Advice for GenZ Marketing Job Seekers and Hiring Managers

If you’re looking to hire new graduates, learn who the best candidates are by networking with their college professors. My former partner, Jon Roska, brought the best and the brightest college grads into the agency every year by networking with professors at local universities.

There’s a story I tell to my students about getting their first job.

Former University of Pennsylvania President Judith Rodin was addressing the graduating class of 2003 and started a litany of the important things the graduates learned during their time at the university:

At Penn you learned this, at Penn you learned that, at Penn you learned this, at Penn you learned that, “but most importantly, at Penn you learned that it is not WHO you know, but rather WHOM you know.”

Grammatically correct, but also valuable advice for job seekers and hiring managers alike.

Advice for Job-Seekers

I encourage students to start their job networking while they’re still in school. Go to industry events. Meet people. Connect with people who can introduce you to prospective opportunities in their own firms, as well as in related companies. Build a strong network on LinkedIn and don’t be shy about using it to get introduced to job opportunities. When jobs become available, hiring managers are more likely to hire someone they already know, or someone who’s been referred by someone they know, rather than a stranger.

Advice for Marketing Team Hiring Managers

This advice applies to hiring managers, as well. If you’re looking to hire new graduates, learn who the best candidates are by networking with their college professors. My former partner, Jon Roska, brought the best and the brightest college grads into the agency every year by networking with professors at local universities. It was a win for everyone: the professors, the students and the agency.

Many colleges hold job fairs for their graduating seniors and invite prospective employers to set up shop and meet their graduating students. These events are a great way for students and managers to meet each other, but tapping into a network of teachers who have gotten to know which students are the best during a 15-week course is an excellent way to screen for the cream of the crop.

It’s all about whom you know.

Getting ‘Facebook Sober’? What Marketers Should Know About Consumers’ Attitudes and Social Data

I thought I was pretty clever when someone told me they hadn’t been on Facebook in over a year and I said, “Wow, you’re one-year Facebook sober.” They laughed. The next day, another person said they’d been off for two years — same comment by me, same reaction. But later, I found the term on Urban Dictionary.

I thought I was pretty clever when someone told me they hadn’t been on Facebook in over a year and I said, “Wow, you’re one-year Facebook sober.” They laughed. The next day, another person said they’d been off for two years — same comment by me, same reaction. But later, I found the term “Facebook sober” on Urban Dictionary — so much for my right to claim ownership of the term.

It’s unlikely that a new 12-step program is going to keep a significant percentage of the more than 2 billion people off of the social media platform any time soon, even though they know Facebook is exploiting their personal data for profit. While studies show that consumers believe the economic benefit of Facebook to them is about $1,000 per year, based on how much they would need to be paid to stay off the platform for that period of time, most will not pay anything to keep a company from tracking their data.

A study published by PlosOne in December 2018 quantified the monetary value that users assigned to participating on Facebook, using an auction experiment design.

Though the populations sampled and the auction design differ across the experiments, we consistently find the average Facebook user would require more than $1,000 to deactivate their account for one year. While the measurable impact Facebook and other free online services have on the economy may be small,* our results show that the benefits these services provide for their users are large.
* (Of course, this statement neglects the $40 billion Facebook realizes in annual advertising revenue.) 

While people claim to be concerned about privacy, they’re not willing to pay for it. A Survey Monkey poll done for the news site Axios earlier this month shows that three-fourths of people are willing to pay less than $1 per month in exchange for a company not tracking their data while using their product — 54% of them are not willing to pay anything.

Researchers at Stanford and NYU sought to determine the effects that Facebook deactivation would have on people’s knowledge, attitudes, moods, and behaviors. “This Is Your Brain Off Facebook,” published by the New York Times on Jan. 13, reports on this study.  A portion of the study participants were paid $102 to stay off Facebook for one month. The researchers stated:

Using a suite of outcomes from both surveys and direct measurement, we show that Facebook deactivation (i) reduced online activity, including other social media, while increasing offline activities such as watching TV alone and socializing with family and friends; (ii) reduced both factual news knowledge and political polarization;(iii) increased subjective well-being; and (iv) caused a large persistent reduction in Facebook use after the experiment.

Despite these findings, the Times reported “some participants said that they had not appreciated the benefits of the platform until they had shut it down:

“What I missed was my connections to people, of course, but also streaming events on Facebook Live, politics especially, when you know you’re watching with people interested in the same thing,” said Connie Graves, 56, a professional home health aide in Texas, and a study subject. “And I realized I also like having one place where I could get all the information I wanted, boom-boom-boom, right there.”

