Ethical Marketing: The First Consumer Touchpoint is Trust

Jan 21, 2021 | Marketing

The AdTech industry is in a bit of a crisis. “We have a system that is out of alignment,” Hearst Magazines president and incoming IAB [1] chairman Troy Young said….The ad tech industry has tried to address the problem on its own…But those efforts have proven insufficient, resulting in government regulators and browser makers taking steps to rein in online tracking.” (Peterson, 2020).

The browser actions Young refers to are the deprecation of third-party cookies by the likes Google (who has slated their demise for 2022), Safari, and Firefox. The regulations referenced are the GDPR and the CCPA which has since led to (with the passage of Proposition 24) the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA).

The “problem” is the near free-for-all use of consumer data by AdTech and marketers for targeting and re-targeting, consumers across the internet and their devices. As the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) reports, this problem is particularly acute in the Real Time Bidding ecosystem where personally identifiable information (PII), including the sensitive categories of PII, are bid out for ad placement on websites in the milliseconds it takes for that website to load. [2] (Clearly, obtaining consumer consent in that time is not possible.)

Consumers Value Privacy

Consumers are aligned with Mr. Young. Proposition 24 passed with a sizable majority of 56% to 44%. And, as written about here and here, multiple surveys, studies, and economic analyses indicate that data privacy, and how organizations handle consumer data have become, as Deloitte’s Senior Manager Tanneasha Gordon puts it, “table stakes.” Data privacy impacts consumer loyalty and that impacts spend. Trust matters.

Tanneasha advises that there is an opportunity to not only meet privacy compliance but build “new touch points with customers that move towards the next level of trust.” This concept is at the heart of ethical marketing and privacy by design.

Adobe’s Alisa Bergman agrees, proffering that “privacy and trust are two sides of the very same coin” and thinks about how to take what are potentially compliance and risk issues “that we face with privacy laws and figure out opportunities to delight consumers with experiences that are grounded in trust.”

During WireWheel’s 2020 SPOKES Conference, leaders from Adobe, Deloitte, Shopify, and the Future of Privacy Forum joined WireWheel’s Chief Marketing Officer, Camille Landau to discuss “Ethical Marketing: How to Establish and Retain Consumer Trust.”

A clear message emerged: Smart consumer-focused, market-driven companies are recognizing significant brand opportunity.

The UX of Privacy

People don’t buy products or services, what they really want are experiences. We aligned our privacy vision to that at Adobe, which is experiential privacy. So that really makes privacy a positive part of the experience.

Rather than thinking about privacy as really just a compliance issue. I think marketers and everyone are saying, well, ‘this is our first touch point with our users’….So Rather than having it be a bad experience where you’re trying to get it out of the way. How do you think about the customer journey and make it delightful and really have privacy unlock great value for them, and let them understand the value exchange of giving data to get a better personalized experience that’s not ‘creepy?’

― Alisa Bergman, Vice President & Chief Privacy Officer, Adobe

Ms. Gordon, believes that in order for companies to extract value from privacy “we’re going to see a lot of movement towards ethical marketing” and the need to go beyond simply compliant marketing, to decision making centered on ‘is it ethical?’ “And when thinking about what ethical marketing is, I think it’s important for us to see it as a conduit to building customer trust.”

[Businesses] may have their target customer profile, but there’s this concept of putting the customer at the seat of the table when making any decision or any marketing strategy. So when I’m thinking about ethical marketing, I’m really thinking about a three-pronged approach in terms of transparency, respect, and consumer interest.

―Tanneasha Gordon, Senior Manager, Deloitte

In short, successful organizations like Adobe are not dealing with privacy, they are embracing it. Marketers who understand emerging consumer privacy sentiment are placing privacy front and center. The cookie notice (and privacy policy) presented on your website? This is now the very first customer touchpoint. Your first opportunity to build a trusted relationship. What do you want that user experience to be? A legal compliance approach or a brand-building one? Brand value or legalistic checkbox?

Ethical Marketing and the Startup

Conversations concerning data privacy can quickly take on a big company, focus: Perspectives and opinions regarding regulatory compliance; jurisdictional issues concerning internal data transfers; legal requirements, risk management and data governance; information security infrastructure; and of course marketing and sales.

