It's no secret that technology companies sell metadata from your phone conversations, iMessage and text messages to companies so that brands can advertise to you in real time. As technology and social media become more norm than novelty, brands can expect the end user more observant, trained, and weary. In an alleged post-truth world, trust is everything for the future consumer.
A Cautionary Tale
We’ve all seen the movie. The “won’t take no for an answer” annoying stalker relentlessly pursues the object of their affection. The movie usually ends in one of three ways…
1. The object of affection ends up missing or murdered.
2. The object of affection reluctantly caves in out of mere exhaustion.
3. Self sabotage. The plan backfires. The purser chases the object of affection further away by annoying them and lacking empathy and respect for boundaries.
Even in the rare case that the object of affection does cave in, the relationship is doomed from the start. The object of affection often complains to their friends, family, and co-workers about the relentless pursuer (a daily reminder of everything that went wrong in the life of object of affection). No one wants to hang out with the relentless pursuer because they have all heard the stalker stories.
It seems that no matter how hard the annoying stalker tries to make up for past bad behavior, they have left an unfavorable indelible impression.
To make matters worse, this isn’t a Hollywood movie or some dating app horror story. This is YOUR reality.
Are YOU the annoying stalker or are YOU the one being stalked?
Adapt Or Die
There is an epidemic that is spreading rapidly among brands in virtually every category of business and it’s called, poorly executed scale. The more a brand is infected, the more it sabotages itself to try to cure it. The hungrier and more desperate it becomes.
It is understood that brands want to grow as large as they can. Profits are the goal at any company of any type or any size. But when a brand becomes blinded by the desire to grow bigger, do more, and get more out of less, it is no longer on the right path for growth. It might see short-term gains, but often at the expense of long-term sustainability. If even possible, recovery is typically very hard and very expensive.
Poorly executed scale is to blame for many of the hardships that several of America’s most iconic brands are facing today. With brands having easier access to consumers and in more ways than ever before, casualties will continue if not careful.
Consider this a warning.
In Brand We Trust
If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you. – Zig Ziglar
It is well known that consumer trust is essential for brand success. It must also be known that trust means more than just making a great product that is easy to use, has all the best ingredients, delivers quality as stated, and is safe to use.
Trust involves the relationship between you and your customer – a trust that you will never sacrifice them for your own gain, no matter how tempting it is to try. You won’t sell them out or put them under for any reason, incentive, or egotistical need.
Exploit For Gain
Unfortunately, many brands chip away at consumer trust for the company gain. They think consumers won’t notice or won’t care. Many brands aren’t even considering the consumer at all -- they’re blindsided by profit and growth. It’s only after the fact -- when the consumer has left -- that they realize it or even care that they’ve made the mistake.
As tempting or financially lucrative as it might appear, the number one foolish move a brand can make is to put its own ego before the value of customers.
The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer. – Peter Drucker
No Shame In Their Game
Someone recently sent me a text message to my iPhone that mentioned “Disney World” in the text message. Within a minute I was seeing ads on Twitter for Disney World. This wasn’t the first time this has happened, but it was the fastest. What's more infuriating is that I have formally opted out of interest based advertising and turned on the Do Not Track setting.
Technology is seducing brands into sacrificing consumer trust -- for technology's gain. Whether it be scraping data and information from phone calls and text messages to serve us advertisements in real time, or having a smartphone microphone set to the on position as a default in order to record consumer activity -- including that of young children.
So while Apple may refuse to let the government hack into the phone of a dead terrorist, they have no problem selling your phone conversations, text and iMessage metadata to advertisers. Note to the government: You're not entitled to handouts from corporate America.
It might be exciting or even useful to have access to all that consumer data as it brings with it promises of greater opportunity to reach people -- to be more targeted -- and drive sales. All good, except the repercussions of violating your customer and consumer privacy will cost you their trust (trust that you spent money and years trying to build) and ultimately their business.
Is It Worth It?
Brands often fail to recognize when cultural, consumer, and market shifts are on the horizon and adjust accordingly.
The next generation of young adult consumers (18-25) is arriving. With it are a new set of behaviors, mentalities, driving forces and motivators. This demographic has demonstrated early that it shuns many of the attributes, actions and characteristics of the generation before it.
Having lived in a seamless offline/online world across its entire lifespan to date, Generation Z views and utilizes technology differently than its predecessors. Technologies are not a novelty but a natural, normal part of life. No different than the microwave in the kitchen or digital music.
The Millennial Generation may have been happy to hand over their lives in turn for innovation or brand, but Generation Z is far more flippant to this activity, if not adverse.
As technology and social media become more norm than novelty, expect the end user more observant, trained, and weary.
Brands must learn a more sophisticated, conspicuous, and intriguing consumer courting process if they care to stay in good graces with the objects of their affection. And they better hurry before it's too late.