As I noted in my post last month, “Gen Z College Students Weigh-in on Personal Data Collection,” some GenZers don’t mind giving up their personal data in exchange for the convenience of targeted ads and discounts; others are uneasy, but all are resigned to the inevitability of it. One student summed up our mass acquiescence, saying:

“I do not feel it is ethical for companies to distribute our activities to others. Despite my feelings on the situation, it will continue — so I must accept the reality of the situation.”

The reality of the situation is that people are not willing to go cold turkey on Facebook.

Gen Z College Students Weigh-in on Personal Data Collection — Privacy Advocates Should Worry

Some GenZers don’t mind giving up their personal data in exchange for the convenience of targeted ads and discounts; others are uneasy, but all are resigned to the inevitability of it. However, the language they use to describe their acquiescence to data collection should be troubling to privacy advocates.

Some GenZers don’t mind giving up their personal data in exchange for the convenience of targeted ads and discounts; others are uneasy, but all are resigned to the inevitability of it. However, the language they use to describe their acquiescence to data collection should be troubling to privacy advocates.

After reading “Sharing Data for Deals? More Like Watching It Go With a Sigh” (NYTimes 12/24/18), some students in the Consumer Analysis college course I teach expressed discomfort, even outrage at the extent of the data collected via their social media posts, geo-tracking on their mobile phones, shopper loyalty program and smart home devices. But they all accepted their conscious and unconscious data surrender as a fact of life.

The article reports on the study of 1,500 consumers by Professor Joseph Turow of the University of Pennsylvania who found that “people are uncomfortable with surveillance, but they don’t know what to do.” One student summed up our mass acquiescence, saying:

“I do not feel it is ethical for companies to distribute our activities to others. Despite my feelings on the situation, it will continue — so I must accept the reality of the situation,” said one.

Some don’t really mind having their personal data exploited for marketing purposes. While most of my students agreed that marketers gain the most from the exchange of data for convenience, one student embraced the inevitable data surrender as being more beneficial to consumers, because they can choose whether or not to act on the marketers’ targeted messages:

“… I feel as though consumers gain the most from this value exchange. Marketers can do pretty much whatever they want with the information that they collect, but they do not really ‘gain’ from this exchange, until people actually purchase their products, and a lot of effort is required to get them to do so. We are all educated consumers, so it is our responsibility to respond to these marketing attempts wisely. No one is forcing anyone to make a purchase they don’t want to, so even if this exchange allows marketers to play with people’s vulnerabilities, it is ultimately consumers’ choice on whether or not they want to buy something.”

The rationalization that the consumer is still in charge is a good argument for those opposed to limits on involuntary data collection. But more troubling is the belief that there is no potential for bad actors to exploit the personal data that’s collected. One student writes:

“Personally, I feel as if consumers benefit more from this exchange of data. Even though their information is constantly being monitored and collected, it is not being used to hurt them. Marketers are using the information to make people’s lives easier so that they spend more money on their products. There is no going backwards with technology, only forward. So, consumers need to be able to trust that marketers are using their information only to help them. While marketers are benefitting a lot from the money they are making, consumers lives are getting better and easier, day by day.”

Here’s another red flag for privacy advocates from a student who’s OK with smart devices collecting information from private conversations, but concerned only about how that information is stored:

“Articles from The New York Times, ‘Home Items are Getting Smarter and Creepier, Like It or Not’ (01/07/19), cited an example of these devices recording more information than we thought. The author stated that ‘background conversations may be stored with the voice recordings and resurface with hacking or as part of lawsuits or investigations,’ (The Associated Press). This finding shows that our speech is kept indefinitely, and the information is accessible upon force or request from a higher power. I believe that these smart devices should only keep the information that was processed through the user’s speech instead of the actual voice recording itself.”

But there’s hope for those who want more transparent privacy policies. Reacting to “How Smart TVs in Millions of Homes Track More Than What’s on Tonight” (NYTimes 07/05/18), one student wrote:

“Marketers are gaining money and information through various means and have the ability to do so without risk because consumers are not going to read 6,000-word privacy policies just to be able to work a television.”

3 Tips for Retaining GenZ Marketing Talent

The new generational wave about to enter the workplace is fiscally conservative, career-oriented and hoping to be in their dream job within 10 years. These traits bode well for employers of Gen Z marketing talent who can deliver the things that these professionals are looking for in a job.

