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Data Deep Dive Data & Privacy Data

The golden rule of data gathering and new expectations of value exchange

By Lars Bjornbakk, Lead Strategist



The Drum Network article

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May 12, 2023 | 7 min read

For The Drum’s deep dive into data, The New Data & Privacy Playbook, Lars Bjornbakk of agency Unrvld argues for a new ‘data golden rule’ to collect only what you’d be comfortable sharing yourself.

A road sign depicting two arrows, pointing opposite ways

The new rules of data are based on value exchange, argues Unrvld’s Lars Bjornbakk / Andres Haro via Unsplash

In a recent piece for the Financial Times, Camilla Cavendish wrote about her mother’s collection of her own health data in a notebook, in case of a medical emergency where healthcare professionals needed to know her medical history. This was a response to the knowledge that the UK’s National Health Service has a very siloed way of storing patient data. For Cavendish’s mother, the consolidated data stored in her notebook could be a lifesaver. The value of data does not get much higher than that.

As marketing professionals, we seldom handle lifesaving data. The data we help clients manage holds value – but we have to ask ourselves: value for whom?

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Customers are increasingly expecting value in exchange for the data they share, so marketers must re-evaluate our approach to data collection. With mandatory cookie prompts on almost every website you visit, the expectation of data collection is more front-of-mind than ever, and it poses the question ‘What are we offering in return for our customers’ data?’.

The answer to that question has been nailed down perfectly by loyalty schemes like the Nectar card and Tesco’s club card. In the marketing world, not so much.

Who is responsible?

As Daniel Newman wrote back in 2021, there is no clear agreement on who is responsible for data privacy: the customer, government, or companies providing the service. What is clear is that the brands that take privacy seriously are winning the trust and loyalty of customers.

This has made privacy by design a core part of digital transformation efforts of companies over the last few years, reflecting new user behaviors and expectations about being informed about how apps and services use and protect personal data.

Just look at your phone whenever installing a new app: the prompts to allow sharing, notifications, system access, and so on. On sites like Reddit, users often discuss whether to allow gaming apps to, for example, ‘make and manage calls’. Instinctively, users will balk at the suggestion, but what the app is really asking to do is to identify when a call is incoming to be able to pause the game. With an explanation, it sounds reasonable, but as a prompt, it sounds creepy and intrusive.

Herein lies the core of the challenge. How can we offer transparency for the usage of the data we collect? And how can we provide the right messaging to explain, in clear terms, the benefit to the customer? A good starting point is rethinking three integral parts of your data strategy:

1. Data always exists in a context

So be transparent about what your context is.

Your data strategy tells you what to do with the data you’re collecting and how it’s being managed. Embed a clear point of view on what data transparency means for your organization and users to make sure there is a well-thought-out context and purpose that is clear and understandable for customers.

2. Give users a reason to trust you

Customers value being told what the benefits for them are.

Whether your data collection makes it easier for users to find the information they are looking for, complete the goals they have around your service, or get better offers on the things they care about, providing clear explanations around where we give them in return for their data helps to build trust and affinity to your brand, increasing the sense of the trustworthiness of your products and services.

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3. Make it easy to opt-in or out

Don’t lock your users into a mandatory data collection funnel. Offer them control over what they share, with a clear description of what they’ll get in return. Long gone are the days of one-way power paradigms of brands; we’re now in a two-way relationship with them, and our data collection approaches need to reflect that.

Although data collection is (and will remain) complex, the foundation remains the same: respect for and empathy with the user. The golden rule? Collect only what you would be comfortable sharing yourself. Intrusive and aggressive data collection will not be, in the long-term, sustainable; customers are increasingly expecting privacy by design.

Always consider risk and reward in the context of the purpose of the data you collect and serve. So, if you’re collecting data ‘because you may need it later’, ask yourself what, really, might you need it later for?

To read more from The Drum’s latest Deep Dive, where we’ll be demystifying data & privacy for marketers in 2023, head over to our dedicated hub.

Data Deep Dive Data & Privacy Data

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