Customer Experience Is King in 2018, and at #AADM18

It’s one of the major themes we’ve seen this year among the most successful marketers: The customer’s experience is your brand — far more so than anything you say in media, paid or earned. If you don’t deliver a great omnichannel experience for your customer, your brand is going to suffer. So what goes into creating those experiences from the point of view of a CMO or brand leader? I have a great chance for you to find out.

Brand leaders in 2018 are obsessed with the customer experience.

It’s one of the major themes we’ve seen this year among the most successful marketers: The customer’s experience is your brand — far more so than anything you say in media, paid or earned. If you don’t deliver a great omnichannel experience for your customers, your brand is going to suffer.

So what goes into creating those experiences from the point of view of a CMO or brand leader?

On June 28 at the All About Direct Marketing virtual conference, we’re going to delve deep into that across many sessions, including keynotes with brand leaders from two top American brands.

Patrick McLean Executive Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer, TD Bank – America's Most Convenient Bank
Patrick McLean EVP and CMO, TD Bank

TD Bank CMO Talks Marketing Leadership

You may have heard TD Bank CMO Patrick McLean on the Marketing Garage podcast. In the afternoon keynote, we’ll go deeper into how McLean and TD Bank build those experiences, and what it takes to be a marketing leader today and in the future.

Xfinity Brand Leader Creates Customer Experiences at Enormous Scale

Todd Arata Senior Vice President, Brand Marketing, Comcast
Todd Arata SVP, Brand Marketing, Comcast

But before that, to kick off the show, we’ll be talking to Comcast Xfinity SVP of Brand Marketing Todd Arata about how Xfinity connects with customers one-to-one at enormous scale as their cable offering has expanded to one of the largest in America. It’s a challenge Comcast is meeting with technology, strategy and out-of-the-box thinking, and we’ll discuss how they make that happen.

And More Marketing Strategy and Insights!

Beyond those star keynotes, the schedule is packed with great sessions:

It’s a stacked agenda, we’ve been working hard on it, and I hope you’ll stop by to hear them all for yourself at the 2018 All About Direct Marketing virtual conference.

 

GDPR and the Data Culture War

GDPR and it’s extra-territorial enforceability are about more than some new rights for E.U. citizens. It’s a response to the fast-and-loose privacy attitude that’s fueled the American Internet boom.

We had an internal “summit” about GDPR yesterday here at NAPCO Media, Target Marketing’s parent company. (BTW: The regulations mandate privacy awareness training for everyone involved in processing data. So if you haven’t done yours, you have about three weeks.) Stephan Garcia, founder of GDPR Superheroes, called in from his home in the U.K well after business hours local time to help us get a handle on everything GDPR is about.

On thing Garcia mentioned was that many of our concerns about GDPR compliance aren’t shared in certain E.U. countries, like Germany, because those countries just don’t have the same culture of data collection and purchasing that we have in the U.S.

This law and it’s extra-territorial enforceability are about more than some new rights for E.U. citizens. It’s a response to the fast-and-loose privacy attitude that’s fueled the American Internet boom.

Backlash Against American Privacy Exceptionalism

The E.U. wants to get away from the fast and loose silicon valley approach to data. No more “Collect it all, we’ll figure it out later.” GDPR says privacy must be in your design from the beginning. Systems and business processes must be designed to protect citizen data and privacy rights from the beginning, not as an after thought.

American companies  like Facebook and Google, and really all of the post-social-media digital world, were built on casual, almost accidental collection of data that could eventually be exploited to turn a profit — since none of them launched with viable business models.

Personal data is the market inefficiency these companies exploited to conquer the world. They collected it virtually for free and sold access to marketers for revenue. Users hardly batted an eye at offering data for the services. In many cases, users didn’t even think of follows and likes as a form of personal data. Consequently, they assigned no value to these items and the resource of data was wildly undervalued.

GDPR is a recognition of this imbalance and the pendulum swinging back the other way.