The new generational wave about to enter the workplace is fiscally conservative, career-oriented and hoping to be in their dream job within 10 years. These traits bode well for employers of Gen Z marketing talent who can deliver the things that these professionals are looking for in a job, but you’ve got to keep them interested.

As I noted in the post “Gen Z Goes to College,” the oldest members of this cohort — born beginning in 1995 — were in their formative years during the financial crisis of 2008. Many witnessed their parents’ losing jobs, and even homes. They eschew credit card debt and worry about paying their students loans. They want financial stability, so getting a good job is a top priority.

But more important than salary to them is the opportunity for career growth. In a study conducted by Adecco Staffing USA and reported in Fortune (May 22, 2015), 36% ranked career growth most important while only 6% chose highest salary as their No. 1 criteria.

They’re likely to be job hoppers, with 83% saying that three years or less is right for staying in a first job and 27% think it’s less than one year. So what do you do to keep the ones who have star power on board a bit longer?

Make Their Work Meaningful

Gen Zers are used to accessing multiple screens at once to find and integrate information from multiple sources. Putting them into single-focus rote tasks is sure to send them running for the exits.

Give Gen Zers Learning Opportunities

Offer internal training programs focused on your industry. Send them to conferences and seminars outside the company. The value of your investment is less about the content they learn, and more about the confidence you show in them and the self-esteem it builds.

Give Them a Place at the Adult Table

Assign Gen Zers to work groups with senior and middle managers, not as note-takers, but as participants. The chance to work with more experienced professionals is one of the greatest growth opportunities you can provide. It lets them find mentors, and it brings new ideas to seasoned managers.

Key Takeaway

You can’t expect to keep them forever. But if you make the most of them before they fledge the nest, you’ll reap the benefits of their novel thinking and fresh perspectives.

Gen Z Influencers – Are Celebrity Endorsers Doomed to Extinction?

As Gen Z starts to dominate the consumer landscape, will celebrity endorsers lose their status? Quizzing my Gen Z college students about brands they’re loyal to and brand influencers, I find that they’re more focused on social media and peers than they are on advertising and celebrity endorsers.

As Gen Z starts to dominate the consumer landscape, will celebrity endorsers lose their status?

Quizzing my Gen Z college students about brands they’re loyal to and brand influencers, I find that they’re more focused on social media and peers than they are on advertising and celebrity endorsers. When asked to give examples of categories where they’re brand loyal, most of the female students turn to cosmetics, a category where the opinion leaders have traditionally been celebrities. Many female students reference little-known (at least to me) YouTube make-up artists, rather than celebrities. The beauty category may become the first to turn completely away from traditional celebrity endorsers. But what others will follow? This Gen Z trend will be a challenge for marketers to keep up with in a burgeoning consumer cohort.

“Influencers, such as Kylie Jenner and Huda Kattan have started successful beauty lines, built on their base of online followers. However, as social platforms become more crowded, some iGens are looking to more niche apps to express themselves, making it harder for brands to identify up-and-coming influencers.” Mintel, MARKETING TO THE iGENERATION US, MAY 2018

This new breed of beauty influencer is making an impact on Beautycon (think the Consumer Electronics for cosmetics). Moj Mahdara, Beautycon  CEO, notes “Nearly three-quarters of Beautycon’s target audience — Gen Z-ers and younger Millennials — say they are influenced more by ‘content creators’ than traditional celebrities, according to Beautycon’s research.” The New York Times, July 28, 2018

Cosmetics marketers are adapting.

“Our in-store marketing will feature authentic, real-girl product reviews, with the intent to teach the customer how she can use our products or why they’re trending, rather than to tell her what to buy.” Linda Chang, co-founder, Riley Rose Global Cosmetic Industry Feb. 1, 2018

“Although most beauty purchases are made in-store, more than 40% of Gen Z makes purchase decisions based on real-time social media feedback. A beauty brand’s packaging or product might catch their eye, but if someone’s influencers don’t like it? No sale.” Global Cosmetic Industry,June 1, 2018

What does this trend in the beauty industry mean for marketers in other categories? Are Michael Jordan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson about to lose substantial portions of their incomes?

Tech already depends on bloggers and YouTubers to explain, review and endorse their products. And while Nike relies heavily on celebrity endorsers like LeBron James and Serena Williams, they brand also pays homage to everyday people with its Dream Crazy campaign, encouraging everyday people to share their crazy dream.

In your view, what other categories are beginning to adapt to this Gen Z trend?

