Why brands should establish ethical principles for data collection

The internet of things is constantly collecting intimate data.

The internet of things is constantly collecting intimate data.

Data collected should provide value to all concerned parties

The Altimeter Group published “The Trust Imperative: A Framework for Ethical Data Use.” The report gathered information from several different sources to provide a well-rounded view of how consumers view data collection and how organizations are starting to rethink data collection practices.

Data collection is becoming more ubiquitous, thanks to the “internet of things” – thermostats, refrigerators, wearables, and of course smart phones, to name a few. Therefore, protecting consumer data, from encryption, to storage, to online marketing, is becoming a brand attribute.

Rethinking the digital cost-benefit analysis

The online marketing axiom, rooted in cost-benefit analysis, is that consumers will trade their personal data for perceived discounts. The internet provides consumers with free services – search engine, photo archive, social media networks, etc. – if the consumer shares personal, friend list or email information.

This appears to be a good deal on the surface. However, upon closer inspection, many organizations use data collection as a profit center, selling data to programmatic media firms, credit reporting operations, database marketing firms, and large retailers. In fact, there is so much consumer data for sale (over 1500 data points for each of the 500 million active internet users, most of them in the United States) that a precise mosaic of the consumer’s lifestyle, actions, interest, food preferences, and ailments can be purchased for marketing purposes.

If this comes as a shock, it shouldn’t be

Most Americans are resigned to the fact that there is nothing they can do to thwart the onslaught of data collection by marketers. This comes from a lack of understanding about digital marketing and a preconceived notion that the Federal Government is looking out for their best interests when it comes to their personal privacy rights.

Why brands should be worried

The internet of things is constantly collecting intimate data. This is changing the nature of data collection from something that requires action to something that just happens. Consequently, consumers are becoming more uncomfortable with how brands will use their data.

As the tension level rises around data collection, trust becomes a serious issue for brands. An Altimeter® survey of over 2000 consumers revealed that over 45% of those surveyed had little or no trust in how organizations use their data.

This lack of trust has a quantifiable effect on business performance. The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer survey of 33,000 general population respondents found that 63% of people that lack trust in an organization will refuse to buy products and services from it. 58% criticized the organization to friends or colleagues, and 37% shared negative opinions online.

The impact of distrust clearly affects revenue, reputation, and stock price.

How brands can benefit from ethical principles in data collection

Brands should establish principles for ethical data collection, beginning with the expectation that any data collected should deliver value to all concerned parties. This is a litmus test for any “go or no go” marketing initiatives.

A second principle that organizations should consider is data minimization, meaning what is the least amount of data needed to meet the marketing objective? By practicing minimization, brands promote more sustainable and less risky analysis.

To download the report “The Trust Imperative: A Framework for Ethical Data Use” click here.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Digital Ad Targeting – What Do Marketers Know About You?

Ad Technology: Programmatic Advertising

The challenges of “Big Data”

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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Why your brand promise matters more now than ever

The brand promise is the differentiating characteristics inherent to the brand experience that will be delivered to every customer, every time.

The brand promise is the differentiating characteristics inherent to the brand experience that will be delivered to every customer, every time.

Does your customer’s brand experience live up to the brand promise?

In all the clutter being injected into business-to-business marketing, it seems that the quaint idea of the brand promise has been forgotten. Yet there are some large global consumer brands that invest untold time, treasure, and resources to define their differentiated brand experience and articulate it across their industry segments to ensure powerful and consistent customer communications.

Why business-to-business brands should revisit their brand promise

The brand promise is the differentiating characteristics inherent to the brand experience that will be delivered to every customer, every time.

How the brand articulates that promised experience depends on five specific components:

  • Personality of the brand
  • Values of the brand
  • Emotional needs of the customer the brand promises to satisfy
  • Functional needs the brand promises to satisfy
  • Supporting features that distinguish the brand

These five components form the brand pyramid which leads to formulating the brand promise.

Elevating the brand promise beyond feature/function

Brand features and functions are basic attributes of the brand. For example, a Phillips head screwdriver (feature) will tighten or loosen (function) a Phillips head screw. Elevating this experience to fulfill an emotional need requires insight into why that particular brand of screwdriver was selected. Is the brand promise that this tool is of high quality, comes with a lifetime guarantee, and is the choice of professionals? Or is it that the phenolic ergonomic grip is designed to reduce the chance of shock if touched to a live wire? The brand promise in this case goes beyond adjusting a screw; rather, it addresses an esteem or safety need that is deemed important by the customer.

Vision and values of the brand

If you accept that the brand promise is related to the brand experience, then vision and values of the brand come into play. The vision and values of the brand define the brand’s behavior; i.e., how the customer should be treated and what the customer should expect when interacting with the brand.

