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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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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The Precarious State of Advertising & Marketing

Humans respond to creativity. We are attracted to design, color, shape, and imagination.

Creativity and experience matter more than ever.

Daily we are subjected to a constant barrage of marketing messages. From text messages for discounts from our favorite yogurt establishment, to emails from strangers, to online advertising featuring talking Geckos backed by Berkshire Hathaway’s unlimited media budget. It seems that there are neither limits nor boundaries that marketers will not exceed to try to get our attention.

Because we carry the internet in our pocket, we are at risk of information overload. Already we have short attention spans and our tempers are getting even shorter.

That is precisely why creativity and experience matter more now than ever.

Humans respond to creativity. We are attracted to design, color, shape, and imagination. We want to associate with experiences. And that is the essence of great advertising and marketing.  Corporations and their brands spend billions of dollars every year trying to gain a foothold in our consciousness, hedging their bet that when we “need” something, we will select their brand over the competition.

Algorithms can be creative but they can’t replace creativity.

It seems in the digital universe of search, some have decided that efficiency and scale are all that matters. The selling of keyword search terms have turned search engines into the largest advertising agencies on the planet. Forgoing strategy and concept for the sake of efficiency, thousands of small brands compete for customers through paid links, hoping that the phone rings. Unfortunately, the only brand differentiation for paid links is the price you pay for the search term.

Digital is disruptive, but it’s also disposable.

Hindsight tells us that digital advertising and marketing has been a disruptive force to traditional media and advertising channels. Yes, it has taken its toll on newspapers and magazine subscriptions and advertising revenue. Digital channels are more efficient, use fewer natural resources, and are capable of getting to market faster.  Nevertheless, for all of its efficiency, digital content is disposable. No one collects digital pages or ads because they were moved to action by the photographer’s skills in capturing the emotion of the moment, the art director’s sense of design in bringing the images and copy together, or the copywriter’s nuance for tone and style.

Are you experienced?

Navigating the waters of traditional and digital marketing is a balancing act. Follow the digital evangelist too far and you can slowly drown in a maze of platforms and data. Follow the traditionalist for too long and your brand becomes stodgy, or worse, irrelevant in a connected world.

As we survey the current state of advertising and marketing, we need to remember that what we have before us is a product of our own making.  Great brands understand the need for innovation and are not afraid to try new strategies and tools, but they also remember the creativity, experience, and imagination that helped them get where they are today.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Big data and creativity

Should your brand be aligned with a moral cause?

Why aviation brands need emotional engagement

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Differentiating your brand from the competition

The user’s value system is found in their DNA of experiences.

The user’s value system is found in their DNA of experiences.

Brand differentiation comes from the user’s perception

There is not a huge amount of difference between leading brands. Depending on the category, almost all brands offer the same feature, function, and benefit to the user.

What makes a differentiated brand?

First, let’s explore the idea of a brand.

 Brand: noun

1 a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name: a new brand of detergent.

• a brand name: the company will market computer software under its own brand.

• a particular identity or image regarded as an asset: you can still invent your own career, be your own brand | the Michael Jordan brand certainly hasn’t hurt them.

• a particular type or kind of something: his incisive brand of intelligence.

The emphasis is to stand apart and stand for something.

A brand also allows companies to manufacture different models under the same brand name.

For example, Gulfstream Aerospace manufactures the following aircraft: Gulfstream G150, Gulfstream G280, Gulfstream G450, etc.

The intent is for the brand to offer more features and better performance as you move up the price chain.

Which leads us to brand differentiation

The simplest explanation is one of branding cattle. Each cattle ranch burned a unique mark into the hide of the cow or steer it owned. This was done to separate specific animals from the herd in the early days of open range grazing. This basic concept is the foundation for trademarks, which leads to brand differentiation.

Brand differentiation in the digital age

Branding strategy has expanded to include digital platforms and social media networks. The primus of the expansion was for brands to interact with individual users who in turn would become brand advocates, spreading the gospel about how wonderful the product performed and why all their digital friends should try it.

And for a while, this was the thinking behind investing in social media networks and spreading tweets and likes.

The reality

Brand differentiation comes from the user. It is the user’s value system that determines brand preference.

The user’s value system is found in their DNA of experiences. Their value system can change based on aspirational goals, financial conditions, or maturing of values that come with age.

Marketers that strive for brand differentiation must appeal to the user’s emotional needs and fulfill these needs by brand association that serves a higher calling than feature, function, and benefit.

This is not an easy task. It is the job of marketing to uncover what is unique to the brand and communicate in such a way as to create an emotional connection with the user.