It’s also European governments taking some power back from mostly U.S.-based economic juggernauts. And old world culture re-asserting itself in a digital world that’s been mostly built on Wild West rules. And across the world, it’s people rectifying the value imbalance these data exchanges have exploited.

In other words, this is a culture war. GDPR and a raft of similar regulations in the E.U. and other countries is a sort of data conservation movement responding to Silicon Valley’s data libertarians.

Marketers in the Middle

Marketers are caught in the middle. And, not to sound cynical, but the only right strategy here is to play both sides against the middle.

Make no mistake: Brands must embrace at least some aspects of privacy reform if you want to maintain customer trust. “All your data belongs to us” is not a viable PR position.

At the same time, we need data to do the kinds of marketing consumers want. You can’t deliver personalized, optimized customer experiences without the data.

And there is a huge opportunity here to prove to customers that they can trust your brand with their data. Some companies have even taken wild leaps of data faith to prove it.

For example, Garcia talked about the U.K. pub chain J.D. Wetherspoon that actually deleted it’s entire customer email database — on purpose — to show customer it was serious about privacy. Instead, Wetherspoon told customers to follow it on social media and visit the website for deals. It also launched a mobile app not long after, which of course is another way of collecting data.

Look for solutions like that; solutions that allow you to build customer trust and your data pool at the same time. That’s going to be key to navigating the post-GDPR digital future.

A lot about GDPR looks daunting. But for savvy brands, it’s a great opportunity to prove you’re on the customer’s side while building new ways to work with data and build higher quality customer experiences.

Could GDPR Have Averted Facebook’s Data Debacle?

This new European regulation that begins on May 25 is causing many to complain about increased regulations and the cost. I view GDPR differently. But from my perspective, I like what GDPR offers.

Welcome to my monthly column series, Around the World, where we will explore what’s new in marketing and sales from a global perspective. This column will focus primarily on technology innovations and the impact they are making in helping companies achieve their growth objectives.

Note: I intentionally include both marketing and sales innovations. The reason is most effective organizations employ collaborative marketing and sales teams who work together to achieve shared goals. Companies can no longer afford to separate these two symbiotic areas of the business. Clearly, we have a long way to go to make this a universal reality, but we are moving in that direction.

The ROI of GDPR

Starting next month, I serve up short Q&A sessions with innovative people who are making an impact in the marketing and sales industry. This will create an interesting flow of perspectives and experiences from around the world. The purpose of this column is to be a source of useful and inspiring information for you, my readers. But I also want this to be an interactive forum where you share your reactions and experiences so we are learning from each other.

Let’s get started with a look at GDPR, which will have global ramifications in how marketers and salespeople handle personal data. This new European regulation that begins on May 25 is causing many to complain about increased regulations and the cost it is going to have for businesses. I view GDPR differently. These new regulations are actually exactly what we as individuals expect and demand from companies in how they treat our personal data they have extracted over time.

From my perspective, I like what GDPR offers. I want to share my data with companies to receive a better service, be rewarded for my loyalty and be treated ethically, knowing that my data is safe and secure. In fact, I’d like to go further and have ‘a right to be remembered!’ For instance, it’s so boring and time-consuming to have to complete the same forms for the same company you fly with each time, rent cars from or hotels you visit. As consumers we want these entities to retain the data we have provided about our preferences and use it in the future.

We all want to be treated like trusted members of the family. Imagine being greeted by the Italian restaurant owner who impresses your guests as he ushers you and your guests to your favorite table in a restaurant! You feel special. The evening gets off to a great start and sets the tone for a great customer experience. This is all because the owner took the time to get to know you and your preferences before you stepped inside his restaurant.

One of the main benefits of GDPR is the fact that there are huge powers (and corresponding fines of 4% of revenue in each country affected), which will make large companies sit up and take notice about this important issue. And it’s really the big companies who have handled our data in an appallingly way. Just in recent weeks, we’ve seen millions of records hacked or misused by Facebook/Cambridge Analytica, Uber and Under Armour; the latter at least reacting quickly to confirm their data breach, rather than the normal corporate procedure of trying to brush things under the carpet as VW did with the dieselgate scandal – with unbelievable corporate arrogance. Shame on VW.