Generational Marketing: Gen Z Goes to College

I’ve taught in colleges since 2005, and have shared my observations about Millennials in several Target Marketing blog posts. Recently, I realized that most of my current students aren’t Millennials, so my curiosity about psycho-demographics has me trying to observe the generational marketing characteristics of this new cohort of college students, arbitrarily defined as those born starting in 1997.

I’ve taught in colleges since 2005, and have shared my observations about Millennials in several Target Marketing blog posts. Recently, I realized that most of my current students aren’t Millennials, so my curiosity about psycho-demographics has me trying to observe the generational marketing characteristics of this new cohort of college students, arbitrarily defined as those born starting in 1997.

Of course, changes in generational attitudes don’t occur overnight, and so I didn’t walk into class one semester and say, “Wow, these kids are different!” The oldest Gen Zers were freshmen in 2015 and because the lines between the generations aren’t always distinct, I don’t have a large sample on which to base my generalizations. But here are some of my initial observations based on some recent classroom encounters.

Technology and Ageism

Unlike the students of five-plus years ago, the current group does not automatically assume that older people (myself included) are digital idiots. Perhaps that’s because their parents are more technologically savvy and their grandparents have social media accounts. Although most identified their grandparents as laggards when it came to smartphone adoption in a recent assignment on the Diffusion of Innovation Theory, they don’t automatically assume that older people are technologically clueless. (See my post from 2016 on “Millennial Microagression”).

Financial Awareness

The cost of their education is always top-of-mind. It comes up frequently in classroom discussions about their consumption habits. Their formative years were marked by a time of economic uncertainty. In a recent marketing class at Rutgers, we were discussing how the economic environment affects marketing strategy and tactics. When I referenced the financial crisis of 2008, I realized that most of the students were in elementary or middle school during that time. Whether or not they experienced a parent’s job loss or home foreclosure firsthand, most understood that times were difficult and the financial future was not always assured.

Social Media-Cautious

In a recent assignment about retargeting, I asked them to cite examples of how their online activity led to seeing ads about things they posted or searched. Most referenced Google searches, and one student claimed that she was disadvantaged in coming up with examples because she has no social media accounts. Some have abandoned Facebook and, while they use Instagram, most keep their accounts private. By contrast, my experience with Millennials is that they were, and continue to be, much freer with their social media activity.

Look for more about Gen Z in upcoming posts.

Sears Had Everything: How Retail Success Became Failure

From 1969 to 1972, the retail success story Sears used the catchy jingle, “Sears Has Everything!” Not anymore. It’s ironic that Sears, the mail order giant of the 19th century that dominated retailing throughout the 20th century could not survive the e-commerce age of the 21st century. After all, Sears created mail order marketing — which evolved into direct response marketing, right?

From 1969 to 1972, the retail success story Sears used the catchy jingle, “Sears Has Everything!” Not anymore.

It’s ironic that Sears, the mail order giant of the 19th century that dominated retailing throughout the 20th century could not survive the e-commerce age of the 21st century. After all, Sears created mail order marketing — which evolved into direct response marketing, right?

Trout and Ries had a term for this phenomenon in their landmark book, Positioning: The Battle for your Mind: “F.W.M.T.S.” — Forgot What Made Them Successful. In fact, Sears abandoned its catalog business in 1993.

As Shiv Gupta noted in his Target Marketing blog post on Tuesday:

“Sears was so busy picking up loose change off the floor, it forgot to look up at the bus barreling toward it.”

Sears really did have everything. At one point, you could buy a Sears house. “Sears Catalog Homes were catalog and kit houses sold primarily through mail order by Sears, Roebuck and Company, an American retailer. Sears reported that more than 70,000 of these homes were sold in North America between 1908 and 1940.” Wikipedia

But they also had the ability to capture the imagination of the American consumer. I have fond memories of going to the Sears store with my father and marveling at the range of merchandise: every tool imaginable, appliances, sporting goods, toys, clothing, jewelry — you name it; Sears had it.

Then there was the magical day that the Christmas Wish Book arrived in the mail and my siblings and I would spend hours with it, fine-tuning our wish list for Santa. Iconic Sears brands jumped off the pages of the catalog and into my imagination to become aspirational purchases: a Ted Williams baseball glove, a Silvertone guitar amp …

What happened?

