Have Consumers Reached Tech Breaking Point? Q&A With Researcher Craig Charney

Like everything else, consumer adoption of technology can reach a saturation point. The question is, have we reached it yet? Craig Charney, founder and president, Charney Research, offered his views on techlash: the tipping point of consumers’ engagement with technology. 

Weisler: What did the American Marketing Association study set out to do?

Charney: We wanted to take a look at the next three to 10 years of marketing — not just next year’s ad spend or CMO headaches.  This is unique.  We took a thorough look at social media trends, attitudes to ad tech, and economic nationalism in the world’s two biggest markets, America and China.

Weisler: What were some of the takeaways?

Charney: Among the many takeaways, we found the following trends: 

  • Social media and gaming seem to have peaked in the U.S.
  • Americans are very skeptical about innovations in martech — including personalization, micro-influencers, smart speakers, and IOT — while many marketers are unaware of this. 
  • Americans and Chinese are very concerned about privacy, hacking, and misinformation as a result of martech. 
  • Economic nationalism is on the rise in both countries. Americans and Chinese both say they are likelier to buy their own country’s products.



Weisler: Were there any surprise findings?

Charney: The social media level-off in America, and the extent of privacy fears in China.

Weisler: Why do you think social and gaming will decline or level off? Will this occur across ages and genders?

Charney: Saturation and privacy both seem to be at work, particularly with social media.  We are seeing declining engagement with social media across a variety of age groups.

Weisler: What are the major ad-tech innovations in the study?

Charney: Smart speakers, personalization, micro-influencers, IOT homes, IOT cities, employee influencers, VR, AI, AI assistants, omnichannel

Weisler:  Do you think Americans understand all of the new tech? Which ones? 

Charney: No, which is why we described them in the questionnaire.  But what we learned is that the more [consumers] know about them, the less they like it!

Weisler: Is there going to continue to be techlash, or will consumers settle in?            -

Charney:  Hard to say.  A lot depends on marketers’ response, as well as that of industry and government.  Will they take consumer concerns seriously and respond with codes of conduct, different practices, GDPR type protections?  If so they may have permission to continue.  If not, they may see consumers slip away to those who offer them  or— the authorities require them. 

Weisler:  Do you think concern about privacy impacts some of these attitudes?

Charney: Yes — that’s very clear.  Four in five Americans and over three in five Chinese are afraid they will lose their privacy with the new ad tech. 

Weisler: What do you think advertisers need to know and do to prepare?

Charney: In the wake of the seemingly infinite series of data breaches (and Facebook scandals), consumers are wary about the new martech.  

Part of the answer is consumer education, but part is also self-regulation:  understandable opt-ins, letting people know what they’ve collected and choose how it can be used, data portability, and of course: better protection of privacy!  If marketers and industry don’t do it themselves, they will face trouble from consumers, government, or both.

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