Five Trends to Watch in 2012: Part 4

Bryce MarshallConsumer privacy is hardly a new trend. When I wrote on consumer privacy at the beginning of 2011, the focus was on consumer backlash against brands and marketers who take liberties with consumer data (or at least the consumer backlash against the perception of impropriety by digital marketers). 2011 was the year of the educated and empowered mainstream digital consumer. As we look forward to 2012 this context is basically unchanged, which brings me to the next trend.

#4 — Consumer data, privacy and preferences

In 2012 the fourth trend to watch for direct digital marketing is that of marketers earnestly taking steps to establish transparency with consumers and customers regarding how data is collected, and what data is used (and by what means) to communicate with them. It is the marketers’ response to the consumer-in-control that is meaningful this year.

Here’s the old 2011 “spin” in response to consumer concerns of data privacy: first, deny the allegation; downplay the consumer impact; and, pin the curtain tighter around the doorway to where the sausage is made. Meanwhile, enact cosmetic changes and jettison plainly indiscrete practices, while assessing the long-term business impact of an increasingly vigilant consumer. The prevailing marketer anxiety: having to making sense of a world where the once ample reserves of behavioral and third-party data sources are suddenly cut off and unavailable.

2012 will be the year the spin is abandoned in favor of transparency. We already see a cultural shift in some areas of the Internet where transparency has been embraced as good business – not because it’s defensible by counsel or because the nasty bits are more securely protected, but because it’s the right thing to do. Is it possible that the perception of the empowered digital consumer can morph from that of gnat-on-steroids to that of respected, rational and right individuals and consumers in the eyes of today’s marketers? That is, marketers recognize there is a significant and affluent audience with whom it is good business to do good business.

I believe that the business of the “curtain in the sausage factory” will become expensive, troublesome and perhaps more importantly, simply out of style. Marketers are beginning to understand that allowing consumers to express preferences and manage the framework for data-based interactions and messaging is a win-win. It is an invasive and intoxicating concept that, once embraced, will ultimately become fully-realized within many organizations by force of momentum. The ultimate manifestation will take a long time and take many shapes across industries as the market clarifies the prevailing mechanisms for consumer education and expression of choice. But the trend to watch in 2012 is the earnest progress towards brand transparency – embracing a policy where consumers are encouraged to understand and express preferences towards the brand as the nature of the dialogue.

The long-term business value is the potential for revenue, consumer loyalty and advocacy.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] The Lunch Pail « Five Trends to Watch in 2012: Part 4 […]

%d bloggers like this: