Why a Marketer Cares Deeply About Privacy

Thoughts on #VRM Day today

Today in Mountain View, California a group of people whose individual names you likely wouldn’t recognize, except for one, maybe three, are gathering. They hail from all over the world. The people in that room are about to hand customers the tools we, as marketers or marketing technologists, will be buzzing about, excited about, panicked about, shouting about, next year and beyond.  These are tools that will fundamentally change marketing – and even marketing models for the big guys like Google. Their work is quiet, but quite open; and aligned with a project of The Berkman Center for the Internet at Harvard Law, started in 2007, ProjectVRM; the brainchild of Doc Searls.

Let me be clear.  I’ve been around digital long enough to be at least unfazed, if not outright jaded, by the latest wave of tech or technique or platform or tool. Unless it smells of a systemic trend,  the “newest” tech look to me like a fresher way of doing the same kind of “thing.” That perspective simply comes from the long lens that years in digital marketing practice has handed me, for good or for worse.

Those that know me well know I’m obsessed with what customers will be thinking in the next two, or five, or eight years. And that is exactly why I post online so often about the issues and tech around personal data and information privacy.  It’s where customers are going that explains why I care so deeply about privacy.

Loving life

The tools about to emerge in the marketplace – for every industry sector and in every corner – are the platforms, apps, technologies, and most importantly, the capabilities for customers to control or shut off the firehose of data about themselves and their online activities that we marketers are currently working overtime to harness for our modern marketing success. Vendor Relationship Management – VRM –  is the broad category these tools fall into.  They are the tools that will make marketing so much more efficient and cost-effective for all of us.

When Customers Market to Us

Take a moment to appreciate how much the tools to enable the  “customer voice” shifted the practice of marketing. Look at the vast number of businesses, the wealth, and the industries that have sprung from that shift.  Now, imagine combining that customer’s power of public voice with a new capability to drive the terms of every transaction.  This will partly entail revealing themselves or their purchase intents or their attention or their social content only to those companies who are willing to accept the customer’s terms and terms of use – think of it kind of as “Priceline Everywhere Everything.” Imagine CRM systems that need hooks into the customer’s personal VRM system – vendor relationship management systems. Imagine decentralized customer data – individual identities in billions of personal databases rather than stored in your owned database to “market against.”  Imagine that “public” content doesn’t mean “free to use.”  Imagine having to turn your marketing attitude a full 180 degrees – that is – customers marketing to us instead.

This is the tectonic shift that the VRMers are about to hit us with.  It is why “privacy” matters for marketers. Privacy and security are the drivers of better tools for customers. And these new tools of the customer will be creating a very, very different marketing landscape and attitude.

Be prepared by at least putting your ear to the ground around privacy. And watch the Vendor Relationship Management space.

Categories: Modern Marketing, Visibility


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