GDPR’s Potential Impact on Facebook Debacle

So if GDPR had been in place, for instance, could it have affected the recent Facebook crisis?

The Sustainability of Consumer Trust

I refuse to jump on the privacy “scandal” bandwagon. It is rough listening in this week to certain lawmakers fail to recognize the absolute benefits accrued by consumers through the responsible collection and use of data for commerce, advertising and innovation. Yes, data handling requires stewardship — but that doesn’t mean “data” in and of itself — constitutes anything close to being a harm that needs to be regulate.

I refuse to jump on the privacy “scandal” bandwagon.

It is rough listening in this week to certain lawmakers fail to recognize the absolute benefits accrued by consumers through the responsible collection and use of data for commerce, advertising and innovation. Yes, data handling requires stewardship — but that doesn’t mean “data” in and of itself — constitutes anything close to being a harm that needs to be regulated, as if there were no rules already in place.

Whether or not I, as a voter, saw Russian-administered content online, in an alleged bid to stir up controversy and division among the American electorate, is an understandable concern. It should be investigated — because we need to isolate and diminish any and all “malicious” actors in our digital economy and democracy. Fraud, too, is a harm that must be isolated, identified and eradicated. You’ll have no debate from me here.

But let’s not conflate malicious actors with bona fide relevant advertising and content being presented to, and engaged by, consumers — a wholly beneficial outcome that public policy must acknowledge. Data, commerce and advertising are not dirty words — they are engines for job growth, innovation and — yes, even government revenue through taxes. Ads finance content freely available and useful to consumers and other businesses — and pay for journalism, too, and a diversity of content on the Net.

But all of this responsible data collection and use are useless if there is no consumer trust.

I argue that the U.S. approach to data regulation — legal restriction where sensitive personal information is collected, transferred and applied through sector-specific laws concerning health data, certain government IDs, personal finance, children’s data and credit — and where Fair Information Principles are applied for other data categories that do not have such propensity for harm. Consumers are extremely well-served by this regimen. It is far more harmful to have a breach of credit data, for example, than to have business entities share consumers’ advertising profiles in non-sensitive categories — the latter data use being wholly beneficial. U.S. data protections thus are wisely targeted and measured.

Ads pay the freight — and the economy grows as a direct result. Better for an ad to be relevant to an audience. I believe this is superior (at least for Americans) than other highly prescriptive regimes (read, Europe) that make little distinctions between data categories and require “opt-in” permissions for any and all types of data sharing, including that related to advertising and marketing. If consumers are inundated with opt-in requests for less sensitive types of data use, even for categories of use where they directly benefit, then inertia and fatigue will prevail and useful data flows won’t happen. I’m hoping businesses handling European citizen data will find ways to prove me wrong!

Is the motivation of such draconian restrictions in Europe really privacy protection as a fundamental human right? Or is it somehow questioning commerce, competition, diversity, trade and innovation, and other important social aims financed by advertising — all sacrificed on the altar of permission? Yes, consumer control should be a default with ad data — but affirmative consent should be reserved for data categories where the propensity for harm is real. This point of view, in Europe at least, is rhetorical — because the law is the law. And as of May 25, the General Data Protection Regulation is enforceable on all global entities touching EU citizen data. God Save the Queen and her data subjects, and perhaps all of us.

At a recent privacy conference, one of the primary architects of the European Union’s ePrivacy Regulation (a follow-up to GDPR) said, “What we are aiming at is to abolish surveillance-driven advertising.”