Referring back to the screwdriver example and the brand promise of a lifetime guarantee, one would expect the brand to replace the tool free of charge if a defect became apparent. But what if the tool was damaged while being used for an unattended purpose? Would the guarantee still apply?

If the brand chooses to honor the guarantee, especially without regard to cause of damage, it sends a strong message to the customer about the value of the relationship. This action also reinforces the quality perception associated with the brand personality. In addition, positive actions by the brand can move a customer along the engagement cycle from support to loyalty and advocacy.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

The difference between positioning and the brand promise

Defining your brand’s personality

The difference between strategy and tactics

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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Why brand reputation matters in large sales

The value of a strong brand reputation plays a critical role in the extended sales process.

The value of a strong brand reputation plays a critical role in the extended sales process.

Brand reputation sells long after the sales call

In the book Spin Selling by Neil Rackman, sales methodology is explored and documented. One of the findings, supported by research, is that in large sales, the selling process is often pushed through the sales funnel by personnel internal to the buyer of the product or service, due to the number of influencers and decision makers that must approve large capital expenditures. During this extended sales cycle, it would be almost impossible for the sales rep to be present for every meeting and address every objection or question that might arise. For that reason, the value of a strong brand reputation plays a critical role in the sales process.

Brand reputation in the digital age

Brand reputation is a soft metric that does not lend itself to the analytics of lead generation or conversion. Yet it may be one of the most powerful sales influencers that a seller has at its disposal. In the digital age where every aspect of a brand can be researched by a purchaser, a sterling reputation for performance, service, and durability provides a blanket of reassurance for the purchaser. In fact, positive brand attributes can elevate the brand from competing on price alone to commanding a premium price because of the intangible and emotional connections that the purchaser establishes with the brand.

Foundation of the brand reputation is delivering on the brand promise

The brand promise is a contract with the customer that they will receive the promised brand experience. The brand experience is the customer’s interaction with the brand at various touchpoints. Examples include website functionality, customer service response, technical assistance, and delivery; even the product packaging can help deliver on the brand promise. When viewed as a whole, each of these elements contributes to the brand reputation.

Outbound and inbound marketing efforts also contribute to the brand reputation. Customer insight gained through traditional or digital channels provides the framework for key messaging which can be used in advertising, promotion, and social marketing.

In large sales, one of the challenges is keeping the prospect in the sales funnel and not having them spin off into in a different direction based on inaccurate information. Therefore, investing in the brand’s reputation keeps a consistent stream of messaging that can counteract competitors’ efforts to sway the purchaser toward their product or service offering.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

What’s your brand’s reputation worth?

Why Business-to-Business Marketing is Transforming to People-to-People Marketing

Inbound Marketing and the Prospect Pipeline

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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Creating better content

bBrands must know themselves before they can create content that is meaningful.

Brands must know themselves before they can create content that is meaningful.

Brands must know themselves before they start to publish content.

Rebecca Lieb, Jessica Groopman, and Susan Etlinger of the Altimeter Group published “A Culture of Content,” A Best Practices Report. The report covers in detail how leading brands are creating a corporate ecosystem that encourages content development at every level of the organization. While many of their best practice recommendations were not new, one insight that stood out was that brands must know themselves before they can create content that is meaningful and helps to achieve business goals.

When brands decide to jump on the content bandwagon, they suddenly realize that an online presence can quickly overwhelm the resources dedicated to producing content. That’s why we see so much “me too” content from competing brands.

Brands that effectively deliver meaningful content share these three attributes:

  • They are the best at what they do, whether offering a product or service.
  • Everyone in the organization can articulate what makes their brand different from their competitors.
  • They listen to their customers and make the necessary changes, cultural or procedural, to enhance the brand experience.

In today’s always-on media environment, brands can feel pressured to produce content that doesn’t meet strategic criteria for being published. Leading brands have solved this problem by asking these simple questions:

  • Does this content warrant the resources necessary to produce it?
  • Will this content produce a rate of return equal to or greater than a paid media insertion?
  • Does the content solve a customer’s problem or concern?
  • Will the content support the mosaic of the overall brand story?
  • What is the shelf life of the content?

In the not-too-distant past, great brands — B-to-B and B-to-C — knew their DNA. They knew their history, where their value systems came from, and valued the inherent creativity of their employees. This was evident in their marketing and confirmed by their market share.

Today, these same traits are needed to produce content because now in the omni-channel media environment, content is becoming the face brand across every customer experience.

To download a copy of the Altimeter report, “A Culture of Content” click here.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

What’s your brand’s point-of-view?

