Balancing Act: Navigating Personalization and Privacy in Modern Marketing | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

Balancing Act: Navigating Personalization and Privacy in Modern Marketing


Marketers face a precarious tightrope act as they attempt to balance personalization and privacy. The stakes are high, with a single misstep threatening to send a brand spiraling downward. Yet, as circus performers know, it's possible! Before we explore methods to strike the required balance, let's address why "taking the walk" is worth it.

The Challenge: Relevance and Privacy

Respecting consumer privacy should be a top priority for any brand. Refusing to consume or apply any data would make this goal, and staying compliant with evolving privacy law, very simple.

However, completely "opting out" of data-driven marketing isn't a viable solution. Largely because consumers don't want it. This is evidenced by Gartner's findings which reveal that 40 percent of individuals cease doing business if they perceive the brand's communication as irrelevant, and 44 percent of them even choose to block the brand, supporting the notion that consumers today demand personalized and relevant marketing experiences. In fact, 73 percent of consumers expect better personalization today and a staggering 80 percent view the experience provided by a brand to be as important as the products or services it provides.

Competitive factors, like the continual expansion of consumer choices also force marketers to achieve a positive ROAS or suffer the consequences. Essentially, a return to throw-it-over-the-wall tactics with consumer data is not the way out either. The key to marketing in a regulated world of data is aligning and balancing the goals of relevance and privacy.

Finding Your Balance in Privacy

Understand your data. Start by scrutinizing the data within your walls. What data do you currently collect? Is it required to create more relevant consumer experiences? This is particularly important as regulators have prioritized the identification of deceptive and unfair practices in the interest of protecting consumers. In other words, collecting and storing data without a specific use case – or one that isn't clearly presented to consumers – is one way regulators are coming after data-hungry marketers. Once the data policies are in place, the use cases for the data must be clearly explained to the user.

Ensure your privacy policy is clear and concise. Most privacy policies are robust to ensure any possible use for the data is supported with great detail. Attorneys appreciate the fact that it covers all bases and is more likely to be held up in court. While specific details and points are necessary, companies should strive to strike the right balance by communicating that information in a more clear, concise, and relevant way.

This is important as one analysis claims that reading the privacy policies for the top 20 visited American websites would take nine hours. Considering U.S. users visit 96 websites a month, the time required expands to 47 hours. Although these documents will certainly be longer than this article or a company blog by necessity, the current state of the typical privacy policy does not possess the concise communication we're describing. Instead of following the norm of expansive legal jargon without consideration of the consumer audience, keep communications clear and to the point, and when possible, go the extra mile to educate consumers in plain speak – while ensuring you cover all requirements.

Verify, then trust. Like an acrobat's reliance on fellow performers, striking a balance with privacy and personalization necessitates trust in vendors and partners. However, do not assume customers or vendors meet regulatory compliance just because they say so. Their lapses can affect others, even those with their internal data house in order.

Today more than ever, it is critical to conduct thorough due diligence around any customer, partner, or vendor. Review vendor agreements to ensure they include the necessary data privacy and protection language. Establish your own processes to continually stay ahead of risk and consider how your data is used externally. After all, an acrobat does not simply 'jump' without understanding who is on the other side.

Make Relevance Happen, Even After the "Cookie Apocalypse"

The cookie apocalypse is here. With Google phasing out third-party cookies, marketers are at a crossroads. One study found that 56 percent of marketers are testing alternate solutions to achieve data-driven marketing. Alternatives could include new universal IDs like those offered by Trade Desk or LiveRamp. Other targeting approaches such as Google's Privacy Sandbox are under consideration too.

There has also been a renewed interest in contextual targeting with nearly 94 percent of advertisers planning to use it as a tactic in 2023, according to DoubleVerify. Essentially, digital marketers will get through this but need to evaluate a wide range of options.

Apply Data in a Privacy Friendly Way

Sophisticated teams apply strategies that respect consumers without compromising marketing performance:

Understand your current customers. This can be achieved not only through solid first-party-data collection methods, but by appending reliable external data to create a more robust view of your customers. Through analysis you may discover trends about your existing customers and segment them into programs in the future.

Personalize the message. As mentioned above, consumers prefer relevant communication. However, they dislike it when a message is over-personalized and appears invasive. In the U.K., 71 percent of consumers will be less likely to purchase from a brand when they feel the message is invasive or intrusive, according to research from Picnic and YouGov. The key is to remember that the product is the story, not personal aspects about the customer.

Apply predictive analytics. Leveraging innovative solutions like predictive data and analytics allows marketers to create high performing audiences to not only be applied cross channel, but to better inform contextual buys. This is especially important in a highly fragmented media ecosystem. A poorly constructed media buy can easily miss all high value targets.

Reconsider measurement and attribution processes. Privacy regulations are creating new challenges for marketers when attempting to identify what led to a conversion. Processes must be re-evaluated to ensure the right media and creative aspects get credit for the conversion, and that companies do their due diligence to understand how their partners comply with their obligations. What's encouraging is that many companies are now being proactive in ensuring that not only they but also their partners are meeting necessary requirements.

Embracing What Is Next

Navigating the space between mounting privacy scrutiny and challenging goals for growth isn't simple. The wrong step could impact revenue, take you out of compliance or lead to costly data breaches. As consumer data becomes a regulated industry, privacy compliance is going to be a part of doing business going forward and should no longer come as a surprise. However, seize the opportunity to proactively prove that the use of data is valuable for both businesses and consumers by staying in front of future changes and in tune with the regulatory environment.

Achieving the ideal balance takes time and practice, akin to walking a tightrope. Take a clear-eyed view of the emerging landscape of regulation. Proceed with caution, take one step at a time, and remember not to look down.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


Scarlett Shipp is the CEO of AnalyticsIQ, and the driving force behind the company's innovative data and identity solutions. She brings incredible expertise from her over 30 years of experience in the big data, analytics, and computer software industries.