Adobe study: half of consumers shun ‘creepy’ brands they think misuse their data

A warning shot across the bows of advertisers who misuse consumer data has been fired by Adobe, with a new report indicating that seven in 10 Brits would redirect their custom to more trustworthy brands in such circumstances.

Consumers vote with their wallets

  • Revealing research by the creative tools provider found that 54% had cut ties with a company within the past year following a breach of trust, with 39% citing email as the most common point of friction, with marketing missives being issued irrespective of opt-outs.

  • Adobe’s Future of Marketing report cites trustworthy data management as the principal mechanism through which brands can build sales (up 71%), raise advocacy (61%) and increase retention rates (41%) by prompting people to sign up for loyalty programs.

Reputational damage

  • Three key bugbears were identified by Adobe for why consumers turn their backs on brands, with 49% citing ‘creepy’ brands tracking their online activity without their express consent as the reason why they blacklisted a brand within the past year.

  • A further 39% cited ‘annoyance’ at overly persistent communications and opaque privacy policies, while 39% blamed tone-deaf brands for failing to action requests to opt out of marketing communications.

  • Alvaro Del Pozo, vice-president of international marketing at Adobe, said: “If customers lose trust in the brand they are buying from then, as our research proves, they are highly likely to walk away and take their money with them. To earn and maintain trust, businesses have a responsibility to build more direct and personal relationships with them, by using customer data in a transparent and responsible manner, and that ultimately starts with marketing.”

  • The results squarely contradict marketers’ own estimations of their compliance, with 93% believing themselves to be either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ at forging meaningful digital experiences – versus 32% of customers who feel this area has improved in the past year.

  • The findings follow a separate survey finding that 39% of the British public do not trust marketers with their personal data.

Generational shift

  • The report highlighted a generational divide, with younger people most likely to post negative reviews of companies that mismanage their data.

  • Furthermore, 74% of gen Z and 67% of millennials reported leaving at least one brand over the past 12 months, far above the 54% rate for the population as a whole.

  • On the flipside, 48% of gen Z and 46% of millennials said that the quality of their digital experiences had improved over the past 12 months, ahead of the 32% national average.

Making things right

  • To turn the situation around, the report shows that 45% would trust again if brands simply asked for permission to use their data. A further 40% cited ‘more open and transparent’ use of their data and 39% wished for ‘control over their data.’

  • Mindful of these expectations, 85% of British businesses have enacted a first-party data strategy with 42% making this a top priority – with the remainder only belatedly embracing such strategies as a result of recent privacy laws.

  • In all, 67% of UK marketing leaders stress good data governance as a priority.


  • The Future of Marketing report was conducted by Advanis, which surveyed 2,017 UK consumers, 409 marketing practitioners and 181 marketing leaders in August to arrive at its findings.