There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t hear about online privacy abuse, identity theft, and consumer data being hacked. Between Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, Google’s “issues,” and Twitter’s problems with toxicity toward women and user abuse, there’s a distinct feeling that we’re close to a major tipping point. The GDPR was the catalyst for change, right?
But, I am not so sure we are.
And let me tell you why.
Because most of us don’t care about data breaches and privacy abuse and third-party data sharing until it becomes something tangible. And most of the time, it’s just transactional, ones and zeroes, and something that doesn’t affect us in a visible, physical way.
I keep wondering how much we really care about our online privacy and the data points we’re constantly accumulating through our online activities and digital footprint.
Advertisers care ... about how to activate on data.
Marketers care ... about how to segment the data.
Businesses care … about consumer shopping data.
Brands care … about making sure their data isn’t hacked.
Well, some consumers care. But the level of care seems to be correlated with two things:
When we’re directly affected, we have strong opinions based on said negative experience. This negative experience spans age, gender, and other demographics.
When we consider our level of interest in and fidelity toward data issues for someone who’s never been subjected to ID fraud, bank fraud, or anything else associated with data abuse, there seems to be generational or distinct age group differences.
Privacy means something different for each generation and some don’t care until their identity is stolen.
But some of us flat-out don’t care (emphasis on some). Some don’t care until their identity is stolen. Until their money is taken. Until something affects them beyond the screen. Beyond the device.
I teach a few college courses about different applications of marketing: research, leadership, and advertising. And every semester I ask the undergraduates the same thing: Do you care about Cambridge Analytica? Do you KNOW about Cambridge Analytica? Wait, do you even use Facebook? Oh, you don’t. OK. (Warning sign: my age is showing.)
Then I realize that Facebook isn’t relevant to their lives beyond getting notifications from Aunt Patty and Grandma Sue. For the younger audience that grew up with social media, Facebook doesn’t share the same (mind) space as it does for us elder millennials or young Gen Xers who grew up in the trenches of the dot-com bubble and the rise of social media.
Gen Z and Y don’t care about privacy (hot take). For them, social media “membership” isn’t steeped in affinity as much as it is in the utility of the platform. TikTok is the current darling and Snapchat is aging out. Instagram is stale and Reddit is for keeping track of the youth’s zeitgeist. Broad brush generalization, I know.
But I digress. My point is that privacy means something different for each generation. And the sub-30 generation has a different perception about privacy in an age of non-privacy. They have grown up in a mobile-device, multichannel world where they have been indoctrinated to express themselves digitally since their childhood days, even before they had any say in it.
(And I apologize for lumping Gen Z and Gen Y together in a massive sweeping generalization.)
Xennials? No comment. You don’t know me.
[Internal monologue: Or do you? Shit. Did I mess up again? I assume I am fired. I always assume I am fired. Because why shouldn’t I be? I am just making this shit up. People are onto me. I am so busted. I am such a fraud! The soundtrack to this internal monologue courtesy of the soundtrack to the movie Singles.]
Gen X? [ 404 Generation Not Found ]
Boomer? Although this generation is much more guarded and concerned about cybersecurity risks and limiting their online footprint, we’ve also seen how, through the use of technology and, more recently, social media, people have taken advantage of this generation.
We’re at a point where data abuse implications are more visible and recognizable ... and people are mobilizing.
Anti-trust legislation, regulation in the tech and social media space is Thanos. It’s inevitable. It became mainstream in 2016, but it’s been a battle for years now. We’re finally at a point where the implications of data abuse are more visible and recognizable. And people are mobilizing.
As with most regulation, the EU took the first step. The GDPR is that first step and will be used as the measuring stick, and the framework, for data regulation and putting the consumer back in the driver seat when it comes to privacy.
But what type will this legislation take? And how willing will these digital behemoths be to follow these possible regulations? Do they care?
At [B]RIGHT we want to be good stewards of a brand’s intellectual property, and that includes its audience data.
Brands that double down on curating and owning their own primary data will be better equipped to control their own (audience) destiny.
We won’t buy data from third-party vendors to activate against. We won’t use purchased lists to create interruptions where we are presently not invited. We won’t opt in on behalf of a consumer who isn’t willing to opt in themselves.
We call this consent-based data activation. And we’re taking a hard-line approach for this opt-in messaging. We believe in doing the right thing and being conscious and mindful about the implications of using data that doesn’t belong to you (re: brand). We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Much like how CSR ushered in a more visible approach to sustainable and ethical business practices, consent-based data usage is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also a way for your brand to future-proof your data strategy.
Brands that double down on curating and owning primary data will be better equipped to control their own (audience) destiny. These brands will be able to activate based on a higher-intent consumer who’s more susceptible to impressions and more prone to building affinity.
The proliferation of cross-channel data has allowed brands to personalize their brand expression on a scale hitherto undreamt of.*
* That’s right. I just Dr. Strange’d the heck out of this closing paragraph.
And that is important because it makes your brand, and its marketing, more precise, and it teaches you to waste less (in marketing and advertising $s) and aim for higher conversions (because you’re building a brand around the relevance to, and resonances with, your actual customers).