Data is both your friend and foe

I’ve spent the last two days at Marketing Week Live and the term ‘data capture’ is now ringing in my ears but I’ve heard very little on how to treat consumers’ personal data sensitively.  

Ronan Shields

Having spent this week with thousands of marketers I’ve been privy to some impressive case studies about how brands have been able to use data to improve the efficiency within their organisation.

No less so that AEG Europe’s SVP of marketing Kimberly Kriss’ presentation revealed her team was able to use social data to improve its marketing efficiencies in its marketing budget by £1.5m in the last six months alone.

That’s certainly the kind of efficiency that will win marketers favour in the finance department.

Meanwhile, Barclays’ reputation chief also disclosed how it was looking to use social media listening tools to assess the effectiveness of its gargantuan task of transforming itself from a pariah brand to one held in genuine affection.

Let’s see how that one goes! 

But prior to this two-day extravaganza of best-practice marketing, I spent a day at a conference listening to representatives from the OFT and ICO mull consumer protection.

One bugbear aired at the event was the ridiculously complicated T&Cs consumers are asked to consent to when signing up to an online service or enter a brand’s homepage.

One OFT official labelled this as “unwitting consent”, one I agree with as I believe that most people would be shocked and abhorred about just how much information companies can harvest from this interaction.

If many of you have been monitoring the headlines recently, I’m sure you’ll agree that there is a growing public unease over the trend towards big companies harvesting ‘big data’ from their online activity.

And surely this will lead to a major PR-drive from civil liberty groups with many consumers looking to limit the amount of data they give away online.

That’s why it was reassuring to hear Unilever legal counsel explain how he was working with the FMCG’s social team to reassure users it wasn’t intent on “surreptitiously” mining data.

As far as he sees things, the brand should be up front on how they are using such insights and how it was ultimately benefitting them. True transparency is a key to winning trust.  

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