Villing & Company

Transparency in Digital Marketing


The role of data in marketing efforts has been rising exponentially in recent years. As digital marketing has grown, the ability for marketers to utilize data to inform their content and creative decisions has grown with it. While that ability has given marketers unique opportunities to target their messages, it has also brought with it considerable privacy concerns.

Facebook has been inundated with questions about its own handling of user data. Its engagement with Cambridge Analytica brought about many questions about how private data is used by digital companies. As marketers, it is becoming increasingly vital that we consider our own role in this discussion. How are we using customer data? Even more importantly, why does it matter?

The Customer Relationship

To answer that second question, let’s consider our role as marketers. The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

Further, the AMA defines marketing research as "­the function that links the consumer, customer, and public to the marketer through information…used to identify and define marketing opportunities and problems; generate, refine, and evaluate marketing actions; monitor marketing performance; and improve understanding of marketing as a process. Marketing research specifies the information required to address these issues, designs the method for collecting information, manages and implements the data collection process, analyzes the results, and communicates the findings and their implications.”

As part of delivering value for customers, there must be a level of trust between the customer and the marketer. If that trust is not present, the relationship is doomed to fail. As marketers, we must take the trust that customers place in us seriously and treat it with the utmost care.

At the same time, it is difficult to argue with the fact that online data allows marketers to better deliver value for customers. That data allows marketers to send targeted messages that will be most interesting to specific customers, rather than blanket them with irrelevant messages. However, it is incumbent on the marketer to weigh the value of targeted messages against the negative of a lack of privacy. Any time a marketing function strays towards that breach of trust, marketers must keep the privacy of the customer in mind.

Action Steps

A recent article from Content Marketing Institute titled “Why You May Want to Rethink Data, Privacy, and Content” gives many practical ways that marketers can incorporate digital ethics into their content marketing plans.

At the very least, the time has certainly come for you to pull your team together and have a discussion about how you utilize data and whether or not you need to make any changes. You don’t want to be left hanging if a customer has any questions about your usage of their online data.

Our world is changing rapidly. With that change come many ways for marketers to capitalize on technology advances and deliver more value for customers. But, at every step of the way, we must keep in mind the trust that customers place in us. We cannot betray that trust in pursuit of the latest, greatest marketing technology.

Filed Under: marketing, web

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