Over the last few weeks I've been spending time with clients and discussing different ways to mine their data to find more efficient and effective ways of targeting their customers. Digital media provides us with deeper dives into information than what was ever possible before, and it allows us to target on a more granular level. But, is there a point where the data becomes an obstacle?
For example, the pharma companies have federal limits and regulations on how they can use personally identifiable information to target their current and potential customers. These regulations were further out of reach until the advent of the Internet, but now they're within reach and we find examples of opportunities offered by publishers which cannot be taken advantage of.
In another example, a packaged goods company will know what products were purchased by a customer in the last six months and the purchase patterns for these products, but if they use this information to get too granular in their product marketing towards that consumer, the consumer will cry foul and raise concerns over privacy and personally identifiable information. Is it possible that too much of a good thing can be dangerous?
Over the last few years we've started to see legislation proposed, and passed, that starts to further regulate the ways in which marketers can implement solutions using the data they have at their fingertips, but at which point do we create such a sense of fear and concern in the eyes of the consumer that there becomes a backlash and we can no longer target them using this data?
The current debate over cookie deletion is one symptom of a larger problem; the ongoing struggle between the consumer and the marketers. This struggle is typified by a lack of vision for the bigger picture or a lack of the full story. The Wall Street Journal article from this past week identifies cookies as bad, but does not put forth the many reasons why they are good. Most of the press takes this same stance because it sells papers, but it does a disservice to the customer that sets us up to repeat past failures and enter into another cycle of consumer abuse.
The cycle this creates is one where the tug of war between consumers and advertisers never ends. The cycle offers some users the opportunity to see fewer, yet more targeted ads, while the pull in the other direction creates an environment of too many ads with no relevance to the consumer. Which is the correct method and which is better in the long run?
It's a difficult question to answer and a quandary of epic proportions, but it needs to be addressed ASAP. Their needs to be the establishment of a consumer organization, one that stems from an existing group like the Better Business Bureau or someone else, that starts to address technology from a purely consumer perspective. The consumers need to ensure their peers are aware of all the information and can make an informed decision on these topics. Otherwise, they will continue to be fed only a portion of the story and that is a disservice to their intelligence.