the defining moment when we crossed over from multichannel to omnichannel. We should still be using data to refine that journey across the omnichannel, instead of using it to shove, poke and prod customers in the direction we think they want to go.

If you’re looking for a guide to how to use this data to underpin the optimal customer journey and the creation of an omnichannel experience, check out the whitepaper A Guide to Omnichannel Marketing in Practice, from censhare. A pop-up free zone.

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