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Data collection as a selling pitch for Facebook and consumer privacy for Apple.

Looking at the Marketplace section of the September 24, 2014 issue of the Wall Street Journal two articles captured my attention. The leading article “Websites Wary of Facebook Tracking” and right underneath it  ” Apple’s Latest Marketing Pitch: More Privacy“.

Marketers love data. They use it to target and segment potential customer and prospects. Data rich with specifics of a customer’s past buying habits, the web sites that they visit even when they are not on social media gives marketers new insight into who is and might be purchasing their products and who they should appeal to. Three months ago, Facebook began to build much more detailed user profiles with exactly that sort of data. How can they do it? Is that legal? Sounds like an invasion of privacy.

When you sign up to use Facebook that sort of data collection is part of the fine print that you agree to. Google does something similar, but they don’t know as much personal information as Facebook, such as your real name, photos, friends… you get the idea. Facebook, Google and Apple all sell adverting, but with key differences. Apple doesn’t monetize your browsing information on your Apple devices, read your email, or mine your ICloud account. It seems that Apple has found a sweet spot with consumers – they are selling privacy. Apple will sell data based on age, gender, home address, ITunes and App purchases but that is it. Apple also lets you opt out, Google and Facebook don’t.  Apple is being strategic in its decisions. Apple’s I Ad group will allow ads on ITunes radio (a free service to the consumer) that doesn’t strike me as that different from watching cable TV and seeing a 30- or 60-second ad.

Privacy is protected not by the American Constitution, but by the Bill of Rights; no less than the first, third, fourth, fifth and ninth amendments. It has been broadly interpreted to encompass many more rights than expressly stated over the years. It will be interesting to see if Facebook finds itself fighting a backlash from users on the same scope as it is with publishers who are deleting its pixel tags from their sites and opting out of Facebook. As these sweeping changes that Facebook is incorporating into its data collection policies become better publicized perhaps it will begin to lose its luster with users. Tim Cook at Apple is certainly publicizing Apple’s more respectful treatment of its customers. Does the American public care if their personal details are monetized? It will be interesting to watch in the next few months.


Using the end of the year for effective relationship building.

Things tend to get pretty busy at this time of year. Fall is here and the holidays are right around the corner. Marketing budgets are often running short of funds. The big push to meet year-end sales numbers will be on, but what about continuing to build customer relationships?  Does it have to stop because we are all busy formulating the 2015 budgets and making the last minute push to get the extra percentage point increase to 2014 bottom line? There could be an easy way to make every one of your customers feel special, and spend very little doing it. How?

Sometimes we have to step back and remember that relationship building, at its heart, can hinge on the emotional tug on one’s heartstrings.   Last week a customer told me how they have a unique marketing tool that they put a lot of thought into and relatively little budget into every year in December. Their customer base actually looks forward to receiving it, appreciates the effort, and comments on this marketing piece. Some even display it on their desk.  It is a low tech, low budget marketing tool that has fallen by the wayside of some marketers: The holiday card. Usually corny, but effective nonetheless.

Well-executed cards sent in a timely manner can help you connect with your customers on an emotional level. Building customer loyalty can very seldom be accomplished with so little effort and so little budget. The more customized the card the better. Think about the recipient’s surprise when they receive a well-executed card with personalization incorporated into the design, and even better with the appearance of a handwritten message and a signature. This goes way past just a greeting in a script or serif font, with the company name printed below. As a marketer you can choose to say “Thank you for your business” with a Thanksgiving card and stand out from the holiday mail, or be more traditional and send out holiday greetings. But again, personalize them so that your customer feels that you have a vested interest in them, their lives, and their interests. That should build more brand loyalty for you and set you apart so that you’re just not other vendor.  Your customer can feel good about dealing with you. A strong CRM or database of all your customers can help accomplish that mission. Anything that you can transfer to an Excel spread sheet can be used to personalize a greeting card.

But be careful not to make this piece faith-based, so as to not offend anyone. Remember, it is a marketing piece. And please don’t send these greeting by email or fax, this is supposed to be personal and a way to keep in touch, not just a way to send out a cheap marketing pieces. Hallmark understood the value of this idea and built an empire on it, perhaps you too can benefit from this old school technique. Holiday cards are becoming a thing of the past, but those who send them will continue to stand out from the pack.