Have A Little Faith In Me: A Note About Digital Marketing Decoys

If you read my last article about online privacy, you may get the sense that I am often inspired by music.  Not to let you down, I recently read about two products created to provide false consumer profile information to digital marketers. It got me thinking about that old John Hiatt song, “Have A Little Faith In Me."

Profiling Ain’t So Bad

Okay, I know I’m opening up a can of worms here, but is consumer profiling so bad?  Most of us marketers would say "Surely not!" It enables us to provide targeted and relevant information to customers, making it easier for the consumer to find what they want.  Communication scholars would say human beings profile nearly every day of our lives. Like them or not, stereotypes help us make sense of the world, and without them we would have no foundation for assimilating information or understanding when something seems out of place.  Computer scientists talk about profiling in terms of classifier systems, which are a foundation for machine learning.  But, particularly as data collection practices (and the misuse of data) become more transparent, the average consumer will likely be reticent to embrace the use of profiling by marketers.



Here Come The Decoys

As such, a few ideas have sprung up to combat us “evil” digital marketers.  Take 10 Minute Mail, which touts itself as a “temporary disposable e-mail service to beat spam.” It allows individuals to create a fake email address that expires in 10 minutes -- just long enough to “confirm” one's existence (e.g., during a double opt-in process), but not long enough to receive additional emails from the brand.

Another invention (in beta), “Vortex ,” is a browser extension that creates a game out of gobbling up Web cookies in order to create a fake user profile. The creator’s goal is to keep people from getting targeted digital advertising with unique (and potentially higher) pricing for products and services based on one’s assumed income or propensity to buy.

What’s A Marketer To Do? 

Consumers will provide companies with more data when it’s used to provide helpful feedback (you’re over budget, you’re halfway to your exercise goal, the temperature at your destination is 90 degrees). Take note.  What this tells us is that we should reevaluate when and what type of messaging we’re sending to our customers.  Commit to going above and beyond, to looking holistically at customers’ decision-making process and creating experiences that will enhance their journey. Find savvier ways to provide value to your customers  -- offering recommendations, services and customization tools --  rather than pushing what might appear to be intrusive messaging.

Digital marketing is in the midst of a symbiotic evolution of technology and consumer expectations. Find the sweet spots that will reduce reluctance to buy, increase confidence in what you sell, and create permanent relationships with consumers.


Until next time , Have a Little Faith in Me.

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