"How do you morally work in marketing? You're just manipulating people into buying things they don't actually need."
Believe it or not, this was the argument I found myself on the other side of a few days ago.
It turns out, some people still think of marketers as sleazy, suited men huddled in musky conference rooms, drinking whiskey while conjuring up clever ads to trick the public into the buying things they don't really need.
Not only has the ethical side of marketing tightened up, but so has our relationship with our audiences.
In an increasingly connected world, the way we live our lives is revolutionising day by day. Technology has disrupted how we communicate with each other, share, travel, even how we date. And as a result, digital pathways are mapped out for us based on the data we have provided, past behaviours, interactions, and even linguistic choices.
Data is fundamentally changing the consumer relationship with businesses. And data-driven marketing is replacing traditional marketing as we enter the new decade.
Now, we can tune into people who really want to hear from us, those that will truly benefit from our products and services, and who have a need that is aligned to our solution.
What does this mean for us sleazy marketers?
Measurement and analysis is imperative
Think back to when billboards were the main source of marketing. Other than the footfall of the location there was no way to measure engagement with or interaction with an ad.
Now, we have the power to collect actionable data and information about who interacted with an ad, how many of those interactions lead to a purchase, as well as who downloaded an eBook and how many of those downloaders became leads.
Why is this data so important?
Analysing the performance of our activities provides us with endless insight pertaining to how, where, when and what our prospective customers are interacting with. This information helps us to form more meaningful campaigns, interpret context, predict behaviour and trends, and as a result, personalise future communications.
According to GlobalWebIndex, 34% of consumers would be motivated to promote their favourite brand online with content that's relevant to their interests. In short, people not only expect personalisation, they value it.
Take EasyJet, for example, and their data-driven campaign to celebrate their 20th anniversary. They used actionable insights from customers' previous behaviour to create targeted and personalised communications that tell the individual journey of each customer - where they've travelled, how many miles they've covered with EasyJet and where they'd be most likely to travel next. This campaign generated a 25% higher click-through rate than any before.
But to interpret and analyse all of that data we need the right people. We need employees that are trained in effectively analysing the numbers and channeling it back into the business to create the best operational and marketing strategies, and generate the greatest ROI.
Authenticity and transparency matter more than ever
After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the mindset of the typical digital consumer changed.
The media was all of a sudden flooded with articles and content challenging data giants like Facebook, and the public started to become wary of what information they shared online.
Pair that with the commencement of GDPR in May 2018 and any brands using data unscrupulously were going to suffer. This put pressure on trusted brands to highlight their authenticity and trustworthiness with data. It prompted companies to be transparent about what they were using data for and only request what they needed.
Data capture was given a bad name, but its uses aren't all bad. Data is used by many big companies to personalise the user experience, remove the middle-man, and help consumers get what they really need.
In addition, there's more content available than ever before for customers to get their hands on information about your business, services and products - user reviews, case studies, user-generated content and blog posts to name a few. In this climate, it is authenticity and transparency that will elevate brands above their competitors.
Experience disruptors will dominate
83% of people say the best way to build trust in a brand is to experience it firsthand.
As we've spoken about previously, experience disruptors are the brands that dominate their markets. How do they achieve this? They remove friction and attack the business model. The experiences companies offer will far outweigh most other aspects of the brand. It's no longer enough to simply have the best idea, product or service... how you sell it will be what determines your success.
Have you heard of Monzo yet? The digital-only bank have disrupted the entire financial experience overtaking their incumbents and taking a large proportion of the millennial market.
Monzo empowers its customers to take full control of their finances by completely removing the middle man (aka, the bank) and with no physical banks, customer service is available online 24/7/365 digitally via the Monzo app.
The Monzo experience is completely aligned to the consumer lifestyle - the app can be used to easily send money to other Monzo users without the need for a card reader. Restaurant bills can be split, savings accounts and separate pots set up easily, all without a card reader in sight (because let's face it, how many millennials can actually locate their card reader?)
Let's use Uber as another example. Its incumbents and competitors sell the same service, but do they sell the Uber experience? The app makes ordering, paying for and planning your journey simple and frictionless.
And thanks to technology, your driver can be tracked, and previous or frequent journeys are recorded in order to personalise and refine the entire experience the more you use Uber.
This marks the new era of customer empowerment, authentic relationships, data-driven marketing and experiences with brands.
To survive this period of disruption, it's important to remember that people's fundamental needs haven't changed. They still seek solutions that solve their pain points, problems and make lives easier, but how they experience these products and services is more prevalent than ever before.
Technology empowers us to use actionable data to craft an experience for our audiences like never before. One that is aligned with their values, goals and needs. One that elevates your brand above your competitors because you challenge the status quo and attack the business model.