Connecting decision makers with your brand

Finding your voice

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Why employees are the best source for inbound marketing content

 

Creating content for inbound marketing is everyone's responsibility

Creating content for inbound marketing is everyone’s responsibility

Having a process and the right skill set to capture content is half the battle.

Speak with almost any CEO of a small to mid-sized brand, and they will tell you that inbound marketing is an important communication component in creating and maintaining brand preference. However, ask them what resources or processes are in place dedicated to inbound marketing content, and the answer will tell you that this is usually more wishful thinking than reality.

Why is this? Small and mid-sized brands are resource-challenged. Their employees have a wealth of knowledge to share but usually there is no process in place to capture content.

Content mining: content that adds value to the brand

Authentic content has a point of view and provides thought leadership or hands-on practical information.

Every department in the company has something to share. It is vital that content development is viewed as everyone’s responsibility, not just the function of the marketing or PR department.

When the CEO leads the way, resources are sure to follow.

Many times the most authoritative content originates from the CEO. The CEO provides leadership and the high altitude point-of-view about the brand, such as:

  • Its current direction
  • Challenges to be faced
  • Opportunities on the horizon
  • Industry disruption from new technologies
  • How the brand can contribute to the betterment of the industry

Creating content is everyone’s responsibility

The engineering staff also contributes to developing content. This group has a unique perspective on innovation, new technologies, and production processes that contribute to solving customer problems.

The production department contributes by providing content on best practices, achieving optimal product performance, or tips on prolonging product life cycle.

Customer Service also contributes; they are the first to field customer concerns, complaints, and frequently asked questions. This group can be the conduit between engineering and production in identifying product flaws, delivery shortcomings, and inefficient interaction between departments.

Marketing’s job is to determine the most efficient process to capture the content and optimize it for different uses. Usually an employee is identified as an expert in their field and is asked to create a rough draft on a particular topic. From there, working in collaboration with either an internal or external journalistic resource, the content is edited and polished so it is suitable for publication and optimized for web use.

In addition, once the content is formalized, it becomes part of an e-library. This e-library can serve as a quick reference to customer requests.

Inbound marketing requires a commitment of time and resources to be successful. The pay-off is a stream of authoritative content that can be used across social media platforms, publications and customer service that supports brand leadership.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Social media content strategy?

How inbound marketing can help drive lead generation

Inbound marketing essentials?

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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How does company culture affect your brand?

Employee actions reflect the brand culture

Employee actions reflect the brand culture

Employee actions mirror your brand’s values and beliefs

This year, we have witnessed several prominent brands take a public media hit due to action of their employees. For all the time, treasure, and talent that’s invested in creating a trusted brand, it only takes one careless action to reveal a corporate culture that has lost its way.

Brands that lost their way

UBER – executive at a private dinner floated the idea of digging up dirt on selected female reporters and their families as a way to control what was reported on the company’s activities. The comment was leaked and a firestorm ignited, resulting in intense scrutiny from national news media and women deleting the UBER ride-sharing app from their smart phone.

National Football League – dressing their players in pink to support breast cancer research did little to cover up a disturbing pattern of violence towards women as captured on an elevator security camera when a star running back threw a wicked left hook that connected with his wife’s jaw. The YouGov Brand index score for the NFL fell from a yearlong high of 36 to 17 in a short four-day period.

General Motors – Congressional hearings and recalls of over 6 million vehicles did little to instill faith that GM has turned itself around. What it did demonstrate is that CEOs of large corporations can take a plausible deniability position and get away with it.

Brands that lead by example

TOMS Shoes – founded on a belief that brands should give something back to the community, TOMS created One-to-One®. With each new shoe purchase, a new pair of TOMS is given to a child through one of their 100+ shoe giving partners. TOMS has given away more that 35 million pairs of shoes to children in need.

Southwest Airlines – one of the first companies to recognize that their employees are front line brand ambassadors. SWA’s Adopt-A-Pilot is a four-week program where over 1,500 pilots participate in classroom activities bringing science, geography, and math to life. SWA foots the bill for all classroom materials as the students track their adopted pilots’ travels from flying the plane to interacting with other aviation professionals. This and many other community outreach programs make SWA one of the most respected brands in the industry.

Brands are known by their point of view

While brands may not be human entities, they are known by their actions. There are many ways that brands can lead by example, from reducing their carbon footprint by investing in cleaner technologies to supporting their communities through the volunteer efforts of their employees. Today, people want to support brands that have a social conscience and are working towards a greater good.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

What’s your brand’s reputation worth?

What’s your brand’s point-of-view?

Should your brand be aligned with a moral cause?

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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