Furthermore, while there is much focus on EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and California’s CPRA, in actuality every state in the U.S. has data privacy regulations of some sort and there are more than 100 national regulations around the world from Albania to Zambia.

All of which seems to make data privacy compliance completely outside the realm of startups and the mom and pops who do not have the resources like privacy attorneys, data privacy experts, and other resources.

Just Making Sales is Hard

WireWheel’s CMO, Camilla Landau notes that “most companies– especially in the Shopify world of individual mom and pop stores” – are likely starting “from the perspective of ‘Oh! Privacy compliance. How do I do that?’” How do you remove the “potential frictions between privacy as a brand value and we’ve just got to get a sale?”

I think the hardest issue, if you are a mom and pop, [when] you start an online store that can sell anywhere in the world, you immediately have to start thinking about CPRA, you have to start thinking about GDPR. You are in a global ecosystem that is probably just too complex for you to understand. And so I think there’s a role for all of us that are practitioners on the platform side to play in helping you scale so that you don’t have to be thinking about [all of these privacy regulations].

― Vivek Narayanadas, Associate General Counsel, Privacy & IP; Data Protection Officer, Shopify

Vivek rightfully reminds that “the hardest issue for most small businesses is just finding and reaching new customers. Just making sales is hard. And doing so in a privacy compliant, but also an ethical way that maintains their trust with their user base is really, really important.”

And apart from the need for data to affect transactions (e.g., credit card payments and shipping), “making sales” is the raison d’être of all that data collection and sharing of B2C businesses. So “the most important thing when it comes to thinking about these issues from an ethical perspective, going beyond maybe the requirements of privacy law, is really thinking about kind of decision making as an ecosystem.”

The takeaway here is not that marketers must completely eschew the use of AdTech and consumer data that has proven so effective in target marketing and sales, but to do so responsibly and ethically. To keep “transparency, respect, and consumer interest” front and center.
Fortunately, there is help. “Not only is there“ a role for practitioners on the platform side to play,” many are playing it. Ecommerce platforms like Shopify, provide the guidance, tools, and support to make those privacy decisions. As do platforms like WireWheel’s scalable Trust Access and Consent Center.

And, as the Future of Privacy Forum CEO, Jules Polonetsky cautions, “if you’re looking to do business with data, no matter how big or small, your website has to respond when people click.” Just as importantly, “even if you’re a small business…your credit card company doesn’t say to you. ‘Hey, you can process credit cards. You’re a small business so we’ll let you not have any security.’ Everyone’s got to live to [the same] set of standards.”

It’s Really Privacy’s Time

Privacy is becoming integral to data, and data is such an important asset that companies have. And the ability to use data in a meaningful and privacy responsible way with your consumers is important too. So as it becomes a big asset, the privacy requirements around it and the movement of laws: All of that has contributed to make it what I often call a moment where it’s really privacy’s time.”

― Alisa Bergman, Vice President & Chief Privacy Officer, Adobe

Recalling Ms. Bergman’s statement that “privacy and trust are two sides of the very same coin,” we are reminded that privacy’s time is trust’s time.

“When the concept of trust keeps coming up it is typically when there’s a very aware CMO,” says Ms. Gordon. “Where they’re thinking about, ‘Okay, how can I use trust as a lever to advance our brand?’”

One of Tanneasha’s clients, found the answer to “how.” As Ms. Gordon relates, the CMO said “Let’s build a trust portal together and use that as a new customer touch point and make that a whole new customer experience and put it on our customer journey map.”

“It was the most engaged product, they’ve ever released. And they are a product company.”

Its Fundamental

This should not be surprising as it speaks directly to the fundamental precepts of marketing.

The AMA [3] defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

Brand id defined as a “a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” To this the ISO [4] adds that a brand “is an intangible asset” that is intended to create “distinctive images and associations in the minds of stakeholders, thereby generating economic benefit/values.”

In which of these definitions – or any other – does trust not fit?

[1] The International Advertising Bureau

[2] PII includes information such as birthdate, IP address, business phone number, and address. Sensitive PII includes information like full name, social security number, driver’s license number, and health information.

[3] American Marketing Association

[4] The International Organization of Standards

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