Surveillance-driven” advertising and “surveillance capitalism” — are Europe- and privacy-academic speak that seeks to link or conflate interest-based advertising with government surveillance of citizens. I mean, really? Ad tech may include companies not known to the consumer, and because brands enlist outside ad tech companies to help them make advertising inventory more relevant (and useful) to site and app users, and disclose such data sharing through enhanced notice mechanisms and privacy policies, somehow this still constitutes “surveillance” with all of its negative connotations. Let’s not forget that the intended result of these investments in consumer engagement is a more relevant ad, not a dossier!

We can see where some (important) heads may be motivated.

Back to the U.S.

Even something as innocuous as an ad served to a device — we have plenty of guidance for privacy rules of the road: Fair Information Practice Principles that are global, Data & Marketing Association Data Standards 2.0, Digital Advertising Alliance Principles and the YourAdChoices program (a client), IAB technical standards … and an active Federal Trade Commission (and other agencies, in certain data categories) overseeing the ecosystem, and enforcing privacy expectations — is both self-regulatory and legal.

The idea that the United States is a laissez-faire data free-for-all is pointedly not a correct assessment. In the digital world, we have 20-plus years of self-regulation, based on nearly 60 years of self-regulation offline. All of this premised on building and bolstering consumer trust. We have federal and state law in important data sectors. Through all of these decades, we’ve had an FTC minding the advertising/marketing store, growing the market, and — enforcing privacy and security of data through meaningful enforcement actions and consent decrees that serve as teaching tools to other businesses.

Instead of grandstanding and undermining years of hard-earned consumer trust, more policymakers — and perhaps industry leaders, too — should recognize how responsible data flows serve the consumer. Thus, they should back existing industry regimes that promote stewardship and governance — and hold us to it. Serving consumers, earning their trust, after all, is a shared goal by all responsible stakeholders.

Marketing Technology vs. Marketing Strategy

Coming into the second annual All About Marketing Tech virtual conference, one question has come up again and again: Are you just buying marketing technology, or are you empowering a marketing strategy?

Coming into the second annual All About Marketing Tech virtual conference, one question has come up again and again: Are you just buying marketing technology, or are you empowering a marketing strategy?

We are in an age when marketing technology can let us do amazing things, as you’ve seen me and all the editors and writers here on Target Marketing discuss many times. But they’re all tools, and even the best tool is only useful when you have a plan to use it.

Kids at Santa’s Workshop

It’s like when you were a little kid, and “Santa’s Workshop” came to school. Did you have these? The school would bring in a vendor to sell Christmas presents for the kids to buy for their families? (Come to think of it, it does seem a bit exploitative now that I type it out …)

Anyway, I remember one time seeing a tool that I thought looked so cool, so I bought it for my dad. It was this handheld thingy with slim little nails and a plastic tube with a magnet. The nails would go in the tube, and you’d push the top down to drive them. It looked so cool! But I had no idea what it did.

So I bought it for my dad anyway.

He smiled and accepted it, and I don’t think he used it once. In retrospect, it was probably for hanging wall paneling, which we never had.

How to Empower a Marketing Strategy

One of the things I’ve heard from multiple speakers heading into this show is that marketers sometimes buy technology a lot like I bought that nail thingamajig for my dad. They wind up with a cool looking tool, even when they don’t have a plan for how to use it.

And beyond the plan for how you’re going to use it, you need to have plans for how to integrate it into your marketing processes, train personnel to use it and plug it into your existing tech stack.

Tomorrow, All About Marketing Tech will introduce you to new marketing technologies — six of them, in fact — but also help you put together the marketing strategies that really determine what technology you should be investing in to begin with.

Andy Markowitz will talk about why marketers win or lose in the age of AdTech and MarTech convergence.

Jerry Bernhart will show you how to find the best marketing tech talent.

Peter Gillett will lead an international panel of experts on how the EU’s GDPR regulations will impact your tech stack.

Beerud Sheth will show you how to build an AI chatbot that doesn’t suck.

PLUS: Mitch Joel of Mirum, Rob Pinkerton of Morningstar, Samuel Monnie of Campbell’s Soup Company, Jonathan Levey of Flexjet and more!

