It’s all about context marketing these days, but what about privacy?

Thinking about it, the title of this piece could as well have been the other way around. Everyone is talking about GDPR these days, but how does that fit in with the big trend of context marketing? As responsible for both marketing and privacy policies at The Reference, it pains me to say that it is all about finding the middle ground. Something that I’m sure no privacy lawyer wants to hear. There is no middle ground when it comes to the law. However, my marketing heart bleeds if I cannot use all mu precious tools to their fullest. Where to go from here and how to cope with this new dual reality? 

So, with a bleeding heart and a duality in my thinking, I feel it is time to make a decision on how far we can and should go. Context marketing is all about interactions that are relevant to the consumer. Have the right content at the right platform, time and place to make sure your message is as effective as possible. In an ideal world, this relationship should be managed on the consumer’s terms as the cause‐and‐effect relationship between a brand and a consumer. This ‘should’ be the case. However, how do subjects respond when you fire a salvo of questions, disclaimers and privacy policies at them? They might not care or do not understand what you’re presenting them. They might want to move fast and dismiss it all. From my experience, only a very small number of people really get into the subject, which leaves the bigger part of them ignorant of what is happening with their data.  

This ignorance results in one of two possibilities. They give you the approval to work with their data to give them a better and more adapted customer journey or they do not give the approval and you lose the possibility to make sure they get exactly what they are looking for. Sometimes it does not matter for the subject, as he might finally arrive at his goal. For companies it can mean the difference between a win and a loose. And what about the people who have approved all cookies and disclaimers without reading them? Who is to blame if they get pushed into a customer journey they did not want to be?  

Successful context marketers have automatic systems that respond with appropriate content that will build on the last interaction and help the consumer make the next informed decision on his or her journey in to finding what they are looking for and maybe even buying something. If all goes well, the subject doesn’t even notice he is being lead through this journey, because it brings him to a goal he wanted to arrive at in the first place. Unfortunately, marketers often drop the ball at any one of the touchpoints in the journey. That results in unhappy experiences for everyone. So the question is not if the subject would have been better off without having been lead around by the marketer or not, but if the marketer did his job right. This has nothing to do with privacy but with common sense. Misuse of data is a big no, but use of data makes everyone’s life easier.  

Privacy is important and no one should have its data stored and used by brands without knowing about it and being able to do something about it. But in the process of setting up ingenious policies, guidelines and regulations, we should be very careful not to lose our sense of perspective. Not every personal approach is bad, as long as it is done correct, professional and with respect to the consumer. (and thus the law)

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