How Data Helps People And Movements In Times Of Crisis

While we wrestle with a global pandemic, a long overdue international social justice movement, and what is shaping up to be a potentially crushing recession -- not to mention the existing climate and social and economic challenges we were already facing -- we need stories and marketing more than ever.

We need them to connect us in new ways that are fair and just and help us all find our path forward.

So where do we start? We use our talents and tools to practice the principles that are foundational to our people-centered culture. And that means we must be ethical, inclusive, accountable, safe, and secure in all of our marketing practices -- from our messages to our data use to our technology.

People-Centered Principle No. 1: Data is about people and must be treated responsibly

We must ensure we are honoring people's preferences, storing and securing data with the latest technologies and best practices in place, and using data to make peoples' lives better, not simply to push more messages. We must enhance people's lives, not make them more complicated.



Data is a key component in addressing so many of the world's biggest issues.

For example, during the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen data being used for good -- from contact tracing to identifying and reaching potentially vulnerable audiences with information about available resources and how to limit disease transmission. We have seen how data is a critical and positive change agent in the time of a global pandemic. 

Now is the time for all brands to take this unique moment to think about how they can use the data available to them to not only reach a more diverse and inclusive audience, but to tailor their messages to respectfully and creatively resonate with people and to provide real value and connections.

Now is the time to use data and technology to not only acknowledge different life experiences, but to listen and respond with heart and meaning. And we are not simply talking about the age-old problem of selling, but truly connecting and creating a shared human experience based on common values.

For example, a grocery provider plays a huge role in feeding and connecting a community. They have the opportunity to use their loyalty data to identify those customers who are elderly and therefore, in the COVID-19 high-risk group, and offer them early-morning shopping hours that are less crowded or remind them of their curbside pick-up options.  

People-Centered Principle No. 2: Be ethical with your use of people's data and call out those who are not

In this age of change, brands are beginning to recognize that marketing has to become conscious. This begins with intention.

But how do we turn our intentions into actions?

We harness the power of data and technology in order to help people and movements in times of crisis with the careful, thoughtful, and intentional use of data, data science, and technology.

It is both policy and practice. It's empathetic and it's daring. It's more than the right thing to do, it is the thing we must do. For the good of all of us.

Part of conscious marketing is about reaching people in ways they find respectful, valuable, and fair.

During times of crises, it is even more important that we use data for good -- to help find solutions for the most vulnerable among us, whether it be during a global health crisis, a natural disaster, or social injustice.

Building trustworthy solutions begins with being people-centered and is backed by commitment and process dedicated to doing the right thing. People want to use technology and all of its conveniences and advantages, but they also want to trust the brands they choose to use.

People want to know that the brands they interact with are using their data to create benefits and value for them. They expect good intentions and an honest commitment to do the right thing. And given that marketers are people too, this is what we all expect and want. 

For example, social media is a great way to connect people for a common cause or movement.

It's a way to share information, start a conversation, and rally for necessary change. But it must also be responsible. It cannot allow its platforms or data to be used for hate, fear-mongering, or divisiveness.

The design of the system itself must include a mechanism to detect and prevent.  And when it does happen, because mistakes will be made, there has to be a process to address these concerns in an open and honest forum and changes must be made.

People-Centered Principle No. 3: The Internet works better for all when it is open and fair, and data is critical to that equation

The Internet is an amazing thing. It is connected us in new ways, for the better (and sadly, sometimes for the worse). I would like to think that the good far outweighs the bad. And the good is underpinned by data. 

How we collect and care for that data is reliant on technology and governance.

Technology is shifting (queue the demise of the third-party cookie, the rise of clean rooms, and all things cloud), while at the same time the legislative landscape is incredibly active with consumer safety, choice, and transparency front and center.

It is important and critical work on all fronts, and it's necessary as we all evolve.

But we must take care that we work with an eye toward openness and fairness. That means we must enable a myriad of technologist, marketers, and end users to work in concert with each other as they traverse the digital landscape.

Technologies must enable the connectivity, while data must enable the people connection. For example, we all want great, seamless experiences across sites and apps.

For the messages, ads, and communications we see, we want these to be great as well, but importantly of value to us from our point of view.  It means that we see, hear, and get more things that matter to us -- and less noise from those things that don't.

To achieve this, data is critical and must be available to serve people. We can't have only a handful of players controlling all digital experiences for all of us. When we allow more players, we get more innovation, and more connected and meaningful experiences for everyone.

Meaningful experiences lead to inspiration, and inspired people can change the world.

As you look forward, there has never been a more perfect time to review and ensure that your brand’s data and technology strategy considers fairness to people first, followed by building value to the business and its stakeholders.

There is no better or more noble place to begin than by using data and technology to help solve crises. May we all have bright stories to tell tomorrow.


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