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In Defense of Marketing Done Right

When I tell people what I do for a living, they typically react in one of two ways:

  1. “So you’re the reason my inbox is full of junk”, or 
  2. “I don’t like it when companies collect my private data to try to sell me something I don’t want.”

In either of these 2 scenarios, my reply is the same, “I can assure you that I spend my days making sure these things do not happen.” Here’s how the rest of the conversation goes ...

The truth is, I help build the foundation that enables some of the best brands in the world to do exactly the opposite of these things. Let’s take the inbox comment first. I am a consumer too. I understand having an inbox full of messages from brand xyz, who clearly has not bothered to check if I have ever opened one of their emails during my tenure on their file, let alone check if I have browsed their site or engaged in their store. The opposite of this is a well-timed, well-targeted communication with content that is relevant to me delivered via a channel that is right for me. This email inbox utopia can only be achieved through careful, thoughtful, and innovative data capture, aggregation, linking, and presentation. That is what I do.

With respect to data, good brands, and good agencies, do not treat customer data flippantly. Collaboration with privacy, legal, and information security departments is a daily occurrence in my line of work. Protecting individuals’ information is the right thing to do, but beyond that, good brands don’t just want to earn your business, they want to earn your trust and your loyalty as well. I help them do that.

At this point in the conversation, I like to point out examples of where marketing, when done right, and data, when used right, can create memorable and beneficial experiences for the consumer. The other day, I was at the ATM machine at my local bank. After I put in my card and entered my pin, a “Happy Birthday” message popped up. The message alone did not make me run out and buy another product from them, but it was nice and, as evidenced by the fact that it is in this post, was a memorable customer experience.

Just this morning, I was at my local coffee shop and, after presenting my rewards card, was told that I earned a free medium latte. For people like me, this is akin to the euphoria of finding a $20 bill in a jacket you haven’t worn in 6 months. Another memorable customer experience which provided benefit for me, the consumer, and reinforced my loyalty to that brand. I can envision, although this hasn’t actually happened to me yet, that I am wandering around my favorite apparel store agonizing over whether I really need that new sweater. Suddenly, a push message is delivered to my phone via the brand’s mobile app offering me a discount or extra reward points, or informing me that I am one purchase away from earning that free tote bag, or becoming a platinum member, or whatever. Something that helps me justify the purchase I finally make. “See,” I tell them. When marketing is done right, the brand is much less like your annoying neighbor and much more like your best friend.