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Forrester to marketers: How to build a ‘cool’, not ‘creepy’ brand

Forrester to marketers: How to build a ‘cool’, not ‘creepy’ brand

Create a cultural commitment to preventing invasive marketing, says Forrester analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo

Most companies, in their enthusiasm to take advantage of the wealth of customer data they have access to, are bordering on doing real damage to the customer relationship, reports Forrester.

“Many companies are right up against the line, because they're testing tactics like retargetting and location-based advertising,” says Fatemeh Khatibloo, a Forrester analyst serving customer insights professionals.

“These are the poster children for inadvertently creating creepy experiences.”

“Use data ethically,” advises Khatibloo in the Forrester report Be Cool, Not Creepy.

“Marketers should always ask, ‘How would I feel if I were the customer?’ before creating new processes or testing new technologies.

Fatemeh Khatibloo, Forrester


Ethical use of data goes beyond privacy policies and regulatory compliance, she stresses. It focuses on potential harm that could result from the use of particular data or insights and how to prevent that.

For example, companies should never use health or financial data to advertise in mediums that might be visible to others.

Read more: Westpac CIO Dawie Olivier on 'The killer app for today’s ICT teams'

Companies should use only ethical third-party data providers, she further advises.

Khatibloo says companies need to consider privacy when redesigning their strategies around the ‘connected world’ of mobiles and sensors.

“The sense of creepiness is attenuated when marketers match customer identities across multiple devices,” she states. This is something businesses are getting increasingly good at but can actually cause harm or emotional distress.

The risk of getting it wrong has a lot of implications, she adds. “If I get a notification on my mobile device even though I’ve never really asked for it, that feels very intrusive because I have to dismiss it – that message doesn’t go away by itself. It makes people feel very frustrated.”

Read more: CIO upfront: 'Business leaders have to learn how to take multiple small actions with their analytics'

Her advice to companies? Practise empathy.

“We as marketers walk into our offices on Monday morning and forget we’ve been consumers all weekend. We forget about how our customers feel,” she states.

“Marketers should always ask, ‘How would I feel if I were the customer?’ before creating new processes or testing new technologies."

The ethics of big data is an industry concern: Dr Barry Devlin

Read more: ​Barry Devlin: ‘Be fully transparent about intended use of data’

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