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Johnny Cash Started Walking the Line in the ’50s — 2020 Is the Year Marketers Walk Their Own

By Mike McGuire | December 30, 2019 | 0 Comments

Hey marketers, you scraped through another year! Well done.

Throughout 2019, you probably spent a bunch of time stressing over whether you needed a customer data platform (CDP) to manage your first-party data. Or maybe it was your CEO freaking out about whether the company violated General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by sending out personalized holiday cards to his favorite clients in the EU (using that first-party data). Because you’re that kind of person, you likely sent him an email saying “probably not” right before you logged off for vacation.

To get into the right spirit for 2020, it might be a good time to revisit the Johnny Cash hit, “I Walk the Line” by finding it on Spotify or by dusting off the “Johnny Cash and His Hot and Blue Guitar” CD. (Or you could grab your 100g LP version if you’re one of those hipsters that helped make this happen in 2019).

Why “I Walk the Line”? Mr. Cash’s song was about staying true to his love. For marketers, it’s about walking the line between fully utilizing customer data for tailored, personalized offers and annoying or creeping out your customers, at best. At worst, we can run afoul of regulations such as the GDPR that governs the use of EU consumer data by marketers and brands. Oh, and by the way, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. So, in effect, the online elements of the world’s fifth largest economy (as of 2018), will be governed by a very stringent set of regulations that marketers must obey.

With the GDPR and CCPA in effect, consumers can ask a brand or company at any time to share the specific information the brand or company has collected about them. Consumers can also forbid brands and companies from collecting their data via tracking pixels on websites or the tags running on their mobile apps, among other sources.

Remaining compliant with these new laws isn’t really an option, and compliance requires investment in identity management and resolution capabilities, as well as a customer-data platform capable of identifying and surfacing all data about a customer, on-demand.

Yet, this whole effort should be viewed as an opportunity to develop a level of trust with our customers that might be motivated by legal necessities but can pay off in a truly authentic partnership.

This opportunity is particularly relevant to your mobile marketing efforts. GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth radios — along with the mapping software running in the average smartphone — collectively throw off a bunch of real-time data about a device’s location that simply didn’t exist prior to modern day smartphones and its many applications.

As much as we all really love the convenience of getting accurate location information such as precise routes to get to a meeting or a restaurant, do we want search engines and mapping applications to build up detailed location histories of all our comings and goings? 58% of consumers surveyed by Gartner (subscription required) in 2019 said they considered details of their “physical location over time” to be “extremely sensitive.”

A marketer who “walks the line” can make the decision to use location data only for verification (e.g. a customer’s home address) and for individual transactions (instead of tracking a customer’s location continuously via the location-tracking option in a mobile application).

Another example of marketers “walking the line” would be a marketing team for a commerce app that makes the decision to completely stop sharing or selling their customers’ app usage data to third parties. There might be some benefit to this practice — such as the reciprocal data sharing from the third prties — but the marketing team decides in this example that the long-term partnership with customers is more important than this short-term gain.

So, while we all have to deal with a delicate ecosystem comprising of customers, the c-suite, individual marketing teams, sales teams etc., take a tip from an American master and remember to “walk the line.”

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