Sears simply stopped innovating somewhere along the way. Here are some milestones:

  • “Founded shortly after the Civil War, the original Sears, Roebuck & Company built a catalog business that sold Americans the latest dresses, toys, build-it-yourself houses and even tombstones. The company was, in many ways, an early version of Amazon.” (NYTimes, 10/16/18)
  • In 1896, Sears benefited from a United States Postal Service program called Rural Free Delivery, which extended mail routes into rural areas. (NYTimes 10/15/18)
  • As more Americans began living in cities, Sears opened retail stores, the first in 1925 in Chicago.
  • “Later, its vast spread of brick-and-mortar stores positioned it in prime retail locations across the country. For years, it was the largest retailer in the United States, operating out of the tallest building in the world. At various points, it sold products like fishing tackle, tombstones, barber chairs, wigs and even a ‘Stradivarius model violin’ for $6.10.” (NYT 10/15/18)
  • Sears benefited from being a pioneer chain in a landscape of largely independent department stores. Along with JCPenney, it became a standard shopping mall anchor. Together, the two chains, along with Montgomery Ward, captured 43 percent of all department store sales by 1975 … (Then) Skyrocketing inflation meant low-price retailers, such as Target, Kmart and Walmart … lured new customers. The market became bifurcated, as prosperous upper-middle class shoppers turned to more luxurious traditional department stores, while bargain-seekers found lower prices at the discounters than at Sears. (Smithsonian 7/25/17)
  • Sears was major player in financial services in the 1980s, with Allstate Insurance and Dean Witter in the brand portfolio that included Kenmore and Craftsman. But by 1989, Sears was a shade of its former self. “It slashed prices on most of its inventory and in time shut its catalog operation, closed hundreds of stores and laid off tens of thousands of employees. Stores began carrying more outside brands and accepting nonstore credit cards to entice customers.” NYTimes 10/15/18

After abandoning the catalog business in 1993, Sears made a brief return to its roots by buying successful cataloger Lands’ End in 2002, only to spin it off in 2013.

In the end, Sears forgot what made it successful. It had everything. But Sears blew it.

Is College Outdated? Should It Teach Real-World Marketing Skills?

On one hand, many universities could be doing a better job giving students opportunities to practice real-world marketing skills. On the other, universities are not meant to be training departments for digital media agencies, and it’s unrealistic to expect faculty members who don’t work in the field to keep up with the rapidly changing dynamic of media planning and buying.

Shay Rowbottom of Margle Media posted a video rant on LinkedIn a few weeks ago about a recent college grad she interviewed who had no digital media buying experience. She blames colleges and universities for not keeping up with the times. Knowing that I do a lot of teaching at the college level, Paul Bobnak tagged me asking what I thought. I think it’s complicated.

On one hand, many universities could be doing a better job giving students opportunities to practice real-world marketing skills. On the other, universities are not meant to be training departments for digital media agencies, and it’s unrealistic to expect faculty members who don’t work in the field to keep up with the rapidly changing dynamic of media planning and buying.

Despite being an advertising and marketing major at a large university, the only media buying experience Shay’s job candidate had was in traditional media, specifically billboards and newspaper. She condemns higher education for not keeping pace with the current state of media buying (and shows her ageism fangs in the process):

“You know what, kid, if you land a job at an old company that’s ran (sic) by 60 year olds who still don’t want to transition any of their media dollars to social media then good, good, good. I’m glad you learned the billboards.”

Shay says that something is wrong if a newly hired college grad has to be trained by her agency’s digital media buyer, a college dropout who’s a highly skilled practitioner, self-taught on the Internet. To that I say, “Who better to learn from than someone who does it every day and is really good at it?”

Shay makes a valid point that too many institutions are behind the curve when it comes to integrating real-world skills into their curriculum. But her expectations are valid only if you believe that colleges and universities exist to provide job training. I’ve worked at Rowan, Rutgers and Temple universities. They each hire industry professionals for full- and part-time teaching positions in advertising and PR. But the full-time faculty members at these institutions don’t do media planning every day, so they can’t possibly keep up with the innovations in a rapidly changing field.

Learning the mechanics of media buying is a vocational skill. Universities are not designed to be vocational schools. The ones where I’ve taught deliver a solid grounding in the principles of marketing and advertising; that’s what they do best. They provide value, because most of the underlying principles of marketing and advertising remain stable — even as the dynamics of the media world shift. Media planning and placement are best taught by practitioners who stay current by doing it.

Fortunately, there are several programs where college students can gain real-world experience in a competitive environment; specifically the Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge run by Marketing EDGE, the National Student Advertising Competition from the American Advertising Federation and the Google Online Marketing Challenge. These competitions are underutilized by academic institutions and employers, alike. More colleges and universities should offer and support these programs, more students should participate and more employers should seek out graduates who have had these experiences.