So, if you want to know more about cutting edge marketing technologies, how companies are building strategies to be empowered by technology, how to find the people who have the skill and vision to use those tools, how to avoid one of the biggest fines your company would ever see and more, be sure to register for All About Marketing Tech, happening live from 10 AM to 3 PM EST tomorrow.

If marketing technology or strategy is a part of your job, or part of the job you want to have, you can’t afford to miss it.

3 Pressing Marketing Tech Questions — And How to Get Answers

What worries you about marketing technology? With All About Marketing Tech right around the corner on March 15, we’ve been putting the finishing touches on the program, and that question has been top of my mind. This year, three issues are at the forefront.

What worries you about marketing technology? With All About Marketing Tech right around the corner on March 15, we’ve been putting the finishing touches on the program, and that question has been top of my mind. This year, three issues are at the forefront.

1. How Do You Make Marketing Technology Part of Your Strategy?

This is the big one. We’ve gone through years of picking up whatever shiny new technology seemed to be working. But now that customers have made so many channels a part of their lives, it’s really less about the tech and more about your overall marketing capability. How does the technology enable your strategy? That’s the real question.

To answer that, Andy Markowitz, former general manager of GE, will sit down to talk about “Why Marketing Organizations Win or Lose in the Age of MarTech-AdTech Convergence.” If you want to know the difference between organizations that use technology to enable their strategies and organizations that waste their time and budget chasing shiny objects, this is the keynote for you.

2. How Do You Find the Talent to Use It?

Perhaps the most overlooked challenge of the marketing technology era is the people problem: How do you find the personnel who know how to get the most out of all the technologies and execute your strategy?

It’s one thing to find people who excel in single channels, but another to find the people who can create omnichannel experiences.

In “How to Find Great Marketing Tech Talent,”  Marketing recruiter Jerry Bernhart will talk about the key considerations in making a great, tech-savvy marketing hire.

3. How Does GDPR Impact Your Tech Stack?

The biggest new worry for 2018 has got to be the EU’s upcoming General Data Protection Rules (GDPR). Requiring marketers who have EU citizens in their files to account for a host of new rights — including the right to erasure, which requires you to erase all data about a customer on request — GDPR raises many questions about your tech stack. Are any of your tools going to be a problem for GDPR compliance?

In “GDPR and Your Tech Stack,” we’ll talk about those concerns, and what you should do about them.

Plus, hear from six new marketing technology startups, Campbell’s Soup, Flexjet and more! Registration is open, just head over to aamt.targetmarketingmag.com to sign up today!

7 B2B Marketing Predictions for 2018

New-year predictions are a dangerous business. I will take the risk, and just hope that at the end of 2018 no one looks back to call me on it! B2B sales and marketing are evolving quickly — as buying behavior changes, and new technologies take hold. So, there’s a lot to talk about.

New-year predictions are a dangerous business. I will take the risk, and just hope that at the end of 2018 no one looks back to call me on it! B2B sales and marketing are evolving quickly — as buying behavior changes, and new technologies take hold. So, there’s a lot to talk about. But I shall limit my predictions to just seven, and hope they provide food for thought to my fellow followers of the B2B marketing scene.

1. More Growth in Marketing Technology — and More Consolidation

Ever since Scott Brinker began tracking the marketing tech space in 2011, when he identified 150 point solutions on the market, the category’s growth has been unstoppable. In 2017, he counted 5,381 solutions, up 40% from the year prior. This is nuts. And ripe for consolidation, as buyers sit paralyzed by the deluge, and vendors scramble to stand out. I predict major M&A next year. One corollary point is that marketing executives will need to be tech savvier than ever to manage their ever-growing stacks.

2. Predictive Analytics Becomes an Essential Tool in B2B

Data and modeling are nothing new in B2B, but the tools and strategies that have entered the toolset in the last few years are setting us up for a new kind of data-driven future. Particularly in prospecting, new resources like purchase signals (“intent data”) and lookalike modeling will continue to expand marketers’ access to new audiences and provide scale to their ABM programs. Look to Lattice, Mintigo, 6Sense, Leadspace and MRP Prelytix.

