December 13, 2010

Why We Must Encourage Opt-Outs New kinds of data collection and analysis about consumers’ online activities will dramatically increase the productivity of the Web and social media as brand communication channels. But marketers need an open attitude toward privacy plus widely available and easy-to-use mechanisms for opting out. Ownership of your online behavior is a fundamental human right. So is the option not to be tracked and not to play with brands. The only debate about the Federal Trade Commission’s “Do Not track” policy should be about the terms and conditions for implementation. The marketing reality is that effective opt-out tools, full disclosure and avenues to avoid tracking, yield better, more responsive databases filled with consumers who are open and interested in messages from brands. That’s why marketers must support neutral third party solutions like the Open Data Partnership or concepts offered by the IAB or the DMA. We must set forward industry standards and best practices for protecting individual rights and privacy. And we better move quickly before the administrators at the FTC lay down arbitrary regulations or before a gaggle of ham-fisted showboating politicians impose a set of draconian rules that kill the Golden Goose. The ability to create highly targeted anonymous target lists is growing exponentially. The ability to zero in on individuals with both an expressed interest in a product or category and a high propensity to respond or buy is within our grasp. Traditional data aggregators and processors are being joined by online tracking firms with the ability to build rich, detailed psycho-demographic and behavioral profiles that will give marketers a whole new magnitude of targeting precision. Media efficiencies and ROI beyond anything we’ve seen before are on the horizon. These new capabilities will scare the beJesus out of many people. But frankly the more opt-outs we provoke, the cleaner and more productive these lists will be. So our near-term mission needs to be to create easy, well-marked ways out, develop visual cues that alert consumers about tracking and scrupulously respect the stated preferences of our customers and prospects.
The First 5 Things to Do in 2011 Is that a computer in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? Cheap smart phones, 4G, zillions of apps, the ascendance of Android, the coming proliferation of tablets and the general ease and utility of being always connected are transforming consumer behavior. For many, especially Zuckerberg and his minions, Facebook is becoming the Internet. Almost half of all smart phone users access social networks from mobile devices not to mention actively using search, web browsers, Skype and comparison-shopping apps. These usage patterns will accelerate at faster rates than ever before. To hit the ground running and use these trends to your advantage, do these five things first in 2011. Mobilize. Be sure your site is properly rendered on mobile devices and loads quickly and successfully. If you haven’t built a fully functional mobile site; now is the appropriate time. People in-motion have zero patience for sites that don’t work or can’t help them on-demand. Arranging seamless wireless access to your best content has to be top priority for 2011. Do Basic UX Work. Mobile and social media have had a major impact on holiday shopping. Understand how, where, when and why your customers are using these channels and figure out how you fit into these new behavioral models. This is a basic, hardcore user experience exercise that you can’t afford not to do. Can your brand withstand or win at in-store price comparisons? Can you trigger mobile coupons by time or location? Can customers get your best stuff on their mobile devices or while they’re with their pals on social networks? Does your brand have leisure or gaming appeal? What is your physical and emotional proximity to your customers and prospects and what do you need to do to place your content organically and credibly into their lifestyle or life stage work flows? Consumers expect to be able to engage with brands in two-way conversations across channels. Mobile and social media intensify and deepen this desire and add the expectation that brands will know them personally; their interests, preferences, purchase histories whenever or however the connection is established. Brands need to evaluate their data and processing infrastructure, CRM and Customer Service capabilities and privacy safeguards in anticipation of much more fluid and dynamic customer transactions, encounters and relationships. Syndicate. Branded websites are necessary but not sufficient marketing assets. Websites are becoming like 800 numbers; expected but contingent and underutilized. And since few brands can spend what it takes to compete with semantically optimized platforms or to change naturally occurring traffic patterns, smart players are fishing where the fish are by placing branded content and functionality on portals, on social networks and in other places customers and constituents congregate. Look at resource and technology allocation with an eye toward messaging productivity and engagement. Does it really makes sense to crank out a brand blog that 26 people read or would it be better to take that connect and use it as guest blogs or blog commentary on highly trafficked blogs or discussion sites? Similarly would you improve customer engagement by implementing Facebook Connect and sharing single sign-on and data with your customers in a different context? Focus on Like-ability. The profligate use of the “Like” button changes the equation. A “Like” is temporary and conditional. It’s no longer necessarily a statement of brand awareness, preference or loyalty. A “Like” is no longer the equivalent of a “Fan” a “Follower” or a “Friend.” Instead it’s a momentary vote of confidence that isn’t necessarily transferable or projectable. This calls into question the need to or value of accumulating likes. The value of likes, either to the people who like you or those who observe their friends’ choices, is uncertain. They can like you big time and always or like you for a particular thing or in a distinct moment. Collecting “Likes” as a success metric or as a barometer of brand strength is much less clear and forces a re-evaluation of what brands want from the people they encounter in social media. Tune-Up Search. Every brand can quickly and inexpensively pick-up extra free traffic by tuning up their natural search asserts. Check ALT and image tags, headers and sub-heads, pathways, redirects, align body copy with page titles and headers and re-submit to directories. Typically these are the niggly tasks that get left till the end of site construction or deployment and frequently fall through the cracks. It’s a few hours of work for a big pay off.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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