Do Consumers Love Marketing (Anymore)?

Picking up on my previous blog post, marketers have a lot of work to do, too, with consumers. Yes, we have 45-plus years of effective self-regulation on our side, and we’ve navigated fairly well into the digital and mobile age. We’ve kept self-regulation in marketing, more or less, intact where it comes to fair and free use of marketing data, even as the number of data users has grown extensively.

Picking up on my previous blog post, marketers have a lot of work to do, too, with consumers.

Yes, we have 45-plus years of effective self-regulation on our side, and we’ve navigated fairly well into the digital and mobile age. We’ve kept self-regulation in marketing, more or less, intact where it comes to fair and free use of marketing data, even as the number of data users has grown extensively.

But are we, as marketers, using data in a way that is winning the love and attention of consumers?

Some recent surveys point to some serious perception issues. First, we’re becoming jaded toward all types of advertising. A February story in the Economist, says brands are struggling to connect with an increasingly skeptical public:

Havas Media, a big marketing agency, says trust in [brands] has been declining for three decades. Last August it published the latest in a series of worldwide surveys, in which 134,000 consumers in 23 countries were asked what they thought of 700 brands. A majority of those taking part would not care if 73-percent of them just vanished. In Europe and America, 92-percent would not be missed. Only in places like Asia and Latin America, with lots of newish consumers, is there a bit more attachment to brands, though Havas Media reports that it is declining there too.

A recent post in Marketing Charts, also documents the trend, citing two more studies:

Indeed, Mindshare’s ‘Culture Vulture 2014‘ finds that only 47 percent of North American consumers last year agreed that they like to pass on interesting things they see or hear about brands, with that figure having steadily fallen over the past few years, from 66 percent in 2010 …

Another area in which brands can improve? The relevance of their messaging. Some 34 percent of US online adults responding to a new Responsys study indicate that they have ‘broken up’ (yes, the Valentine’s Day-themed terminology must continue) with a brand due to receiving poor, disruptive or irrelevant marketing messages. These break-ups were most commonly due to the brand continuously sending irrelevant content on multiple channels (53 percent), but also were frequently because the consumer never signed up to receive the offers from the brand (42 percent). (Brand stalkers!) Finally, one-third broke up because the messages were too generic and ‘obviously meant for the masses, not just them.’

And then we had a TRUSTe study which produced a daunting AdWeek headline: “Consumer Confidence in Online Privacy Hits 3-Year Low | Most afraid of businesses, not government” This is perhaps not surprising given all the general media’s coverage of overreaching government surveillance and of the untimely, huge data breaches (security). No wonder there has been a spillover effect on privacy, even as we would argue they are not the same issues.

There are two necessary responses from marketers here: do whatever you can to build trust with your customers—and do whatever you can to be relevant. And, from the reverse side, never do anything with your customers’ data that would undermine trust. Never do anything with your customer data that would convey irrelevance.

Transparency matters. Providing consumers in layman’s language an explanation of how each brand uses data to serve their customers goes a long way toward anticipating skepticism and, for some, dispelling hostility.

Choice matters. Using consumer data to make a personalized, 1:1 experience (one that is driven by segmentation, analytics and marketing triggers) that resonates with customer needs and desires, establishes relevance. Let consumers optout any time they choose to do so, but when you’re relevant, that choice is less likely to happen. It’s a new week—so how can I spend my time building trust and relevance with customers?