The internet has become a remarkable facsimile of real life. The more real it becomes, the more we, as marketers, need to mimic the necessary norms of interaction between human beings: manners, the veil of mutual respect that is the hallmark of personal freedom in a civilized society.
Yet logging onto a website more closely follows the Geneva Convention for Prisoners of War (name, rank and serial number) than the subtle sequence of behaviours that is “getting to know each other”. Just look at the typical sequence in building an online customer relationship:
Compared to physical life, this behaviour is not only rude, underhanded and creepy, in the physical world it would be enough to put the marketer behind bars! All this is done just to get to the point of predicting interest in the marketer’s brand and products. Over 15 years after digital marketing revenues took off, many marketers remain convinced that identity is required in order to discover interests.
The comparison with that most delicate of human interactions - dating - is stark. Let’s look at the experience of dating:
Online dating sites follow the same sequence, with deeper levels of personal information disclosed at each successive trust-building step, and have been immensely successful. So the technology can definitely work this way.
It is natural that marketers have been reluctant to open up the data they have acquired from consumers and suspicious that consumers will delete it given the option. Getting consumers to trust your brand is also about marketers trusting their consumers. Trusting them to tell them the truth about their interests, not to delete data, to have a mature, two-way anonymous relationship before swapping personal details and deepening that relationship.
Companies like Acxiom with aboutthedata.com and my own company nFluence with autoGraph are demonstrating startling results, where ten times more consumers give extra data than those who delete data.
This new movement of Consumer Powered Marketing has shown that first-party, opted-in, consumer-controlled data is safe, powerful and how digital marketing can advance despite consumer, regulatory and press threats. Using Consumer Powered Marketing, companies can embrace anonymity and get better marketing results. By doing so they can arrive in the most exalted place – a consumer’s circle of trust. The path to this place is sensitive and fragile and the payoff is enormous.
Our industry is only 15 years old and so it should be no surprise that our dating has the clumsiness of an adolescent. Learn to dance with your consumers, before getting more intimate!