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Data Deep Dive Data & Privacy Personalisation

Data humanization: 6 ways to maximize consumer empowerment and trust

By Jason Alan Snyder, Global chief technology officer

Momentum Worldwide


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May 15, 2023 | 8 min read

For The Drum’s deep dive, The New Data & Privacy Playbook, Momentum’s Jason Snyder argues that there’s one approach that can bring together privacy-minded people with data-hungry brands: data humanization.

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Data humanization: a strategy to bring privacy and personalization together? / Arteum via Unsplash

With the data revolution accelerating, marketers confront a complex environment where data-fueled opportunities coexist alongside mounting apprehensions surrounding privacy and consumer dominance. As consumer empowerment grows, brands must recalibrate their approach to data, walking a tightrope to strike a delicate balance between harnessing its potential and honoring individual autonomy.

Understanding data humanization is the key to navigating these challenges: emphasizing the importance of genuine connections with consumers and using data responsibly to build trust, create meaningful brand campaigns, and engage audiences at the right moments.

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Data metamorphosis

We find ourselves in an era of unparalleled access to data, equipping brands with the tools and techniques necessary to comprehend audiences at a profoundly deeper level. From advanced analytics and machine learning to artificial intelligence (AI), these state-of-the-art technologies have paved the way for highly personalized experiences and precisely targeted campaigns, which were once science fiction.

Take fast fashion brands like H&M, Zara, Old Navy, Urban Outfitters, Topshop, Mango, and Uniqlo. These global fashion retailers use AI-powered algorithms to analyze customer data, revealing intricate purchasing behavior and fashion preference patterns, and generating demand forecasting or predictive analytics. By leveraging these insights, they can craft highly personalized marketing campaigns tailored to individual tastes.

These customized campaigns, delivered via email and targeted social media, boost sales and nurture stronger customer connections. By addressing each customer’s unique fashion sensibilities, brands can demonstrate an understanding of audiences’ needs and desires, establishing trust and loyalty in an increasingly competitive market.

However, this data-driven landscape has also spawned privacy and control concerns. As data breaches and misuse become increasingly rampant, consumers become more vigilant regarding collecting, storing, and using their personal information. Consequently, brands are confronted with escalating demands for transparency and accountability, compelling marketers to grapple with the innate tensions between personalization and privacy as they traverse the intricate terrain of data-driven marketing.

Consumer dominance

The rise of consumer empowerment is a natural response to growing concerns about data privacy. Driven by a desire for control over their information, individuals assert their sovereignty by opting out of tracking, using ad-blockers, and demanding greater transparency. Marketers must adapt their strategies to accommodate this new reality.

To uphold consumer dominance, marketers should not solely rely on data-driven strategies but also recognize and honor the empowered consumer’s independence. Marketers should be upfront about data collection procedures, offer distinct choices for consumers to customize their preferences, and prioritize consent and opt-in mechanisms instead of randomized data capturing.

Constructing balance

The right balance between leveraging data-driven opportunities and respecting consumer sovereignty lies in data humanization: forging genuine connections with consumers, and using data responsibly to build trust.

Data humanization goes beyond compliance with privacy regulations; it's about adopting a consumer-centric mindset that puts the individual at the heart of every marketing decision. By treating consumers as human beings with unique needs, preferences, and emotions, brands can develop more meaningful relationships with their audiences and create campaigns that truly resonate. Here are six key principles of data humanization.

1. Prioritize transparency and openness

Brands must be transparent about their data collection practices and clearly communicate the what, how, and why of data usage.

Provide easy-to-understand privacy policies, ensure that opt-in mechanisms are user-friendly, and offer consumers control over their data preferences.

2. Develop meaningful, consent-driven personalization

Personalization must be approached with caution and respect for the consumer's autonomy. Brands should prioritize consent-driven personalization, using first-party data and contextual cues to create tailored experiences that respect individual preferences and boundaries.

3. Focus on empathy and emotional intelligence

Data humanization requires a shift in mindset from viewing audiences as data points to seeing them as complex individuals with feelings, needs, and emotions. By tapping into emotional intelligence and empathy, marketers can develop campaigns that genuinely resonate with their audiences and foster trust.

4. Create value for audiences

To truly humanize data, brands must focus on creating value for audiences. This means using data to improve user experience, providing relevant content, and offering personalized solutions that genuinely enhance audiences’ lives.

5. Foster two-way communication and engagement

Data humanization involves fostering an ongoing dialogue with consumers. This includes actively seeking feedback, listening to concerns, and engaging with audiences more personally. By encouraging two-way communication, brands can demonstrate their commitment to understanding and respecting consumer preferences.

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6. Embrace ethical data practices

Adopting ethical data practices is a cornerstone of data humanization. This means ensuring that data is collected, stored, and used to respect privacy, adhere to relevant regulations, and prioritize the consumer's best interests. By championing ethical data practices, brands can build trust and demonstrate their commitment to responsible marketing.

Maintaining balance

Picture a world where a harmonious partnership between consumers, brands, and data becomes the new norm. In this ‘what if’ scenario, consumers actively participate in the data exchange, willingly sharing their preferences and desires, and understanding the value they receive in return. Brands, in turn, commit to using this data responsibly, ensuring privacy, and employing personalization in a manner that truly benefits the consumers.

In this collaborative ecosystem, consumers are no longer passive recipients of targeted marketing campaigns, but active co-creators of brand experiences. This synergy fosters shared responsibility for data management, where the consumer, the brand, and the data all contribute to a more ethical, trustworthy, and enriching marketing model.

The future of marketing and advertising depends on cultivating a delicate balance between harnessing the power of data and honoring consumer autonomy. Brands that embrace data humanization and adapt to this new reality, forging partnerships with their consumers, will thrive and create a more ethical, transparent, and mutually beneficial environment.

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 Personalisation

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Momentum Worldwide

Momentum Worldwide has a proud history of creating industry-first experiences that authentically place brands in the cultural conversation. 1,000+ individuals across...

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