3. AI Gets Real

The marketing buzzword of the year, artificial intelligence will in 2018 prove its value in speeding up data processing and applying machine learning to digital advertising, predictive analytics, responsive websites, chatbots, and all manner of customer management. Look, when Salesforce.com introduced an AI plug-in called Einstein, my point was proved.

4. Self-service Analytics

As marketing tech gets more complex, and CMOs are close to controlling tech budgets as large as CIOs, next up is the need for simplicity, and new ways for marketers to take advantage of technology without becoming total geeks. Enter self-service, which essentially means more sophisticated business intelligence tools that feature ease of use along with speed and power. IBM’s Watson may be the most famous of the bunch. But cheaper, more accessible competitors will be coming along, I reckon.

5. GDPR Will Give B2B Marketers a Break

This is certainly wishful thinking, but my gut says the EU regulators will clarify whether some exceptions — or workarounds — may be available to B2B marketers as the May 25, 2018, deadline approaches. net in the UK has prepared a useful guide for B2B marketers on how to begin their compliance efforts. Meantime, Forrester predicts that 40 percent of marketers are going to take their chances and not even try to comply.

6. Customer Experience Will Become a Key Discipline in B2B

It’s been a long time coming, but B2B marketers are finally waking up to the fact that purchase decisions are based far less on price and more on direct and indirect experience with the product, the brand and the company.   Even in B2B, where things are supposed to be so rational. Sirius Decisions has been following this topic for some years. As interest grows, so will marketing departments focus on how to deliver consistent, informative and enjoyable experiences — online and off — to customers and prospects.

7. Understanding Millennial Buying Behavior Will Be Key to Success

I’ve offered tips about marketing to Millennials before. But new data suggests that this cohort is more influential than ever. They are now responsible for researching and influencing 65 percent of purchase decisions, and in 13 percent they are the decision makers themselves. Moreover, it turns out that the first place they look for solutions is not Google search and your website, but on social media. As these people age, their influence will grow. We need to be on their wavelength.

So, those are my predictions for B2B marketing in 2018. Anyone have others to offer?

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Europe’s Forthcoming Data ‘Freeze’ and Why We Need to Care

European policymakers are transfixed with setting personal information controls on the private sector, and — beginning May 2018 — will give its citizens “default” power to shut down all such data usage for advertising purposes unless consumers provide affirmative consent. It’s called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its companion ePrivacy Regulation.

Paris
Eiffel Tower” | Credit: TOUREFFEL.PARIS THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE EIFFEL TOWER by Eiffel Tower

There was a modicum of good news recently when the U.S. Department of Commerce’s “Privacy Shield” program was given a passing grade by the European Union, enabling private-sector cross-border data flows on European citizens between the U.S. and Europe. Thousands of U.S. companies participate in Privacy Shield. They rely on the program to help collect, process and transfer responsibly information for more relevant advertising, human resources, and other commercial and operational purposes. (It applies to charities, too.)

European policymakers are transfixed with setting personal information controls on the private sector, and — beginning May 2018 — will give its citizens “default” power to shut down all such data usage for advertising purposes unless consumers provide affirmative consent. It’s called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its companion ePrivacy Regulation.

In the U.S., much digital information about consumer devices and browsers — such as their browsing history and app usage — is painstakingly “anonymized” by companies according to industry-wide self-regulatory codes. [Disclosure: One of my clients is the Digital Advertising Alliance.] Sweat equity through independent accountability programs safeguard such data from being used without proper consumer notice (transparency) and opportunity to exercise control through an easy-to-find, easy-to-use “opt-out.” However, in Europe, any digital information that “could” be used to re-identify an individual — even if anonymized from a U.S. perspective, such as an IP address — is considered personal by definition. Affirmative consent — most likely an “opt-in” though “consent” details are yet to be articulated — will hold sway. Common U.S. notice-and-opt-out regimens won’t suffice.

