You Ask, I Answer: Marketing Ethics and Data Collection?

Oz asks, “There’s still the ethical questions that my marketing friends avoid: should Google even have all that data? How ethical is it to use that data? What about pending legislation that would hopefully criminalize lots of common data acquisition methods?”

Two points I think are super important: minimum viable data, and behavior rather than PII. Marketers who want to save time, save money, and avoid risk need to adopt both practices. Let’s talk through what these mean and how they’d come to life.

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In today’s episode AWS asks, there’s still the ethical questions that my marketing friends avoid.

Should Google even have all the data it collects on consumers? How ethical is it to use that data? What about pending legislation that would hopefully criminalize lots of common data acquisition methods.

So there’s a lot to unpack here.

But fundamentally, the big technology companies have acquired data largely through us giving it to them, even if we’re not aware of what it is they’re doing or how they’re doing it.

And by aggregating data, using all the different technology at their disposal, should they have it? The off the cuff remark that I made when I was asked this question on LinkedIn is that data collections a lot like sex in that if everyone is a willing and informed and competent partner and gives consent then it’s fine.

It’s where you run into trouble when you try and hide things when you try and make your Terms of Service onerous when you try and make data removal, onerous, effectively withdrawing consent that you get into more frankly, ethical violations when you prevent somebody from willingly withdrawing consent.

Again, just like the sex now that’s a bad thing to do.

I hope that would be obvious to everybody but but obviously with a lot of the legislation is happening, it’s not.

And marketers who are self aware enough to realize that cooperating and respecting consumers rights is in the long term best interests, apparently are not as common as I like to think.

So I think there’s two ways to deal with this today, in which marketers can be more effective and mitigate risk than before.

Actually they’re going to be some bad apples that are will ruin a lot of stuff.

So we need to, again prepare for that in advance.

So there’s two ways of this minimum viable data and behavior based data.

So let’s tackle these Minimum Viable data means you do an analysis using the best technology available to you to figure out what variables actually matter to the outcome you care about whether it’s conversion, lead generation E, commerce, checkout, you’re collecting all this data.

We all are.

And the question is, is any of it relevant? Does having somebody whose age and weight and whatever have a mathematical relationship to the outcome that we care about? The answer is no, we stopped collecting it.

Right? There’s no reason to collect something that if we can mathematically prove has no relationship to the outcome we care about.

There’s no reason to collect that data.

That data is a liability.

That data is a lawsuit waiting to Because when and I mean this seriously when you are breached, and it will happen to every company.

At some point in some fashion, you want the minimum viable data there.

It should be encrypted.

But even if it wasn’t if it was only two or three data points as opposed to every piece information on a consumer, your risk is lower.

Right? So we want to run that analysis for minimum viable data.

The second thing is to focus a lot more on behavior and a lot less on static information.

A lot of marketers rely on things like demographic or firma graphic data, you know, this person is 23 years old, they’re Jewish, they’re male, they’re, they live in this place.

And again, if no one’s actually done any analysis to prove that this data has relevance, we may just be acquiring a whole bunch of it for no reason.

But more importantly, behavior matters a lot more than static.

The example I use all the time is my little pony, right? If you are a marketer, and you think my little pony is something that will girls eight to 13 would collect you into focus your marketing focus your efforts.

I gotta buy data for households that have that information.

But if you focus on behavior look at who buys this stuff, there’s a whole segment of guys 26 to 40 who love this universe and have a way more disposable income than eight year old you would miss that you would miss the their very existence because you’d be so busy marketing what you think the market is as opposed to paying attention, paying attention to people’s data, to their behaviors to their, what they do less about who they are more about, what is it that they do? How often are they browsing a website? What are they putting in their shopping carts, etc, etc.

So we need to pivot as an industry away from buying identities and more towards paying attention to behaviors.

Take your website does, it doesn’t actually matter.

If you run the analysis of your own Google Analytics doesn’t actually matter that you know, someone’s age, or gender, or even topical preferences.

If you’ve never done the analysis, you may or may not find it relevant.

I know on my own website, it’s a lot more important to know which pages somebody visits on the way to conversion, then necessarily who they are.

If I can remarket and retarget.

Instead of towards an identity, I can just remark it towards everybody who’s visited the About Me page, because I know from a mathematical assessment that that is one of the top pages people visit before they convert.

If I can do that, I’ll get much better results than trying to market to only 35 43 year old men, I want to focus on every has been to the page because they all have the same intent.

I don’t care who you are, if your intent is you want to hire me to speak at your event or you want to hire Trust Insights to fix your data problems.

And this pattern of three pages that people visit is the pattern, I want to encourage you to go through that pattern, I want to change my navigation to encourage that pattern.

I want to change my remarketing to encourage that pattern of behaviors.

When you do stuff, particularly on properties that you own, you need to collect much less data.

And you don’t need to collect any identifying data you just need to be able to say that person is following behavioral pattern we know leads to conversion let’s keep encouraging them.

Doesn’t matter who it is wait for them to give information by filling out a form or whatever.

And then respecting their privacy respecting their their data because again, Most of the time, for most of the situation, we don’t need a whole lot more than just basic contact information so that when the person fills out the form, we can get back in touch with them.

That’s about it.

Don’t need much else.

I fundamentally, for a lot of the marketing that I do, I really need an email address and maybe a phone number.

That’s it.

Not much else has proven statistically valid in the data that I was collecting.

So there you have it.

There’s a lot more to unpack here because there is going to be a reckoning for marketing.

If marketing doesn’t get its act together and figure out how to analyze the data it’s collecting, and then how to discard the data that doesn’t need any more.

But a really good question magine they’ll be more follow up questions in the comments, but please leave it here.

And as always, please subscribe to the YouTube channel on the newsletter.

I’ll talk to you soon.

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