Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Do Marketers Sell Their Soul? [Online Data Mining]

Do Marketers Sell Their Soul?

Last year Chris Chan wrote an emotional article on his thoughts about Facebook’s privacy policies and selling data.
It stuck with me and even a year later, I wonder if marketers are selling our souls for data.
As digital marketers, we walk a fine line every day.
I will be the first to admit I want my private life private. But when your job is to reach an ideal audience, and you want to do it the most successful way, gathering data on people and profiling is necessary.

It used to be marketing was a one-way conversation.

Ads, billboards, radio and tv commercials talk at people, without a response. Then came the internet. Things started to get loud. I’ve talked before about howloud the conversation has become.
Brand ad exposures in the 60s and 70s were limited. 
That was before the internet.
CBS quoted Jay Walker-Smith as saying we’ve gone from 500 in the 70s to 5,000 today. So, where I once could have run a TV commercial and hit 70% of my audience, I now have hundreds of channels to compete with, and YouTube, and Netflix, and Amazon, and...
The marketing game has changed. Our audiences are more spread out, in their own little niche corner of the digital age.

Enter data profiling and mining.

Before Facebook went public, people wondered how Facebook made money. If you were a digital advertiser, you knew. Google, Facebook, and every online behemoth collects data, strips out your name and resells that data. Do you want to target ads to upper income families expecting a child soon within 25 miles of your storefront? Easy. Facebook tracks and buys that data on people, then uses it to target your paid ads.
Ever wonder why, after shopping on Amazon, you can get incredibly customized emails about related products? Or the next time you’re on a news site, an ad for those shoes you were craving [but didn’t buy] shows up? 5 million people aren’t seeing the same ad for those shoes.
Thanks to the buying, selling, sharing and tracking of your data, marketers can provide unique, personalized experiences for you.
If my job is to find you exactly where you are in the loud conversation and to provide you with something of value, simply put; the more data I have on you the better I can make your experience.

The fine line marketers walk.

Just like an ARM mortgage can sound like a steal...until rates jump, it is up to the person taking on the mortgage to read the fine print. In the digital world, it is up to the user to read the fine print, understand what information is being collected on them, and decide how much information they are willing to give out. By using social media and the internet as a whole, users are agreeing to these terms.

It’s time to take responsibility.

In my opinion, my soul is intact from my career choices [we can debate my personal life offline]. I don’t believe in spamming customers. I believe in double-opt-in choices for email lists. I believe in a clear privacy policy explaining what information a website is going to keep.
But as marketers, I believe if you ethically explain what you are going to track on someone, the responsibility lies with the users to read those terms, and either accept them or leave.
If you don’t like Walmart’s treatment of employees, it’s your choice not to shop there. If you don’t agree with Google’s terms of service, don’t use Gmail, Chrome, Google Search, etc. But if you decide to use it, you are accepting their terms. Google isn’t the devil simply because you want to use their services but not play by their rules.
What do other marketers think? With hundreds of thousands of pieces of data on your customers at your fingertips, do you “sell your soul” using the data?
Photo Credit: Jeshu John

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