Imagine all the responsible data flows — even those clearly beneficial to consumers and the global economy — that will simply stop May 25, 2018, in Europe because of a hugely stricter consent mandate. American companies can only watch and wait to see who may be called out by EU data protection authorities, eager to fine a company up to 4 percent of its global returns, as provided for in the law.

Good policy? Or good politics. In reality, EU lawmakers are asking its citizens to pay a huge price. And that’s not my opinion as an American — it’s a fact in a Europe-born study. Look at what’s at stake:

  • €535 billion of the European Union economy benefits directly and indirectly from digital advertising;
  • 66 percent of digital ad spend depends on data, and 90 percent of digital advertising growth depends on data;
  • Ad units tied to data are 300 percent more valuable than standard run-of-network ads (because they are more effective)

That’s part of the economic argument. But there are social and political ramifications, too.

  • Much like U.S. consumers, Europeans prefer data-supported ads to paying for content — eight in 10 report such a preference;
  • Fully 68 percent say they would never pay for online content or use services such as email if they had to pay for it;
  • And 92 percent would stop using their favorite site or app if they had to pay for it;
  • Even 42 percent are “happy”: to see data used to deliver personalized ads.

European businesses, agencies and publishers have gone so far as to press policymakers that their respective countries’ own democratic and economic health is at stake — inherent in the power of data used in advertising:

  • Up to 50 percent of advertising growth will simply disappear if data cannot be used to make more relevant ads;
  • 70 percent of European citizens would abandon the Internet for news if they had to pay to replace the news content financed by digital advertising;
  • Internet usage would crash by 88 percent if EU citizens were forced to pay for online content and services;
  • And what of competition, diversity of content and innovation? The impact on small, independent publishers would be five times more pronounced than the impact on large media companies.

Yes, American companies are in the cross-hairs once GDPR and ePrivacy take some combination of enforcement effect next May — perhaps bad policy for seemingly good politics. Yet Europeans themselves are challenging such an objective — overreaching data controls punish consumers, employers and even democracies.

That’s a mindful lesson for all of us.

Equifax Data Breach: Has America Given Up on Privacy?

“If you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax …” That’s how the FTC notification of the Equifax data breach begins, and it’s a remarkable statement.

Equifax Logo“If you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax …”

That’s how the FTC notification of the Equifax data breach begins. And it’s a remarkable statement. “If you have a credit report” — and who doesn’t? — your personal information was probably stolen by hackers.

I mean, 143 million people is about 44 percent of the U.S. population. This breach is huge, and it will impact just about everybody.

So what are Americans doing about it? Screaming for a government breakup? Marching on the Equifax headquarters with pitchforks? Abandoning credit checks?

Eh … folks gave Equifax CSR “Stevie” a hard time on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/Technicolordojo/status/906147301986639872?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cnbc.com%2F2017%2F09%2F08%2Fequifax-tweets-happy-friday-after-security-breach.html

And people are suing, of course. In fact, there’s a one-click lawsuit chatbot that’ll allow you to sue Equifax without a lawyer!

(That has to be some kind of landmark in chatbot empowerment. One day after the robots take over, chatbots will get an annual day off in the name of DoNotPay.)

But the most common reaction has been a shrug. The Atlantic summed it up with the title of its article, “The Banality of the Equifax Breach.”

Credit breaches have become so common that the FTC has a cartoon about it, and it starts off exactly as banally as you’d expect: “Yet another data breach is making headlines …”

And who can blame anyone for treating these data breaches as routine? According to Identity Force, this was the 24th major data breach this year. These aren’t exceptional, they’re routine.

If there’s any silver lining, it’s that breaches at important institutions like Equifax and FAFSA (an IRS tool) make retail breaches seem like small potatoes.

There’s been almost no significant response to these breaches from the U.S. government. Europe has been far more proactive, with General Data Protection Regulations about to go into effect that will require companies to have a chief data protection officer.