Marketing Decision-Making: Similarity to the 94% Who Don’t Trust Mainstream Media

Marketing decision-making is a science for some, a gut reaction for others. And the latter group is concerning, because people are easily misled when presented with things they want to believe.

Marketing decision-making is a science for some, a gut reaction for others. And the latter group is concerning, because people are easily misled when presented with things they want to believe.

Writing in his book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” Daniel Kahneman says:

“The psychologist Paul Slovic has proposed an affect heuristic in which people let their likes and dislikes determine their beliefs about the world … His work offers a picture of Mr. and Ms. Citizen that is far from flattering: guided by emotion rather than by reason, easily swayed by trivial details, and inadequately sensitive to differences between low and negligibly low probabilities.”

Sounds like some marketing decision-making.

Essentially, people believe what they want to believe. I was amused when someone shared this tidbit about the mainstream media in my Facebook News Feed. Having done a good amount of market research, I’ve found that it’s unusual for more than 90% of people to agree on anything. Taking the bait, I replied that you might get more than 90% of people to agree that they love their mother (unless you pulled your research sample from people who were abused and neglected as children). To get this result about the mainstream media, the research sample must have been pulled from Sean Hannity’s Twitter followers, if there was a study at all.

Marketing Decision-Making’s Similarity to the 94% Who Don’t Trust Mainstream Media
Credit: Chuck McLeester

Marketers and researchers can easily succumb to the affect heuristic. We have to be cautious about letting personal beliefs, opinions, and biases guide decisions and conclusions. We may desperately want to believe certain things about our target audience because that’s what we feel. Of course, our feelings might not be supported by the numbers.

The Mad World News post about mainstream media invited readers to share if they were one of those who mistrusted the mainstream media. The post got 41,405 shares — from only 2% of the Mad World News 1.8 million followers. Granted, not everyone who agrees with the post is going to share it. But to validate the claim, 47 times as many Mad World News followers would have to share it. When challenged, one sharer doubled down on his belief.

Beware the affect heuristic.

The Day Marketers Became ‘Big Brother’

Data collection is transactional. Before Google and social media, transactions were, for the most part, financial. But now they’re personal. Every friend, family member, like, love, click, view, search, post, follow, preference, location and comment is a piece of transactional data that can be exploited not only for commercial purposes, but for political purposes, as well.

Every breath you take; Every move you make; Every bond you break; Every step you take,

I’ll be watching you

Every single day; Every word you say; Every game you play; Every night you stay,

I’ll be watching you

It’s a bit ironic, and somewhat prescient, that a band named The Police sang those lyrics in the year before 1984. We’ve finally found the Holy Grail of one-to-one marketing … but do we like it?

Back in the ’90s, I was working with a client using credit bureau customer data to build models of people who were likely to be interested in home equity loans. Some people would chide me about invading people’s privacy for commercial purposes, but I would always respond:

“We’re not interested in the personal information points about John Q. Public; we’re only interested in the fact that he belongs to a segment of people who meet a specific set of financial criteria. We market to that entire segment of people without paying attention to any one of single individual’s personal, customer data points. I don’t care about your specific home value or mortgage balance; I only care that you belong to that group of people who would qualify for a home equity loan.”

But now I’m creeped out.

Customer Data Is Integral to the Credit Economy

Customer data collection is transactional. Before Google and social media, transactions were, for the most part, financial. But now they’re personal. Every friend, family member, like, love, click, view, search, post, follow, preference, location and comment is a piece of transactional data that can be exploited not only for commercial purposes, but for political purposes, as well.

And we give it up so willingly!

In order to participate in the credit economy, we tacitly agreed to have our financial transaction data stored and monitored. (Let’s not get into how that worked out recently, but the value exchange seemed reasonable). Now, we willingly give up reams of personal transaction data, and the value exchange is quite different. We get to access pictures of friends with their food, children and pets, we get accurate turn-by-turn directions to wherever we’re going, and we get that leather messenger bag we looked at online to follow us around the Internet for weeks on end.

Can marketers still make the argument, “we’re not interested in the personal information points about John Q. Public; we’re only interested in the fact that he belongs to a segment of people who meet a specific set of criteria”? Even if now, that segment is a segment of one?

And the customer data collectors? Like The Police, they say, I’ll be watching you.

What do you think? Comments welcome.