It can’t be automated, digitized, or replicated. It has to be unique, authentic, and reach the user on a personal level that melds into a lasting connection. It must be “lived” by those in care of the brand and treated as an ember that will be extinguished if left unattended.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Investing in your brand perception

Connecting decision makers with your brand

Why bother with branding?

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

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Social media: Media channel or purchasing influence?


The ad revenue model is blurring the lines between social media and advertising

In the early days of social media it was hailed as the replacement for advertising. The interruption model of advertising was so twentieth century and the permission model of social media was the darling of the new millennium.

Brands that were early adopters were especially excited because they viewed social media as a non-commercial marketing channel. Instead of renting space in magazines or commercial time on broadcast networks, social media offered the hope of connecting with purchasers on a one-to-one basis for less cost. Brands flocked to Facebook populating their pages with helpful hints, events and special deals for those who “Like” their brand.

As social media platforms matured, it became apparent that in order to sustain their business they needed a monetization model to pay the bills.  Google figured this out early. Ad Words (the purchase of key word search terms) made Google extremely profitable and allowed the search engine to continue to provide a free service.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn had lots of users but struggled with developing a monetization model. The one thing they did have were copious amounts of data about their users. Access to this data was attractive to the advertising community. It held the promise of being able to target advertising to an individual user based on their profile, interest and browsing habits.

Social media channel?

As the social media platforms grew the sheer number of users dictated that brands develop a social media strategy instead of just maintaining a presence.

Social media platforms responded by offering sponsored advertising.  Sponsored advertising solved several problems:

  • Now the social media platforms had a monetization model leveraging their vast proprietary database.
  • Brands could better target their advertising based on the users profile.
  • Digital analytics provided a rear looking ROI measurement.

So what began as a non-commercial peer-to-peer network is transforming into a branded media channel.

Using social media to influence purchasing

The premise of social media is word-of-mouth advertising. Brands understand that a negative comment or a positive review can affect brand perception ultimately influencing the purchasing decision. Many brands have adopted social media as an inbound marketing channel.

For example:

  • Airlines producing their pre-departure safety videos to become branded forms of communication.
  • Firms like GE have dedicated social media pages about locomotive and jet engine engineering and production.
  • Dell computer uses social media to answer customer questions and solve technical problems.

All of these strategies have one thing in a common – to connect, engage and influence the purchasing decision.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Using social media to gain customer insight

Finding the sweet spot for social marketing

Social marketing begins with the correct strategy

 Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Aviation Marketing: How to write effective online copy

Blog_68_Aviation Marketing: How to write effective online copy

Command of the content and clarity captures the reader’s attention

Kelton Reid, Director of Marketing, at Copyblogger Media’s StudioPress division posted a style guide for writing online copy. Below is my interpretation for aviation marketers charged with content development.

Great online content achieves the following:

  • Establishes trust in the brand
  • Positions the author as an expert in the market segment
  • Encourages responses and nurtures relationships
  • Gets customers and prospects talking, purchasing, and sharing

 Feed your mind

Interesting online content comes from the author’s passion for the subject and dedication to keeping up with events that shape the industry segment.  There are several online tools that help with organizing content feed.  My current tool of choice is feedly.com. Feedly organizes my newsfeeds into one platform for daily consumption and exploring. It saves time, allows me to track selected journalists and bloggers and provides me with a global perspective on the challenges and issues facing the aviation industry.

Understand your audience

The aviation industry is diverse. One could make the point that all industries are related to aviation in one form or another.  Therefore, decide whom you want to reach, what issue they are the dealing with, and how your content will lighten their load.

Write with clarity

The only reason why a reader will stop to read your content is because you captured their attention with the headline.

Is it useful?

Is it urgent?

Is it unique?

Is it ultra specific?

Use common spelling. Variations on common words and aviation abbreviations can distract your readers and pull them out of the brand story you are telling.

Avoid hyperbole and fancy words. Sending the reader off to the dictionary is a sure way to lose their attention.

Write in a natural way. Speak in the language of your audience that conveys you are a real person. This also helps establish a relationship with the reader.

Work from an outline. Working from an outline helps organize your thoughts and keeps your writing clear, concise, and on track.

Revise and edit. First drafts can always be improved. Give the draft to someone outside of the industry for a cold read. Do they understand what you are saying?

Limit your word counts.  Online posts should be between 350 and 450 words. Anything longer and you will lose the attention of the reader.

Additional articles you may find of interest:

Aviation Marketing: How to start a sustainable blog

You can follow Kelton Reid on twitter