The best Americans can expect a week of is free credit protection from Equifax, so long they sign away their right to sue about he rest of the breech. (Correcton: Commenter Phillip Angerhofer brought to my attention that Equifax has adjusted its terms of service to make clear that consumers do not waive the right to sue by enrolling in the service. Thank you, Phillip!)

All of which begs the question at the top: Have Americans given up on privacy? Because, despite the amount of data breaches we’re seeing, American citizens don’t really seem all that fired up on the topic.

As ridiculous as the E.U policy may sound, are Americans doing enough to protect consumer data?

And if not, are U.S. brands ready to meet the more rigorous laws coming into play in the rest of the world?

Please: No Trade War on Information

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend the International Association of Privacy Professionals Global Privacy Summit in Washington, DC. I was there touting self-regulation in the digital advertising field. Booth after booth and many panels, however, were talking about something else: the European Union’s forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its cousin, ePrivacy Regulation — and how American and global businesses may deal with both. GDPR takes enforcement effect on May 25, 2018.

The opinions expressed in this post — as always — are my own.

Little Data Business ConceptEarlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend the International Association of Privacy Professionals Global Privacy Summit in Washington, DC. I was there touting self-regulation in the digital advertising field.

Booth after booth and many panels, however, were talking about something else: the European Union’s forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its cousin, ePrivacy Regulation — and how American and global businesses may deal with both. GDPR takes enforcement effect on May 25, 2018.

While all the promulgations for GDPR are yet to be revealed, the potential impact is that the EU will place a lockbox on personal information of European citizens (both consumers and business individuals), even those data elements that are as benign and beneficial as advertising and marketing related information. Only affirmative consent from the consumer will make such data available for constructive outcomes as marketing analysis and tailored advertising. Whether or not a company is based in Europe, United States or elsewhere — if it touches EU citizen data, it must conform to the regulation — or face fines as much as 4 percent of global turnover — or €20 Million, whichever is greater. IAB Europe has posted a helpful primer.

Will the first cases under this regulation be brought against Europe-based companies? We shall see.

Many Americans fear something else. It will be used to go after American-based companies — particularly global innovators in data and information that use consumer data for productive use, with great success. Data-driven marketing economies offer superb dividends: consumers get more relevant content, greater choices and greater diversity of content — as well as entrepreneurial businesses that seek to innovate even further. The decision this past week under EU competition law regarding Google only advances the case of perceived anti-American bias in EU “digital” law enforcement. (Without arguing merits or criticisms of the decision — last I heard, no one in Europe is forced to use Google for his or her online searches or shopping.)

Then there’s the debate about consent in GDPR. The tired “opt-in versus opt-out” debate has reared its ugly head, as the EU marketplace implements affirmative consent mandates. We all know opt-in requirements tend to kill consumer discovery, and hurt, particularly, small business.

Like EU’s cookie law, Europeans may well see a plethora of new sets of notices asking consumers whether or not they really want to visit a site, use an app and so on — anywhere personal data, including browsing history and app usage, is intended to be collected and used for marketing purposes. There are myriad other GDPR requirements — data protection impact assessments, data protection officer designees, the right to data access, the right to be forgotten, the right to data breach notification — which marketing organizations will need to navigate.

And what might the global effect be as nation after nation seeks to establish “reciprocity” with more stringent EU law? In the post-Snowden era (how post-Snowden are we?) there are plenty who want to turn off American data collectors, as if the U.S. private sector has anything to do with U.S. government surveillance. They are not the same thing, and should never be.

If the goal of the EU is to protect the European consumer — by striking fear in Silicon Valley and American business through fines, litigation and the like — then it may go over very well with European audiences. Kudos, point made. Then there’s our side of the ocean. Despite all the bluster of “America First,” the truth is that we’re a global economy and there’s no turning back. And, no one will win if there’s a trade war — especially one over data flows that fuel economic growth.