Modern consumers have an awareness of how their data is being used by brands – one that sometimes crosses the line into distrust. No wonder: high profile data breaches have affected organisations as diverse as the NHS, Yahoo, FIFA, and Mumsnet.

Issues around information security have damaged reputations and had significant legal and commercial ramifications. Brands have both a responsibility and a commercial incentive to demonstrate the value in taking a customer’s details – and the ability to treat it with the utmost sensitivity and care.

But not every consumer thinks of their private information in the same way. Marketing to a modern audience means understanding where different individuals fall on the scale of data consciousness.

Broadly speaking, they’ll fall into these three groups:

Data unconcerned: These customers don’t really care how their private details are used: they’ll give them to organisations freely and without really thinking about how it’s going to be used or why. They’ll therefore end up on a lot of subscriber lists.  This group amounts to 25% of the general population, according to research from the Data Marketing Association (DMA).

Data pragmatists: They’ll give away their data if there’s a clear value exchange, for example, for a promotional code or access to Wi-Fi. The DMA research suggests that 50% of consumers fall into this group.

Data fundamentalists: This group is ardent about protecting its data, aware of how it can be used (and misused) and will generally give it up only in the most exceptional circumstances. They amount to 25% of the population.

So how do you market to the unconcerned and the pragmatists – who amount to three quarters of consumers altogether?

Here’s how to create winning campaigns in an age of increasing data consciousness.

  1. Create personalised campaigns

Personalisation campaigns have been highly effective – and occasionally controversial – in recent years. Spotify, for example, report back to consumers on what they’ve been listening to over the past year via their annual ‘Wrapped’ campaign. It’s immediately attention-grabbing stuff (effectively making the user the centre of their own personal marketing campaign) but it’s also highly transparent: here’s a company telling the customer exactly what it’s collecting – and reminding them of the great experiences that they’ve had with the platform as it’s being collected.

Personalisation has problems, of course: Spotify Wrapped may have been a success, but other campaigns from the same company have been viewed as a step too far.

Nonetheless, brands can achieve sustained success with unconcerned and pragmatist customers if they work to clarify the value of signing up and providing details. When users interact with the Abercrombie and Fitch app, for example, they are allocated various points which can add up to substantial discounts – registration provides 100 points, and inputting data can offer other rewards.

  1. Remove friction

The thing about the customer journey is that the customer has to decide to continue it – and the harder it is for them to get what they need, the less likely they are to do so. Brands are conscious of this, and have actively worked to maximise convenience and minimise friction along the way to a purchase. By removing friction, you add more value, and more justification for accessing customer data.

Some do so by offering free delivery on certain orders; others provide self-service options in-store; yet more have turned to subscription models, understanding that customers 1) are less likely to make a huge outlay on an initial purchase and 2) spend more with the company over the long run.

The login process itself typically has plenty of friction, and thus plenty of friction to remove. Greene King has recently worked to remove friction from the customer journey through social sign ins. With one click, you can like, share, and comment on the brand’s content with ease – and the brand, in turn, can send and deliver content simply and directly. It’s creating a better experience for the customer, it’s removing friction from the process, and it’s simultaneously allowing the brand to collect more data and develop sophisticated insights into user behaviour.

  1. Use preference centres to improve engagement

Consumers ultimately like to feel in control of the brand experience: you might have designed it, but the road to the eventual purchase should be paved with their decisions. Using preference centres can be an excellent way of engaging with these consumers in a hyper relevant way.

For instance, they make it possible to reverse negative engagements. When brands start emphasising hyper relevancy, consumers are more inclined to interact with emails or switch push notifications on. Thread, the clothing manufacturer, use their preference centres in the manner of a personal stylist – but online. It asks customers about their favourite kinds of clothing, their favourite colours, and their favourite fabrics, and then pairs them with a representative who will email occasional personal recommendations. This helps ensure that their offering feels specific and personal rather than generic – and all through a system that’s more or less automated. Consumers move down the sales funnel happily because their sense of control can be expressed in a way that aligns with the brand’s objectives.

And the crucial intersection of consumer self-interest and brand objectives will be where new customers are won – and data can help you stake that territory for yourself. Use it responsibly, use it strategically, and use it consciously, and you’ll win over the pragmatists and the unconcerned. Use this information ethically and demonstrate a clear value exchange, and you might even win over some fundamentalists.

Jason Lark

Jason Lark


By Jason Lark, Managing Director, Celerity.