Digital marketing: becoming more consumer-oriented through less data and more empathy

Professor Mark Ritson recently wrote a provocative article in Marketing Week, stating that if there’s one thing that the recent Cambridge Analytics scandal has made clear, it’s that consumers look at data different than marketers. Digital marketers have fallen for classic product-oriented thinking and assumed that, just because they have the data and technology for targeted advertising, it’s what people want. Turns out, they don’t. A recent Reuters study in the US revealed that 63% want to see less targeted advertising in the future, and only 9% want to see more. Tini Sevak from YouGov went a step further than Reuters by segmenting the British adult population based on their attitude toward personalized advertising. Turns out, 55%, want privacy above ‘relevant’ ads and only a quarter, the ’Personalised Pioneers’, like ads and want to engage with personally targeted ads. 

Ritson concludes that, ironically, digital marketers have to apply consumer-oriented thinking to themselves and use segmentation and targeting to market segmentation and targeting. Some customers are prepared to trade information for free services and targeted ads, and others are not, or not yet. 

I believe that it’s more important than ever to understand what customers really want, instead of pushing what you think they need. We need to build richer pictures of consumers, by supplementing or replacing digital data with contextual information from voluntary sources of consumer intelligence, such as qualitative and quantitative research and co-creation.