Presented by SessionM

There’s significant debate of late about the public’s “Right to Know” certain data about public figures. Less contentious, but no less real, is a wave of debate about the public’s expectation that the businesses they favor not only have a right to know their likes and dislikes, action and reactions, but also an obligation to know, as well as act on that knowledge.

Facebook and other advertising platforms have run afoul of their consumers not so much in how they collect data or even how much they collect, but rather in hoarding it for their own purposes and financial gain without sharing the benefits with the data creators themselves. The quid pro quo covenant seems to be broken. Consumers give data. Businesses get richer. That’s not how it should work in many consumers’ eyes.

The best marketers, however, are successfully straddling that line with amazing critical and financial success. These marketing platforms aren’t sentient exactly, but “wicked smaht” as they say in Boston. Very smart and technically sophisticated, but also adept in their understanding of human behavior. Many, many people will give information in order to receive the benefit of that information — Siri, what’s on my calendar today?However, if they’re not benefitting, they’ll turn on the businesses that are profiting off of their data in myriad ways — all of which erode loyalty, profitability, and even credibility.

Between being ‘spied on’ and being treated exactly the same as everyone else is a commonsensical middle ground that respects the individual’s privacy while collecting relevant data. It sees meaningful behavior without stalking. People don’t want to be treated as a faceless ‘impression’ in marketing any more than they do elsewhere. Nor do they want to hear from Alexa, “It seems you’ve gained a few pounds. Should we cancel the recurring Doritos order?” It’s vaguely insulting to have complete understanding that you’re generating data breadcrumbs, virtually every second of the day between your phone, connected devices, cookies…and precious little of that data makes its way back to you in the form of better quality personalized experiences.

People aren’t feeling abused, oppressed or put upon in anything near the order of magnitude they are in the ‘real world.’ Not even close. They are, however, feeling like they have options. Like they’re mad as hell and not going to put up with it anymore. If you can’t treat them with respect, somebody else will.

What began as a wave of privacy concerns in the EU could be a tsunami of issues here if not handled deftly. Doing so has a technical component. Software can act as the connective tissue between data pools, bringing each individual customer’s data into a single intelligent source for that same customer’s next interaction — a more informed, intelligent, and contextually relevant one. Brands that do this will find more inspired, informed, and loyal customers in return.

Brands that fail to invest in modern marketing architecture and maintain a ‘doggie door’ for data, where it comes in but never gets put back out in intelligent form, will suffer the inverse — high churn, low satisfaction, and higher customer acquisition costs to futilely attempt to patch their leaky buckets.

In addition to technical requirements, there are other, more human factors to consider:

1. Do you have the people to ‘play fast?’ Data is always being gathered. Can your talent transform it into the heart of engagement in a timeframe where the customer feels the benefit?

2. Are you Outside In or Inside Out? It’s funny how many people say, “The customer is the boss. The customer pays all our bills….” yet the culture they’ve created is insular, territorial, and more concerned about their personal performance than the customer’s experience. If the customer is not at the center of your entire organization, you need to rethink structure.

3. Are your muscles too big? Muscle memory is a powerful thing. When people have had success doing things one way, they’re often times very challenged to do it differently. This is particularly true of high performers in my experience. If someone has used a meticulously crafted annual planning calendar to magnificent effect in the past, they may be unable to change to a more agile, just-in-time way of working — even if they’re willing. Clayton Christensen has written very powerfully on this dynamic.

I don’t envision people taking to the streets to push back against superficially judgmental marketing. I do think people are feeling neglected, maybe even taken advantage of when it comes to marketing, however. With the proper tools and the right attitudes and aptitudes to use them, any business can prove it values its customers. It’s not an act of heroism. It’s just the right thing to do.

Patrick Reynolds is CMO at SessionM.

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